How often have you felt new customers were better treated than you? Or how many times have you threatened to leave a company delivering a poor service, only to be contacted by customer care promising to fix the issue and offering better prices? These examples illustrate how much energy companies put into new customer and anti-churn programs; but how much is put into customer engagement?
Customer engagement is all about interactions between a company and their customers. Where acquisition and retention require big investments, here just a small amount can uncover new revenue streams. A study by Ray Wang of Constellation Research found that “…companies who have improved engagement increase cross-sell by 22%, drive up-sell revenue from 13% to 51%, and also increase order sizes from 5% to 85%.”
There’s one area that’s growing in importance and utilisation for customer engagement and that’s Artificial Intelligence (AI).
AI can find patterns to create and monetise new services, or help manage repetitive tasks to free up agent time. Just imagine customers spending more money and purchasing additional products and services because they feel taken care of in an automated way.
Done properly, companies can centralise customer interactions in a single, future-proof platform so customer engagement can be properly supported by AI. Such a platform could be the Contact Centre, or Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS) if it’s hosted in the cloud, and facilitates the way consumers and agents communicate with each other.
Automation needs the human touch
Businesses must consider customer engagement as ongoing interaction between a company and its customers through the channel chosen by the customer. I love this definition because it includes the customer choosing how and when to interact with the company.
Today, many companies are embracing AI to grow revenue but there’s a common mistake…they forget about humans.
AI cannot replicate the personal touch and it cannot deliver the same value. It also has difficulties in guiding customers through their journey because they don’t seamlessly hand off to agents. Any adoption of AI must carefully manage the interactions between people and automated systems, so as not to disappoint the customer.
Embracing AI in the right way
There is no need for a complicated approach to get fast results. First, you should focus on a specific or a repetitive task that you could optimise. That will immediately reduce costs and increase efficiency. It sounds obvious but few companies bridge that gap.
Decision makers acknowledge AI’s key advantage in handling simple requests efficiently. This means that AI is best used to perform tasks like scheduling calendar appointments or understanding the flow of automated conversations and carrying that context forward. Applying AI to key after-sales activities can also be effective. For example, using speech recognition and text analytics to classify customer service calls, support automation to proactively provide service for connected devices, and AI-enhanced contact routing to send queries to agents based on skill and knowledge level.
It’s impossible to make all processes more intelligent at the same time. Instead of falling into a loop of endless analysis, identify a set of key processes or points of engagement that matter to your customers or to your business and start here. For example, using AI to manage password resets quickly adds up to significant cost savings. Use these improved processes as proof points and ensure that you can track the results.
Once results are measured and observed you can start introducing chatbots and leveraging machine learning, while carefully considering human intervention in important decisions.
A common mistake at this point would be to have a tactical solution driven by technology: you should keep your eye on the ball of Customer Engagement. Dedicated KPIs must be implemented to measure results and adapt in an agile way.
Finally, remember that the best option to have a flexible, evolutive and open CCaaS solution is a scalable centralised platform covering all your interaction channels. Working on a unified platform ensures that switching from an agent to a bot will be done swiftly, and vice-versa, without losing historical data of the customer journey.
How to embrace AI in customer engagement
- Define your routing, escalation, reporting, and interaction data management in the context of bots and humans. When designing your customer engagement strategies, keep in mind that not every interaction warrants a chatbot and that not every interaction can be successfully completed with AI.
- Artificial intelligence (AI) has not, and should not, completely take over responsibilities handled by human beings. Although AI is already transforming enterprises by increasing worker efficiency and productivity, it cannot replace the intelligence and understanding of a human. Understand its limits and where the handover from AI to human should take place.
- Make sure your Contact Centre platform is ready for AI. So many applications and software can help you introduce automation and added value in a smooth way while making the agent’s life easier. The critical thing is to opt for an open CCaaS platform that will allow integration with the right AI partners.
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