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It’s been a tumultuous past few years for business, and unfortunately, the short-term economic outlook, with whispers of recession growing into a constant rumble, looks murky at best. For customer experience (CX) leaders, such uncertain times often mean two things: cutting costs and automating wherever possible. For those purposes, doubling down on customer-facing chatbot and automation solutions is certainly a tantalizing proposition, so it’s no surprise that the chatbot industry is expected to hit a $102 billion industry by 2026, from $17 billion in 2020.
Chatbots cannot outsmart humans
However, the current crop of chatbots have an exceptional reputation among consumers and the businesses that deploy them. And, of course, you still need to employ human agents in the most valuable customer service conversations. So, CX success in this next chapter of our economy won’t be determined by who automates more via chatbots. It is in their ability to better allocate the division of labor between bots and human agents that puts bots in the best position to succeed cheaply and humans in the best position to influence the bottom line.
Here are three ways CX leaders can start doing this today.
1. When deploying bots, “value based routing” is essential
The sad part of the matter is that I see that no thought is put into routing when it comes to chatbot deployments. There seems to be a “deviation at all costs” mentality where the first line of engagement is always a bot. As customers, we’ve all experienced terrible results: regardless of the nature of your inquiry, you’re inevitably dealing with a bot first, and only after you’ve exhausted your patience and demanded a human channel do you move on to another channel. (Hopefully, it’s to a human, but often it’s email support or a FAQ.)
CX leaders need to take a more thoughtful approach to routing by first understanding that not all inquiries should be attempted by a bot first. Advance planning in determining the types of interactions best left to human agents can pay huge dividends in CSAT and NPS scores.
To maximize savings while maintaining or improving the quality of customer service interactions, CX leaders need to implement a “value-based routing” system that deploys bots. This means that low-value communications are automatically routed to bots and high-value communications are automatically routed to humans. Value is measured by the risk of income loss and the potential for income gain.
This stands in contrast to “complexity-based routing,” where the division between bot- and human-led inquiries is based solely on the complexity of the interaction (ie, how technical the nature of the inquiry is).
Many times, there is an overlap between low value and low complexity. However, in very important cases, they differ. A common example of this is product inquiries. Often, these inquiries can be “solved” by pulling simple product information and sharing it with customers, which is simple enough and easily handled by a bot.
However, delegating product inquiries to a bot is a huge missed opportunity. If customers are asking questions about the product, there is a high probability that they will be interested in buying. In this situation a well-equipped human agent can bond with customers, learn more about their interests and why they are interested in that particular product to create a more enjoyable and productive customer experience. The result is a higher probability of purchase (and possibly repeat purchases from the customer) than what a bot could do by solving the inquiry.
In routing a single product inquiry to a human, a brand can generate incremental revenue or loyalty. But measured over time, a value-based routing system can potentially make or break a CX organization’s costs, especially during times of economic turmoil.
2. Use empathy in moderation
As businesses grow, maintaining excellent, personalized customer service becomes challenging – what works for 1,000 customers won’t work for 100,000. CX leaders need to invest in tools and processes that lead to “empathy at scale,” or technology-enabled, personalized information that creates a true bond with customers.
In practice, empathy gives human customer service representatives valuable information such as where the customer is calling from or what they have recently purchased. CX representatives can use this data to connect with each customer and get their feedback on how the product is working for them. When genuine and natural conversation is paired with effective problem solving, you’ve laid the foundation for repeat customers who trust your brand.
And this kind of empathy is exactly what consumers demand. 68% of consumers engage with brands expecting empathy [subscription required]Only 38% of consumers actually feel like brands do Demonstrate empathy consistently. Needless to say, chatbots alone cannot provide the empathic experience people are looking for. But humans have that ability. And technology is available to empower them to develop empathy and human-to-human connection in every conversation.
And there are real consequences when customer expectations are not met. In Peloton’s case, their burgeoning word-of-mouth success came to an abrupt halt in 2021, when hundreds of disgruntled customers publicly shared their poor experiences. Peloton’s fault was that they could not solve their customers’ problems but they did not have a CX team that was trained and equipped to show empathy and understanding. If customers are willing to share their concerns or problems directly with the company, the company should recognize these inquiries as not only valid but also valuable.
3. Deploy bot-human collaboration that minimizes customer effort
The goal of CX, and the central point of any well-designed CX integration, is to solve a customer problem quickly and easily. We recommend all of our clients prioritize the Customer Effort Score (CES) metric when it comes to measuring the success of their CX program. CES is a survey sent to consumers after an interaction with a brand that asks, “How easy is it to solve your problem?”
CES is a simple but incredibly powerful metric that has proven to be a powerful indicator of customer loyalty. When it comes to improving CES, bots and humans can share information together, learn about customer issues seamlessly and, if they escalate, get resolved at the lowest possible levels.
There are two processes leaders must put in place to get the magic of the 1 + 1 = 3 CX equation. First, when a customer expressly requests to speak with a human, that request must be honored. There are few worse customer experiences than asking an agent and being stonewalled. Think of your last phone call to your local cable company. Second, when an inquiry is escalated from a bot to a human, the handover must be seamless. It allows them to take the conversation in a way that gives the agent all the information they need about the customer and why they engaged in the chat in the first place. Anytime a customer has to repeat information, they are putting in more effort than they should.
Every business strives to attract customers, and poor CX can be an unnecessary fumble at the finish line. In uncertain economic times, any fumble can be incredibly costly. To create lasting, positive relationships with customers and win their repeat business, decision-makers must use CX technology to solve problems better and as efficiently as possible. CX should be considered an omnichannel operation, with chatbots, technology and humans working together to solve customer problems and establish positive personal connections with customers. As with any form of technology, chatbots are best used to enhance the customer experience, not replace it.
Amit Sood is the CTO and Head of Product at Simpler.
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