Your Customers are Elephants

PV Kannan | November 26, 2018

Recently, I was discussing customer experiences, and I got to thinking about the parable of the blind men and the elephant.

In that story, the man whose hand landed on the trunk, said "this is like a thick snake." The man whose hand reached its ear, thought it was a fan. The man who touched its leg thought it was a tree-trunk. The man who touched its side thought it was a wall. The one who felt its tail, described it as a rope. This is exactly like what companies do when they interact with consumers. That elephant is your customer, and they feel everything you do to them.

Using Technology to Create Holistic Customer Experiences

Think about how disappointed you feel every time you interact with a company and one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing. Too often, each aspect of company’s business (customer support, sales, marketing, etc.) only touches one aspect of the customer experience, making it feel incredibly disjointed, and this disconnect is costing companies – a NewVoiceMedia study found that poor customer service now costs businesses a staggering $75 billion a year, up from $13 billion in 2016.

Today’s problems exist because some companies still subscribe to a channel-centric view of the world. They’ve kept adding channels to keep up with customer demands in that way that is not ideal nor sustainable, resulting in a reactive approach that’s disjointed and disconnected. Customers are forced to start over each time they shift channels, resulting in too many failed experiences.

It’s time to bring those experiences together. Before we can do that however, let’s dispel a few common myths:

Myth 1: Customer acquisition and customer engagement are unrelated

Fact: Every moment impacts your brand. You only have one brand, and your company should only be having one conversation with your customer. From the customer’s perspective, it doesn’t matter whether they’re engaging with you because they’re considering buying your product or service, or whether you’re resolving a customer service issue. It doesn’t matter whether you’re touching the trunk, the leg, the ear or the tail. You’re touching them.

Myth 2: Self-service and assisted service are two separate things

Fact: The customer thinks of this as one journey. Stop thinking about their journey in terms of AI chatbots, IVR, social, mobile, etc., and stop thinking about self-service and assisted service as two different pieces of that. Start thinking about your customer’s intent and how you want to execute on their intent by mixing self-service and assisted service seamlessly.

Myth 3: Chat, IVR, social, mobile are all different and require a channel-based approach

Fact: Customer experience exists across a continuum that spans all channels. A journey could start with a search on a mobile device, and move to desktop search, a website and social channels. Once a consumer decides to engage with your brand, you’ll service them via IVR and chat, and you might tie those into CRM, billing systems, and even unstructured data on the back end.

In today’s world of big data, customer experience has entered what I call the Age of Intent. This is a new era for business, where those that understand, anticipate, and act on consumer intent will thrive, and those that don’t will be disrupted. In the Age of Intent, companies are shifting from channel-centric engagement to intent-driven engagement.

Artificial Intelligence is the Brain that Pieces the Elephant Together

Imagine delivering a consistent customer experience on any channel, whether that’s text or speech or both. First, figure out how and where you’re going to deliver those experiences and those memorable moments. Once you figure that out, how do you connect the dots? This is where AI and machine learning can provide value for your business today.

Because of AI, we can now process huge amounts of data on the customer. If you think about where your business logic sits, and where your customer information sits, you can abstract them. Make data work for you by applying decisioning and continuous refinement so you’re able to anticipate/predict what the customer wants/needs and personalize that interaction. Use channels in a way that’s conducive to the journey, and engage with your customers how and when they want to be engaged with.

Expose all of your customer data through APIs and microservices, and connect the data to a Customer Intelligence Engine that can communicate with all these channels. This makes intent-driven engagement possible. Under the hood, intent-driven engagement uses a variety of data (profile, interaction, relationship) and applies artificial intelligence and machine learning techniques in order to do the following:

  1. Understand: Data about the customer, their interactions and relationship with your company is combined that with what the customer has said or typed.
  2. Decide/resolve: AI then predicts what the customer needs/wants to get done and provides the best channel or response for the customer to resolve his/her issue or compete his/her journey.
  3. Constant improvement through machine learning: All of this data, including what’s been said/typed, the interaction itself, and the outcome is then fed back into the predictive models via machine learning to continuously optimize future interactions

Getting it Right

One company that does this right is Avis Budget Group. When I call Avis about a car rental, they can say “Hi PV, it’s nice to have you back. Would you like to change your reservation or make a new one?” If I’ve returned the car and call them back within a couple of hours, odds are that I left something in the car. They know that. When I tell the story, it’s fairly obvious, but that’s not how most companies think about service. They do this by using a platform that incorporates Microsoft’s Deep Neural Networks technology so that customers can effortlessly complete their transactions in the IVR.

See how seamless your customer experience can be when you use AI the right way.

[24]7 AIVA for IVR from [24]7.ai on Vimeo.

As you think about touching your customer, remember to think holistically about your brand. Be channel agnostic, and make the experience the same across all channels. If you can do this, you can create a personalized, predictive and effortless customer experience. In return, your customers will ultimately reward you in ways you can’t even imagine yet. Learn more about how to create seamless customer experiences in our eBooks.

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