Historically the customer contact sector has treated self-service as a lower cost alternative to the traditional contact centre model. Now, however, with customers looking for a much more seamless engagement experience – across sessions that might start with an app or a virtual assistant, transition into a webchat and then conclude with an email or voice dialogue – it’s no longer possible for organisations to adopt this simplistic attitude to self-service.
Instead the focus needs to be on creating effective, organisation-wide ‘Digital Front Door’ strategies that deliver exactly the right, contextualised balance between self-service, assisted service and the agent-focused contact centre model.
Fortunately, improving the customer experience and reducing the overall cost of customer engagement doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive concepts. Effective voice self-service can lower costs and reduce ROI – while still providing consumers with automation options that can dramatically simplify or improve the customer journey. Similarly, the latest proven voice biometrics technology – using natural voice patterns, not passwords, questions or PINs – can authenticate your customers naturally and effortlessly, and help provide an important service differentiator for your business.
At the same time, service providers can present customers with speech-enabled self-service solutions that are easy to use, reduce overall interaction times, and also allow you to intelligently route interactions to the right person within your organisation. Core speech recognition capability has improved dramatically with the invention of deep neural networks and continued increases in computing power. This has enabled a level of speech recognition accuracy that’s both of high quality and low latency in terms of responsiveness for everyday users.
We’re also now seeing the rise of high quality conversational interfaces; known variously as virtual assistants, voice assistants or chatbots. Facebook, for example, has its ‘M human-assisted’ chatbot service that sits within Messenger and can help in a variety of ways.
The continued rise of AI-enabled chatbots will of course have its issues. However, there’s no doubt that speech-enabled bots will continue to play an increasing role in future customer service journeys. While many organisations are still working out the best ways to deploy speech-enabled solutions or conversational UIs, their customers are already busy experiencing these technologies in other areas of their lives. Google, for example, estimates that its number of voice queries doubled in 2015 over the previous year. Apple reports that it receives over a billion information requests a week via its Siri assistant, while enterprise speech specialist Nuance says it now processes some 14 billion customer speech interactions each year.
As these innovations become more prevalent, there’s going to be continued consumer pressure for the kind of engagement experience offered by the market’s most innovative self-service technologies. This could present a challenge for the contact centre sector particularly, as many organisations simply don’t have the speech, conversation, customer journey and UX skills that are really needed to keep pace with accelerating industry best practice. It’s also probably going to be more difficult to keep up with best practice as customer service innovators extend self-service solutions with more robust natural language understanding, deeper contextual understanding and appropriate AI-enabled reasoning.
With Silicon Valley starting to really push forward with innovations such as Virtual Assistants, Augmented Reality and Conversational Commerce, the one thing that’s certain is that your carefully crafted customer journeys will require constant optimisation.
Stuart has over fifteen years’ experience in the customer service industry and is currently focused on helping contact centres to improve sales, productivity, quality and customer service through better use of technology, process optimisation and a focus on people. Stuart is a recognised as an industry thought leader; regularly producing thought provoking White Papers and speaking at industry events.