When AI meets customer service: 5 questions to ask

When AI meets customer service: 5 questions to ask

Don’t frustrate customers who want to talk to a human. Ask these questions to find the right balance of people and AI tools

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February 15, 2019
CIO Digital Tools

Many digital transformation efforts still fall short – or miss the mark entirely. According to a recent poll by Wipro Digital, one in five surveyed U.S.-based senior executives say their company’s digital transformation is a waste of time. Thirty-five percent cite lack of a clear transformation strategy as a key barrier to achieving full digital potential.

[ Read our related article, Digital transformation: Are your people just paying lip service? ]

When it comes to digitally transforming customer engagement or service programs, however, there is little room for error. According to research from Zendesk, 39 percent of consumers who have a bad service experience will avoid the offending vendor for two years or more.

Finding the balance between digital and human in customer service

As business leaders evaluate digital strategies, how can they make the right decisions?

In my experience, finding the right balance between digital service innovation and human-led engagement is key. My company, Agero, a roadside assistance, telematics, and accident management services provider, sits squarely between these forces, navigating a customer journey path that delivers both digital efficiency and human touch during high-stress vehicle breakdown or accident situations.

While nearly 80 percent of surveyed consumers age 55+ prefer live phone interactions, less than half of those under age 26 do.

In our industry, when it comes to consumer engagement preferences, our research shows that they can greatly differ, for instance: While nearly 80 percent of surveyed consumers age 55+ prefer live phone interactions, less than half of those under age 26 choose this engagement route, favoring more digital channels.

With these data points in mind, it’s important to consider how giving in to the pressure to “go digital” at all costs – or jump on significant trends without understanding their impact – could diminish success.

[ What's coming next in AI? Read AI in 2019: 8 trends to watch. ]

It is important to ensure digital customer approaches deliver what customers want and need rather than what might be trending. The potential trouble here? Promised benefits that aren’t realized, increased customer frustration, and bottom-line business impact.

5 questions to ask

To plan more strategically, leaders should consider the following five imperatives and associated questions:

1: Defining digital: What does digital mean, and what phase is right for us?

There are several ways in which businesses can “go digital,” and leaders should understand them all before launching a specific strategy. Here are several key terms that will help leaders understand where they are on the digital spectrum and how they can best move forward:

  • Digitization: the first and most basic phase, whereby analog tools are turned into digital ones in a one-by-one, step-by-step process.
  • Digitalization: the updating and automating of business processes through digital technologies.
  • Digital transformation: considered the ultimate maturity phase, with a complete top-down CEO- and board-driven mandate requiring full redesign across every organization and business function, resulting in radical transformation of service delivery and cost structure.
  • Digital by Default: creating an experience in digital that users default (want) to stay in.
  • Digital First: creating a digital channel that users are directed to first (that they may or may not want to stay in).

2: Goal-setting: Is this a business objective stemming from customer need? 

Examine where the need to go digital is coming from. Creating change for the sake of change can often lead to failure. To start on the right path, business leaders should first identify and evaluate driving forces and ensure they can be tied to the organization’s customer value proposition. Once the need is clarified, outlining benefits and detractors (is there a solid ROI?) is necessary. When moving to the design phase, an outside-in versus inside-out process is key.

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As VP of Customer Experience, Chris Small has more than 16 years in customer care and service provider network management. At Agero, Chris is focused on improving stakeholder relationships (clients, consumers, call center agents, and service providers) through technology by understanding their needs and passions, designing their digital ecosystems with safety, security and simplicity in mind, and effectively leveraging data to identify process defects and improve outcomes. Chris holds a bachelor’s degree from the Berklee School of Music.

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