The Foundation for Automation in Customer Experience
When we think of ‘automation’ today we often think of artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots. However, in the world of customer experience (CX), automation covers many areas including voice self-service or interactive voice response (IVR), web and mobile self-service, online communities, chatbots, virtual assistants, and so on. Each of these provide and yield different value for companies and customers alike.
Companies want automation because it provides improved CX at a much lower cost, while freeing skilled agents to concentrate on the more complex and/or higher-value queries, or simply those that require a level of human empathy that today’s technologies can’t provide. In this context, it’s very much an enabler for employees and the technologies they are using to service clients.
Customers, on the other hand, want automation for the benefits of convenience and speed; not only are their simple enquiries resolved much faster, but when done well, automation can ensure every interaction across any channel is tailored specifically to the needs of each unique customer, thereby providing individualised experiences.
Recent research conducted by Davies Hickman Partners for Avaya, titled SuperServe, echoes this sentiment, with 63 per cent of consumers stating convenience is more important than price, and 79 per cent indicating they want an immediate response from organisations.
What's more, the volume of automation within CX is amplifying. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2021, 15 per cent of all customer service interactions will be completely handled by AI. Currently, we are seeing significant uptake of voice and/or text-based conversational interfaces, driven by AI, that use natural language processing (NLP) to provide a more accepted way for consumers to interact with automation. And the timing is justified. In the aforementioned SuperServe study, two in three consumers said chatbots should be like Google, giving the ability type and/or say a question as you would to another person. Meanwhile, 50 per cent of consumers would like to use their smart speakers and/or smartphone virtual assistants to get customer service.
Extending the benefits of automation to your organisation and customers requires an understanding of the two fundamental concepts that define it:
- Customer context: This provides us with information on: who the customer is, what relationship they have with the organisation, their recent history with the organisation, and the steps taken in the current customer journey (i.e.. the web sites or apps they have used to resolve the matter). Without this information you cannot provide a personalised, accurate and convenient service to the consumer.
- Knowledge management – this provides reduced search time and improved customer satisfaction by ensuring accurate, consistent answers across all interaction types – automated or assisted. This knowledge base of answers provides the foundation to any successful automation project.
Combined, these two elements allow a company to drive automation that fits the scope of each type of enquiry from direct, short answers, to guided help and simple knowledge articles. And it doesn’t matter whether the engagement is conducted via chat, web or mobile application, voice, virtual assistant or even agent assisted interactions.
Avaya meets with many organisations that have developed strategies around these two critical elements, and consequently enabled seamless hand-over from automation to agent-assisted service. Our discussions indicate that without these two factors (context and knowledge), the customer journey becomes disjointed and inconsistent when we hand-over from automated to assisted service. This hand-over is a significant customer journey flashpoint that can have a major impact on customer satisfaction if handled poorly.
 Gartner, 4 Trends in Gartner Hype Cycle for Customer Service and Customer Engagement, September 2018