The Triple Squeeze & The VoC : CX Trend Overview

Written by Mani Makkar  on   Nov 21, 2022

High inflation, talent scarcity, and supply chain challenges are all merging together to create what we refer to as “the triple squeeze.” In short, it’s a tough market out there, and CFOs are feeling the pressure – as per Gartner, 47% find it difficult to find and hire enterprise talent, 50% still see a significant wave of workforce resignations, while 48% believe that supply chain volatility and shortages will last beyond 2022.

How can CX leaders recognize this economic downturn as an opportunity and boost their CX strategies to match? Now is the time to be bold and supercharge workforces for growth. Now is the time to invest in AI for CX.

Investing in Digital

In a Gartner survey conducted in late July/early August 2022, CFOs and financial leaders were asked about their strategies to combat inflation thus far, and looking ahead toward the rest of 2022. 21% had already embraced greater automation within the past several months and 24% plan to do so throughout the remainder of the year if inflation persists.

The good news is that customer service/support is not the top target for cost-cutting – a separate survey found that only 7% plan to decrease spend in this area, compared to the 72% that plan to maintain it, and 21% plan to increase spend in CX.

Most CFOs plan to increase their digital spend – only 3% of CFOs plan to decrease digital technology spend, while 69% plan to increase spend on technology.

With a Little Help From Conversational AI

Despite the economic pressures of the triple squeeze, digital spend is on the rise and customer service is an area that is relatively safe from cost-cutting, where should business leaders direct their energy and resources? How can savings and inefficiencies be reduced? Here is where the opportunity for automation and conversational AI comes into play. Conversational AI, as Gartner pointed out, is expected to reduce contact center agent labor costs by $80 billion by 2026!

Netomi helps support teams reduce inefficiencies by automating repetitive tickets such as queries regarding order status. Going one step further and taking a proactive stance, Netomi helps leaders get ahead of customer issues, by anticipating tickets to preemptively resolve them before a customer even knows that one exists. Resolution time is decreased and customer satisfaction increased.

What’s more, to capture the real voice of the customer (VoC), indirect/direct feedback is on the rise. Rather than relying on customer surveys alone, alternate methods such as speech and text analytics are now being deployed, and Gartner predicts that 60% of organizations with VoC programs will supplement traditional surveys by analyzing voice and text interactions with customers by 2025. Traditional surveys may fail to capture key details and customer sentiments, such as ‘I am so frustrated that my WiFi network continues to have problems.” How can we think of other ways to capture vital information to create stronger connections with customers?

With conversational AI, the opportunities are endless to create authentic connections with customers and engage with them in the moments that matter. Because we are also in the era of the Relationship Economy where strong connections count.

Customers like to have the freedom and options to chart their own paths and solve issues on their own. In order to meet these needs, and to deliver a low-cost and low-effort experience, leaders need to prioritize digital self-service channels, whether that may be chatbots, a comprehensive Q&A section on a website, or community forums. Self-service containment is a much more cost-effective way of providing resolutions – costing $0.10 compared to assisted service (such as email or web chat) which costs an average of $11.00.

Tackling the Sprawling SaaS Landscape with a Robust CX Strategy

Written by Amy Wallace  on   Nov 14, 2022

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In today’s digital-first world, and an era of remote and hybrid workplaces, the number of SaaS solutions used by companies on a daily basis is overwhelming – in 2021, organizations worldwide were using an average of 110 SaaS apps! The “SaaS sprawl” created by the widespread adoption of SaaS solutions – from personal productivity tools to business applications – is real. There are a number of issues that arise from too many tools with similar functionality – for one, this can lead to fragmentation among teams and be detrimental to employee productivity.

AI can help SaaS companies take a more targeted approach to connect with customers in the moments that matter the most, and help customers receive targeted and instantaneous support, for a stellar CX.

How AI helps SaaS companies connect with customers in the moments that matter most

Drive engagement and foster long-term loyalty

Of all the SaaS applications and services that exist today, many of them are underused by employees and teams.

How can we then ensure that SaaS applications are being used at their full potential and that customers are finding the most value in them? Take, for instance, Janice, who uses one app for a very specific purpose, and one that only makes up a small fraction of her workday. If she was offered clear and instant information on product updates, tips, and best practices related to the app, might she be more engaged? Perhaps she would discover that the app has additional features, and grow to favor this app over others, perhaps it could even serve as a replacement for other apps. This is where a omnichannel conversational AI platform steps in, as it can proactively reach out to the customer at the exact moment of relevance to drive engagement and long-term loyalty. AI can assist with pre-sales education – driving engagement by encouraging customers to request a demo or sign up for a free trial.

Support, in a snap

Additionally, AI-powered chatbots allow support teams to seamlessly handle volumes of customer issues, providing immediate resolutions with little to no human intervention, so password resets or issues with logging in are solved in a snap. Janice may also be a customer who frequently reaches out to customer support teams with common technical questions. Can we anticipate her next question or ones that she is likely to have with new products or services? With AI looking one step ahead, we can.

A targeted approach that covers all the bases

By leveraging AI for CX, SaaS companies can easily direct customers to the features and functions that are helpful to them. Based on usage analytics as well as knowledge gleaned from previous interactions, AI can access relevant customer data from back-end systems to arm an agent with unique insights to unlock upsell or cross-sell opportunities. For instance, an AI-powered virtual assistant may proactively offer a customer deals, discounts, or other suggestions, such as upgrading to a premium account, and even go as far as to make that switch for the customer. A personalized approach, for personalized resolutions.

Ensuring great CX in a sprawling SaaS landscape

For companies around the world, SaaS applications have become a pervasive and essential component of the working landscape. By leveraging AI for CX, SaaS providers can offer excellent support to their customers, making it easier for them to navigate a complex sprawling landscape of SaaS applications and reap the full benefits of these digital solutions.

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22 Most Insightful Customer Experience Statistics

Written by Amy Wallace  on   Nov 7, 2022

A terrific customer experience (CX) is vital across industries and organizations both large and small – from retail to travel and telecommunications. Because, today, it’s pretty competitive out there, customer preferences and loyalties are shifting, and choices abound. Yet just how great of an impact can it have on companies and their customers? As solid proof that CX is bigger and bolder than ever, as we wrap up the year and look ahead to 2023, we compiled a list of 22 eye-opening customer experience statistics.

See how a omnichannel Conversational AI platform can help boost your CX strategy!

22 Best Customer Experience Statistics

CX Statistics for Cost, Performance, and Business Impact

  • $402B/year is left on the table by companies that fail to provide “simple” experiences to their consumers [World’s Simplest Brands]
  • $35.3B is lost every year by US businesses in customer churn caused by avoidable CX issues [CallMiner]
  • Companies that earn $1 billion a year will see an average gain of $700 million within three years of investing in customer experience [Qualtrics]
  • 90% of CEOs believe that the customer has the greatest impact on their business [PwC]
  • Companies with engaged employees outperform the competition by 147% [Gallup]

Why this is important today:
The lack of a strong CX strategy can have a detrimental impact on businesses. Investing in CX can pay off in the long run.

customer experience statistics loyalty and brand experience

Customer Experience Statistics for Loyalty and Brand Experience

  • Loyal customers are 5 times more likely to purchase again and 4 times more likely to refer a friend to the company [Experience Matters]
  • CX drives over two-thirds of customer loyalty, which represents more than brand and price combined [CMS Wire]
  • 73% of consumers say a good experience is key in influencing their brand loyalties [PwC]
  • 65% of respondents would become long-term customers of a brand if they can provide positive experiences throughout the customer journey [ClickZ]
  • 65% of all consumers find a positive experience with a brand to be more influential than great advertising [PwC]
  • 96% of customers say customer service is important in their choice of loyalty to a brand [Microsoft]
  • 46% of consumers will abandon a brand if employees are not knowledgeable [PwC]
  • The top reason why customers switch brands is because they feel unappreciated [Vonage]

Why this is important today:

The key is not only to attract customers, but to keep them engaged and coming back for more. Stronger customer loyalty helps companies grow, and also rest assured that their CX investments and efforts are paying off.

customer experience statistics personalization and speed of resolutions

Customer Experience Statistics for Personalization and Speed of Resolutions

  • 91% of consumers say they are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them [Accenture]
  • Customers are 2.4 times more likely to stick with a brand when their problems are solved quickly [Forrester]
  • 80% of customers say they are more likely to do business with a company if it offers personalized experiences [Epsilon]

Why this is important today:

Customers have come to expect and demand personalized, speedy service. The onus is on businesses to meet these expectations, and take experience from good to great.

customer experience statistics technology

CX Statistics for Technology

  • Less than 1 in 4 brands have the necessary technology to consistently engage with consumers [Twilio]
  • Companies that have embraced digital transformation are 26% more profitable than their peers [MIT]
  • More than 60% of consumers look for self-service first, instead of contacting a live agent [Microsoft]

Why this is important today:

In today’s digital world, technological options abound. From customer experience tools to live chat software, companies today can harness tools to help their teams work more efficiently, and engage with customers across channels.

CX Statistics for Trust and Brand

  • Customers tell an average of 9 people about a positive experience with a brand, but they tell 16 people about a negative experience [Deloitte]
  • Companies that provide an emotional connection with customers outperform the sales growth of their competitors by 85% [Gallup]
  • Two-thirds of customers will share personal information with brands, but only in exchange for some kind of value [Accenture]

Why this is important today:

Customers today crave authentic and meaningful experiences, and creating those connections will help brands stand out from the crowd and make a true impact.


Sources

Infographic 1 (Costs, Performance & Business Impact):

  1. World’s Simplest Brands – https://worldssimplestbrands.com/
  2. CallMiner – https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2020/05/11/2031142/0/en/Nearly-74-of-Consumers-Will-Switch-Providers-After-a-Poor-Contact-Center-Experience-According-to-New-Research.html
  3. Qualtrics – https://www.qualtrics.com/xm-institute/roi-of-customer-experience-2018/
  4. PwC – https://www.pwc.co.uk/ceo-survey.html
  5. Gallup – https://www.gallup.com/workplace/229424/employee-engagement.aspx

Infographic 2 (Loyalty & Brand Experience):

  1. Experience Matters – https://experiencematters.blog/category/roi-of-customer-experience/
  2. CMS Wire – https://www.cmswire.com/customer-experience/its-the-journey-that-matters-improving-customer-experience-and-loyalty/
  3. PwC – https://www.pwc.com/future-of-cx
  4. ClickZ – https://www.clickz.com/cx-is-as-important-as-product-or-price-says-new-report/260845/
  5. PwC – https://www.pwc.com/us/en/services/consulting/library/consumer-intelligence-series/future-of-customer-experience.html
  6. Microsoft – http://info.microsoft.com/rs/157-GQE-382/images/EN-CNTNT-Report-DynService-2017-global-state-customer-service-en-au.pdf
  7. PwC – https://www.pwc.com/us/en/services/consulting/library/consumer-intelligence-series/future-of-customer-experience.html
  8. Vonage – https://www.vonage.com/resources/publications/global-customer-engagement-report-2020/

Infographic 3 (Personalization & Speed of Resolutions):

  1. Accenture – https://www.accenture.com/_acnmedia/PDF-77/Accenture-Pulse-Survey.pdf
  2. Forrester – https://www.forrester.com/blogs/whats-the-roi-of-cx-transformation/
  3. Epsilon – https://www.epsilon.com/us/about-us/pressroom/new-epsilon-research-indicates-80-of-consumers-are-more-likely-to-make-a-purchase-when-brands-offer-personalized-experiences

Infographic 4 (Technology):

  1. Twilio – https://www.twilio.com/blog/announcing-the-state-of-personalization-2021
  2. MIT – https://ide.mit.edu/insights/digitally-mature-firms-are-26-more-profitable-than-their-peers/
  3. Microsoft – https://info.microsoft.com/ww-landing-global-state-of-customer-service.html

Infographic 5 (Trust & Brand Experience):

  1. Deloitte – https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/us/Documents/process-and-operations/us-cons-the-true-value-of-customer-experiences.pdf
  2. Gallup – https://news.gallup.com/businessjournal/127520/retail-new-normal.aspx
  3. Accenture – https://www.accenture.com/t20180219t081429z__w__/us-en/_acnmedia/pdf-71/accenture-global-dd-gcpr-hyper-relevance-pov-v12.pdf#zoom=50

The Power of Email and Chat: Connect Your CX Support Strategy to Omnichannel Conversations

Written by Amy Wallace  on   Oct 21, 2022

In today’s digital-first world, there are copious channels for conversations to take place. Chat, it seems, has emerged as the shiny new avenue for support, especially in the world of chatbots and AI, and email has fallen to the wayside. While email may be overlooked in lieu of its modern counterparts, in fact, our research team found that 47% of people prefer to contact a company for customer service over email, compared to phone and Web Chat, both at 23%. There is room for both, and here’s why – and how – a strong customer support strategy should include email, and seamlessly connect omnichannel conversations.

The Power of Email (+ chat) in CX

While email is a critical component in any support strategy, we at Netomi are in full support of an omnichannel customer experience – one that constructs a seamless and consistent experience, regardless of channel. On Netomi’s AI platform for customer service, customers can initiate a support conversation on chat and continue the conversation via email, or vice versa. The key point here is that the context is kept throughout, ensuring a smooth transition between channels, and saving the customer the trouble of repeating basic details.

Let’s look at an example of how this works. Any information that is collected through conversations between a customer and a support agent is stored within a ticketing system, and, depending on the workflow, order systems and CRM systems are updated (for instance, Bill purchased an office chair in June of 2022, and it was returned shortly after, due to a manufacturing defect). This deep integration means that tickets are fully resolved, rather than simply sending customers links to help center articles. If an AI is not authorized to handle a ticket, it may first open the ticket and collect all of the required information from the customer, before passing it on to a human agent. An email may then be sent to the customer containing a link, which then can send them back to the chat conversation, or prompt them to continue completing it via email. Here, we see that this is a seamless support journey – one that is connected across channels, and no context is lost in the transition.

At the beginning of a conversation with a customer, an AI first needs to grasp the nature of the intent, so it can extract and pull up the relevant information needed to resolve the query. Narrowing down the query to a specific intent (intent narrowing) applies to channels such as chat and SMS. In these cases, the intent needs to be narrowed down to one topic or use care per conversation (such as a warranty policy, refund status or order tracking). That is, one can only talk about one thing at a time, allowing for a more focused conversation. In the case of email, multiple intents can be detected, and an agent can respond to them all in one go. For email, having multiple intents is more relevant than intent narrowing.

email and chat comparison

The future of conversational customer service

The shift towards proactive service, rather than reactive, is well underway. Looking ahead, we will continue to take the concept of customer care one step further – anticipating what the customer might need, based on what they previously purchased. For instance, customers might want to reorder orange soda for their SodaStream, and the system has figured out that those who like orange soda typically like the pineapple flavor as well. It might suggest this as an option – ‘we are all out of the orange soda, would you be interested in ordering the pineapple variety?’ This is also where the opportunity for upselling and cross-selling comes into play.

How Fintechs Can Tap Into AI to Serve the Booming SMB Market

Written by Amy Wallace  on   Oct 7, 2022

The SMB (small and medium-sized business) market is growing – in 2021, the number of small businesses in the US hit 32.5 million, making up nearly all (99.9%) of businesses in the country.

In this digital-first environment, the needs of SMB owners will – and have already started – to shift. That is, as this market flourishes, it is increasingly demanding more digital products and services as it migrates away from strictly brick-and-mortar organizations to digital businesses. A recent report from Mastercard revealed that within the past two years, 80% of small business owners have started using digital channels for loans, while 81% indicated that they need a loan that is tailored to the specific needs of their business.

By leveraging AI for CX, fintech companies can boost the capacities of their own support teams to provide a seamless experience to SMBs, who, in turn, can provide excellent support to their own customers. Sound a bit convoluted? We’ll break down how this cycle of productivity works.

On a similar topic, learn more about how AI can also help fintech companies service gig economy players – both its workers and the customers they serve!

AI + Fintech Companies = The Ultimate CX for SMBs and their Customers

Help SMBs scale, with immediate support

As owners of these businesses adapt to the new realities of today, inflation, along with funding, are cited as top pain points. Plus, when it’s concerning finances, the stakes are higher, and in the pandemic era, some SMB owners have even needed to tap into their own funds to help their businesses stay afloat. Compounded with this, the business landscape is moving fast, and these business owners need to also move quickly in order to stay on top of changing circumstances and prepare themselves for what’s coming. Owners of SMBs (think, an owner of a neighborhood bar who is struggling to keep up with increasing costs and sourcing workers), need technologies and service providers that are equally as fast and can offer support with simplicity and ease, which is where fintechs enter the picture.

This is why providing immediate and responsive support is vital, as it concerns questions regarding expense management, payment initiations, invoicing, and more. AI-powered virtual assistants can automate common and repeatable queries, such as requests to change passwords, link accounts, and conduct transactions, at speed.

Cater to different groups…

Outlining key groups of SMB owners, Mastercard’s report points out that “unique mindsets drive unique needs.” For instance, ‘established optimizers’ are more established businesses that are satisfied with their financial tools but open to new tools to optimize in other ways, while ‘digital-first startups’ are those who rely solely on online-only banks and social media. For fintech companies, it becomes critical to bear these differences in mind, meet customers where they are, and offer a great customer experience across channels – not only email and not only chat, but a combination. While offering support across these channels is critical, it is also important to create a cohesive, synchronized journey as a customer moves between channels.

…with a personalized touch

With AI taking care of the repetitive queries, this significantly frees up agents to concentrate on more complex tasks that require a human touch. For instance, perhaps an established ‘mom and pop’ shop is struggling to stay afloat in the digital era. In such a case, fintechs can take steps to provide an extra level of care, such as helping them make the transition to and navigate an online payments platform that may seem foreign to them. Plus, owners of SMBs take pride in knowing their customers and offering personalized touches wherever possible, whether this involves having their go-to coffee order ready when a regular walks in each morning, or informing a customer when their favorite brand releases a new collection of fall clothing. How can your fintech company provide the same level of personalized service that they value?

With back-end integrations into a company’s CRM, advanced chatbots can tailor the interactions based on customer profiles and behavior, showing that it comprehends both past interactions as well as customer preferences. For example, noting that a customer had asked about applying for a loan in a past inquiry, the virtual assistant can incorporate this level of personalization into the experience, thus responding on an individual level, and providing more meaningful interactions. Based on previous transactions, it might recommend a special bank account that might be better for one’s specific needs and interests as a SMB owner.

AI, fintechs and SMBS

A Two-Way Street: Enhancing the CX for Fintechs and SMB owners

SMBs today face some challenges, and the nature of the landscape today is forcing many to reimagine their operations and business structures. Yet despite these challenges, many of these business owners remain optimistic and prepared to grow. As these businesses scale, when it comes to their finances, they are looking for solutions that offer expertise, speed, simplicity and ease, and perhaps most importantly, a personal touch. By leveraging AI-powered solutions for customer service, fintech companies can provide SMB owners with robust customer support, and the level of personalization that they – and their customers – value.

The Modern Traveler Takes Off: 4 Examples of Travel Companies Taking Steps to Enhance the Travel CX

Written by Amy Wallace  on   Sep 3, 2022

Due to a last-minute cancellation, a traveler from Vancouver, BC was forced to book a flight that cost four times the amount of her original ticket ($960 CAD instead of the original $250 CAD). While she was booked on a replacement flight scheduled to depart days later, this interfered with her larger plans, an “adventure of a lifetime” to Australia. The once giddy and enthusiastic mood quickly darkened.

Such stories are all too common today, as staffing shortages, coupled with soaring demand for travel, have taken their toll on the industry. For travelers, both novice and seasoned, a seamless travel experience is the optimal solution. How can travel companies go above and beyond (pun intended) to enhance the travel customer experience (CX)? Here are 4 of our favorite examples of companies doing just this.

4 Examples of Travel Companies Taking Steps to Enhance the Travel CX

  1. At Orlando International Airport, Clear is testing a pilot program that allows members to arrange for a Clear employee to meet them at the curb and help them navigate the complete airport process. Mitigating the hassle of navigating through airport terminal mazes, Clear Premium takes travelers all the way from TSA checkpoints, luggage tagging and through to the departure gate.
  2. Signaling an end to a long-standing policy of travelers exclusively booking tickets through their own website, for the first time, Southwest announced that it would allow customers to purchase tickets on the travel booking website Kayak. This summer, the airline also announced that it would be getting rid of expiration dates on flight credits issued to passengers, becoming the first major US airline to establish such a policy.
  3. Bypassing the website and app and meeting customers on the channels where they are, South African airline FlySafair launched new features within its WhatsApp business account, allowing passengers to check-in directly within the messaging platform. By simply sending a message to FlySafair’s business account, passengers are presented with a menu with several options, including checking on their booking and flight status. This conversational approach brings to mind elements of conversational ticketing that we explored in a recent article!
  4. Ahead of Labor Day weekend, the Department of Transportation (DOT) launched a new dashboard to help keep travelers informed. The tool offers travelers’ clarity on the services and amenities they should receive from airlines if they experience flight disruptions caused by something within the airline’s control, such as a mechanical or staffing issue. It also shows a clear comparison of amenities the airlines are committed to providing, such as meal vouchers in the event that passengers are stuck waiting for three hours or longer. Urging airlines to reevaluate their customer service commitments to passengers, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has said that “the level of disruption Americans have experienced this summer is unacceptable.”

Enhance the Travel CX with AI

The smallest of actions, such as the addition of new services, can go a long way to build and maintain customer loyalty and make the travel journey even a modicum amount better. Yet, to keep up with high demand, which will likely endure, and to meet evolving customer expectations, more change is needed. “We did anticipate. Yes, the planning did start. What we underestimated, unfortunately, was the desire to which everyone wanted to travel and everyone wanted to travel at the same time,” a Canadian member of Parliament recently noted. By leveraging AI and automation, travel and hospitality companies can ensure that they are well-prepared for travel seasons to come, and for smooth skies ahead.

Swiftly handle cancellations, changes and upgrades

Due to widespread staffing shortages in the industry, most actions – from trip bookings to processing paperwork and securing refunds – take longer, and raise more work for customer service teams to tackle. While some may think that the travel agent/advisor role has been in decline due to the ease of self-bookings made online, this is not the case. For booking of trips, expert travel advice is increasingly sought-after, as nearly half of US travelers (44%) who rarely or sometimes used travel advisors in the past have said they were now more likely to use one post-pandemic. For travel agents and those keen to help others decipher the world of travel, opportunities await. Fora, launched in 2021, is a tech-powered travel startup that provides resources, training and access to a supplier hub to entrepreneurs interested in a part- or full-time career as a travel advisor.

Hiring more agents to meet soaring demands is not always the answer, when scaling a human-only support team is more difficult and costly than ever. An AI-powered virtual assistant can deal with highly repeatable queries, such as ‘How many frequent flier points will I receive for this flight?,’ ‘What are your COVID policies’, or ‘Is your hotel dog-friendly?’ This enables agents to service customers with more complex tasks and engage in more fulfilling work while freeing up their bandwidth – big time. Both can work alone or in tandem to resolve the issue – for instance, if the AI is not trained on an answer, it smoothly hands off the support ticket to a live agent, or works alongside the agent to augment their capabilities.

Proactive and 24/7 care, in an uncertain landscape

It is an ambiguous time for travel with lots of questions abound (Will my baggage arrive? What happens if I miss my connecting flight)? As evident through the DOT’s website plans mentioned above, the federal government is now taking additional steps to help frustrated passengers – in the first six months of 2022, 24% of US flights have been delayed and 3.2% have been canceled!

Being proactive rather than reactive, AI can go beyond supporting customers in the event of delays and cancellations, such as alerting a customer of a drop in fares to Amsterdam (based on their travel history pulled from backend systems, they have visited the city several times). Perhaps a guest is traveling to Jamaica for her upcoming nuptials, wedding dress in tow. An airline could proactively send her a message telling her that the flight is full, but there is space for the dress in the crew compartment. Alternatively, perhaps the International departures terminal is exceptionally busy, and passengers are notified that it would be best to arrive at the airport earlier than they normally would.

Immediate responses are now widely expected by customers – 90% of customers consider an immediate response to be important for customer service queries. The good news is that AI is available 24/7, supporting customers even when human agents are off the clock. Plus, as conversational AI grows more well-versed to handle a wider variety of use cases (such as flight status and arrival, baggage rules and requirements), and is trained by a larger body of live customer interactions and customer experience histories, it becomes better able to conduct more complex tasks.

Now that summer is coming to an end, who’s ready to take on the fall/winter travel season to enhance the travel CX? With the right AI-powered measures in place, it could be you.

Help customers navigate the travel landscape, for an outstanding customer experience. Schedule a demo to learn more about the perks and possibilities that a omnichannel Conversational AI platform has to offer!

This Season, AI is in Vogue: Conversational AI For Great Retail and eCommerce CX

Written by Amy Wallace  on   Sep 1, 2022

Back-to-school, Christmas, or simply refreshing one’s home decor for the changing season. Whatever the occasion, the holiday shopping season is fast-approaching, and for some, already underway. Yet, this season is a bit different from those of the past. For one, consumer habits have evolved – nearly 40% have switched brands or retailers during the pandemic, and more than 80% have new shopping behaviors, such as adopting “buy online and pickup in-store” services. What’s more, staffing shortages continue to pose a major challenge, as do supply chain issues.

There is a relatively simple fix, one that does not require an influx of new hires, seasonal or long-term. The solution? Conversational AI in the retail workforce, for the ultimate customer experience.

AI for retail and eCommerce CX: The classic solution that never goes out of style

Stimulate consumer spending by providing instant answers to their questions

Inflation is chiselling away at consumers’ spending power, leading them to shop strategically, prioritizing items of need (such as household essentials, groceries, pet care and baby items) over items of want (such as consumer electronics, apparel, smart home devices, and books). Amid this time of economic uncertainty, consumers are hesitant to part with their money (‘this 4K TV seems awesome, but do I really need it?’). What is needed is exceptional customer support, delivered accurately and immediately. Research from Gladly has found that 72% of shoppers are willing to spend more with a brand that provides a great customer experience, while 42% percent say they would stop purchasing from a brand altogether after just two bad service experiences (two strikes, they’re out)! It’s clear that first impressions matter, as 88% of shoppers won’t even return to a website after a poor user experience. If customers are made to jump through hoops to make returns or receive answers related to products, such poor experiences may lead to them venturing elsewhere, or not making a purchase at all.

AI-powered virtual assistants play an integral role in retail interactions that span the entire shopping journey.

Available 24/7 to get the job done
Handling the bulk of high-volume repeatable queries, such as those related to order status and account information, and escalating more complex requests to human agents, is an area where digital assistants shine. Their 24/7 nature means that brands can respond to incoming queries within seconds, and a greater volume of them, at that. When doing some late-night research, a customer has specific questions about that shiny new 4K TV, and is looking for information about a store’s inventory levels and return policy? Bring it on!

A proactive stance
Offering greater visibility into end-to-end product availability, and being fully transparent goes a long way in building and maintaining customer loyalty. For instance, will a customer’s shipment be delayed until the following week? In a move to stay one step ahead, a virtual agent proactively reaches out to inform them of the issue and how it is being resolved.

Integrating with other key systems
When integrated with back-end systems such as a CRM, virtual agents can easily access order history, so customers do not have to repeat basic details about themselves or their specific queries. This allows for ultimately personalized interactions, as human agents are then armed with the full context even prior to interacting with the customer.

retail eCommerce CX Zinus case study example

A competitive advantage, when competition is fierce

More than 90% of consumers now see two or three-day delivery as the baseline, and 30% percent expect same-day delivery. In today’s fast-paced world, perhaps customers will soon expect delivery within mere hours, which will eventually become the norm. How can brands keep up, and go above and beyond to deliver exceptional customer service? The key is planning ahead to meet these evolving expectations and likely realities. As McKinsey pointed out, “as changes accelerate in consumer behaviors and attitudes, retailers with “wait and see” approaches will only fall further behind.”

In line with a shift towards more strategic shopping, soaring inflation is driving consumers to discount retailers in search of lower prices. For instance, a decade after shuttering many of its retail locations, Canadian discount retail chain Zellers is planning to make a comeback in 2023, debuting a new eCommerce website and expanding its brick-and-mortar footprint. How can brands, both existing and emerging, rise up to stake their claim in this competitive environment, and offer their customers brand experience, service resolution and loyalty moments that matter?

AI is in the CX trends forecast

Today’s retail consumers are in a tough spot, as external factors such as inflation and rising costs impact how they spend their money. Customer retention is more important than ever, as is responding to and resolving customer issues – everything from account updates, to order status and delivery – at speed. By integrating AI and automation into their workforces, retail and eCommerce brands can prepare for this season and those to come, for customer experiences that are truly timeless.

Is Conversational Ticketing Right for Your Business?

Written by Amy Wallace  on   Aug 24, 2022

For support teams and CX leaders today, conversational ticketing may be the way forward, and an excellent method for streamlining the support process. Why, you may ask?

Customer service is often viewed as a hassle – a necessary chore to check off the list when something goes wrong. For instance, our State of Customer Service Benchmark Report revealed that 53% of respondents reported that telecommunications companies are the most dreaded customer service calls to make. This is why more emphasis on the conversational side of support is welcome. Conversational ticketing makes it easy for people to get the support they need as they carry out their day-to-day activities. In this post, we’ll cover all you need to know about conversational ticketing, including:

  1. What is conversational ticketing?
  2. How does conversational ticketing differ from conventional support?
  3. What are some pros and cons of conversational ticketing?
  4. What role do chatbots play in this process?

What is conversational ticketing?

Conversational ticketing, also known as conversational support, refers to support provided in real-time to a user by support agents or self-service bots. By treating conversations as tickets, this streamlined system helps support teams easily view and resolve all incoming requests within these platforms. What’s more, all of this is completed within collaboration platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams.

Conversational ticketing is becoming more common. Today, more than 65 of the total Fortune 100 firms are paying Slack for business communication, while the number of Slack users is growing by 12 million each day. In 2021, average Slack users invested a total of 10 hours on the platform per week! Meanwhile, in 2022, Microsoft Teams reached 270 million users, up from the 145 million it reported in 2021. With their global growth and prominence, providing support within these conversational platforms that are widely used in today’s remote and distributed workforce seems like the logical path forward.

How does conversational ticketing differ from conventional support?

What makes conversational ticketing systems truly unique is their reliance on dialogue – a dialogue between a customer and a support agent (human, virtual, or a combination of both). It eliminates the delays that are common in more conventional support interactions, such as waiting for hours to speak to an agent, or emailing a support line and then receiving a response the following day.

What are some pros and cons of conversational ticketing?

The Pros:

A common ground – conversational ticketing meets users on the channels where they are, on the platforms/apps they are familiar with and frequent on a daily basis. As support is delivered directly within the app, this eliminates the time as well as loss of context involved in switching apps.

Support, at speed – allowing for back-and-forth exchanges to occur in real-time, it dramatically speeds up time to resolution, so issues are submitted and resolved quickly.

The best of both worlds – it offers support with a combination of both automation and human support. By leveraging the power of AI-powered virtual assistants, which can handle many repeatable queries, human agents are free to tackle more complex tasks.

Adding a touch of humanity to the support process – its conversational element makes receiving support as simple as chatting about troubleshooting issues with a coworker.

Affordable – through ticket deflection, conversational ticketing allows teams to decrease their IT support volume, and reduce operational costs of support.

The Cons:

Keeping up with a steady flow of requests can be difficult – with a greater number of support requests entering ticket queues, there is the possibility that some may fall through the cracks. For instance, there may be times when there is a software glitch or systems upgrade, and users are encouraged to reset their passwords. In such cases, support teams should expect an influx in tickets!

Tracking of important metrics is limited – while metrics are key to gauge success, platforms such as Slack and Microsoft Teams were simply not designed to open and close tickets and track time to resolution.

Accounting for other self-service options – nearly half of employees want to take a DIY approach to their IT fixes. This is why integrating such resources within the support platform is key, to give users the option to follow this resolution path – more on that later!

When two worlds collide: conversational ticketing meets AI

For technology, integrations are powerful – integrations with other solutions (such as Netomi!) that can enhance the power of each. Automation takes conversational ticketing to a whole other level – making the entire process effortless for both support teams and the customers they serve.

  1. Used in parallel with knowledge base tools, AI-powered virtual assistants allow companies to harness the extensive information contained within their knowledge bases to accurately provide customers with the exact information that they need, and when they need it.
  2. Additionally, taking a more structured and streamlined approach, AI can help with the ticket triaging process to identify and categorize recurring service requests, ensuring tickets are resolved faster and transferred into the right hands for review. AI agents can first gather information and contextual data from back-end systems such as order management or CRM platforms prior to passing the ticket to a human agent, so that they will have the necessary information to make an informed decision.
  3. AI swiftly handles common and repeatable queries, such as password resets and basic troubleshooting issues, allowing human agents to focus on tasks that carry greater complexity, or those that require a personal touch. The result? Significant boosts in the capacity of support teams.

Due to their pure convenience, customers today are favoring options that allow them to easily chat with support teams to quickly receive the support they need. In a shift towards conversational customer service, live chat is on the rise. In 2021, customer inquiries over live chat channels jumped by 36%, representing the highest increase of any other communication channel. In order to successfully bridge the gap between support teams and their end-users, there is a need for an integrated solution, one that offers real-time support within platforms where users spend their time. It is time to remove the hassle often associated with customer service, and make it more conversational.

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The Rise of the Machine Customer: The Next Emerging Market for CX

Written by Mani Makkar  on   Aug 18, 2022

Staying abreast of all things CX is something we take seriously at Netomi, and the rise of the machine customer is a phenomenon that is shaping the future. This sounds futuristic, bringing to mind images of assembly lines and TV shows such as Westworld. To clarify, the customers themselves are not machines, rather, machine customers, such as virtual personal assistants or smart products, will perform customer service activities on behalf of their human customers for lower customer effort.

To highlight the growing prominence, and power, of machines doing much of the heavy lifting: today, there are more than 7 billion smart devices worldwide, while, in the U.S. alone, Amazon’s Alexa has gained more than 80,000 skills.

Let’s look at some examples of truly proactive customer support, delivered by machines.

HP Instant Ink monitors ink and toner levels, then orders cartridges from HP before the printer runs out of ink. Ink cartridges are proactively shipped before the customer runs out. Effortlessly, the customer is not involved in the entire transaction.

Google Duplex makes calls on behalf of customers in a natural-sounding human voice, the technology is directed towards completing “real world” specific tasks over the phone, such as scheduling appointments. For instance, if a customer asks ‘Hey Google, can you book a haircut appointment,’ Google will phone the salon, speak to the agent and book the appointment.

The Evolution of the Machine Customer

There are three phases in the evolution of the machine customer:

With the bound customer, there is a clearly defined set of rules that exist before the machine customer begins to make any decisions. In this case, the customer is taking the lead, such as asking a machine to order more milk when they run out, on their behalf. This is happening today (consider all of the grocery lists created with Alexa and Siri’s assistance)!

The adaptable customer will make optimized selections among competing products, based on rules. In this phase, there is a shared lead between humans and machines, that is, neither takes the decision unilaterally. For instance, after gathering details about a customer’s financial situation and future goals through an online survey, robo-advisors such as Betterment use this data to offer the customer advice and automatically invest for them. Gartner is predicting this phase to become a reality by 2026.

The autonomous customer infers customer needs, based on rules, context and preference, even when they haven’t been explicitly stated by the customer. In this case, the machine itself has its own needs. Taking concepts from Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and applying it to machines, the machine’s self-actualization needs, which sit at the top of the pyramid hierarchy, relate to the amount of positive change it can bring to the life of the customer. For instance, this could involve informing them that they should adopt healthier eating habits so as to lower their risk for obesity. In this case, the ‘thing’ (machine) both leads the interaction and execution. This is the level of autonomous customers that companies are trying to manufacture, and, by 2025, Gartner predicts that 37% of customers will try using a virtual assistant to interact with customer service.

What Does the Rise of the Machine Customer Mean for CX?

In this new machine customer era, business models, along with customer experience itself, must be rethought. Whereas previously, customers would phone, email, or send a message to support teams, the machine customer is now preemptively or proactively doing this task, in what becomes an effortless experience for the customer. Imagine, as a human, not taking any action at all, or even not knowing about an issue before it is seamlessly resolved?

Original source: Gartner

However, there is a distance that will come between CX teams and customers, and one that results in a conundrum for CX leaders – at which point in the journey will they need to loop in human customers? While a human touch is essential for CX teams, with the presence of machine customers this will become increasingly difficult to maintain, making room for a potential disconnect to occur. That is, you can ‘wine and dine’ your way to loyalty with a human customer, but with a machine, this is not so easy to do. There are situations in which the human customer will be impacted and they will need to be involved, for instance, due to manufacturing delays, their car will not be ready for several days. This is where the concept of having a ‘human-in-the-loop’ becomes key – ensure that the human customer is always kept in the loop. Rather than having a human-centric CX, which relies on developing a customer understanding through voice of the customer insights, there is now the voice of the human plus the ‘thing’ to account for.

As CX leaders, we have to consider:

  • Which tasks will machine customers actually perform? This could encompass, for instance, waiting in queues, repurchasing items, making appointments, and disputing charges. Do customers want to re-order paper towels each time they are running low, or have a machine automatically do this?
  • How do we recognize when a machine customer is contacting us, versus a human customer? We might not be able to tell the difference.
  • With requests coming through various channels, such as chat and email, is our organization equipped to handle these machine customers (bot-to-bot interactions)? As many of us design and construct our AI solutions with human users in mind, how will these machine customers interact with our chatbots and navigate these experiences?

Summing it Up

It is a whole new, machine-driven world out there. The rise of the machine customer is shaping the CX landscape, and, for CX leaders, a new mindset is required when crafting customer experiences.

Creating Wildly Successful Customers: A Q&A with Rupal Nishar, Netomi’s VP of Customer Success

Written by Amy Wallace  on   Jul 29, 2022

To help you, our readers, get to know the humans behind Netomi, we chatted with Rupal Nishar, our VP of Customer Success, about the company’s customer-first approach, and trends in the world of CX/CS today. Here’s what we uncovered in our Q&A with Rupal Nishar.

Rupal, throughout your career, you have worked for SaaS organizations, and have also worked for some of the best companies, including Bridgewater Associates. What makes Netomi unique in its customer-obsessed and customer-first approach?

The nexus of everything we do at Netomi is ‘customer love.’ From designing products to processes, we weave in the customer’s sentiment and experience to make it a frictionless experience – whether that’s the brands we work with (our customers) or end-users (our customers’ customers). Creating wildly successful customers is a key priority in my everyday life.

In your LinkedIn profile, you mentioned that “If there is a book on Customer Success, Design Thinking or Consumer Behavior, I have probably read it.” What are the top two Customer Success-related books that you think every CS professional should read?

For me, two books really stood out: The Seven Pillars of Customer Success by Wayne McCulloch, and The Customer Success Economy: Why Every Aspect of Your Business Model Needs A Paradigm Shift by Nick Mehta (for more insights from Nick, check out this conversation between him and Netomi Founder/CEO Puneet Mehta)!

What are some of the major trends and ‘insider scoop’ in the world of CS/CX today?

Today, CS/CX is on the brink of significant transformation. Some of the trends we will see include:

  1. Customer-led growth – an approach that places the customer at the heart of every interaction, and on optimizing their entire experience
  2. Market leaders will be investing and leveraging AI to transform CS/CX
  3. Digital Experience Strategy will be on the forefront of every Chief Customer Officer’s agenda

Today, we are seeing a huge shift in proactive rather than reactive customer service. What are some tips you have for taking a proactive approach to customer care?

In the last decade, and across all industries, we have seen a shift in the mindset and brand engagement behavior of customers to a point where brands have become a part of their identity, and it is undeniable that brands are now part of the customer DNA. We have also found that companies that excel in proactive customer engagement see higher customer lifetime value, lower acquisition costs and better brand loyalists. The beginning of proactive engagement boils down to really knowing your customer – here, data is your foundation to drive the engagement models. A good data management strategy is a must, as the rich customer data, complete with analytics, will fuel actionable insights.

Some other tips include: preempting your customers’ needs based on where they are in their journey, personalization of the customer experience, and remaining accessible across all channels. Make it easy for your customers to connect with your brand – be that through email, chat, messenger – and any social platforms where your customers can engage with you.

In the complex landscape of today, one with shifting customer expectations in the face of pandemic-era living adjustments, inflation, staffing shortages, etc., how do we display empathy for our customers during these uncertain times? Why is this especially important today?

This is absolutely important, and there are numerous ways of displaying empathy for our customers. One is to ensure swift resolutions to their concerns, while also making their experience personalized. Understanding what matters most to them goes a long way, which goes back to my earlier point of really honing in on data, and establishing a feedback loop that allows you to make those data-driven decisions.

Additionally, being accessible is very important. One way to do this is to implement an omnichannel experience for the customers so they can engage with your brand wherever they are, and another is offering always-on support, whenever your customer needs support.

What is the key to customer retention? How do you keep customers coming back for more?

First, it is important to design your customer journey along with internal processes while keeping the customer’s experience top of mind. Aside from the experience, targeting the right customers is also critical to the success of growth. Another aspect to keep in mind is product usability – the lower the effort is for the customer to adopt and maintain the product is crucial.

Make sure you’re measuring and improving the value quotient for customers, and lastly, communicate, communicate, communicate – everything from product updates to engagement. Communication with customers is key to keeping them well-informed and in the loop, and keeping them connected with your brand.

Learn more about our company culture – meet Rupal and the rest of the customer-obsessed Netomi team (plus some goats)!