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 multichannel 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)!

What We Learned at CXFS 2022: Netomi’s Top 5 Takeaways and Insights

Written by  on   Jul 26, 2022

Last week, customer experience (CX) executives from around the world gathered in Boston for CXFS: Customer Experience for Financial Services to discuss the latest in CX design, innovation, culture and strategy in financial services. Several of us from Netomi attended these two days of thought-provoking sessions about digital transformation in the financial services world, and, like sponges, absorbed the content, nodding our heads along the way. The key takeaway? Today, omnichannel experiences and personalization are both imperative, and many professionals are looking to personalize their CX and embrace more channels beyond just call centers and email. Here, we share our most notable learnings from CXFS 2022: Customer Experience for Financial Services.

Top 5 Takeaways from CXFS 2022: Customer Experience for Financial Services

Financial service companies are investing more in CX

Despite the looming recession, the CX field is burgeoning, with financial service companies investing more in their CX efforts by means of hiring larger customer support teams. Yet, in order to better assist the individuals on these teams, technology (read: AI) is also being leveraged…

Times are changing, and “AI is eating the world”

In his opening address, Mark Ryan, Chief Analytics Officer at Finaytics.ai, noted that “AI is eating the world,” pointing out that, in the next five years, financial institutions will all be using AI in some shape or form. Within the decade, 70% of global financial services will be done digitally. During the pandemic, the increase in mobile app usage soared, with U.S. Bank Vice Chair, Consumer and Business Banking Tim Welsh noting that digital interactions, digital active customers and sales of digital loans rose during this period.

In driving forward frictionless customer experiences, connected data is powerful

Panelists in a session on Battling the “New Normal” Fatigue explored how data and CX have changed, shifting towards the intersection of personalization and privacy, yet personalization with purpose. Emphasis is placed on how data can enrich the experience, rather than ‘make it creepy,’ as data that is rich and ready with insights enables leaders to successfully execute their CX strategies. Moreover, in today’s day and age, personalization is welcome – 71% of consumers expect personalization, and 76% of consumers get frustrated when they don’t find it. How do we reach this level of personalization? Data, quality data such as historic email exchanges, chat and phone conversation records.

Netomi Founder and CEO Puneet Mehta delivered a keynote speech on Day 1 of the event: How Investing in AI Pays Off with Customer Experience

As more people are seeking transparency about the use of their data, central to all of this is trust – a trusted data foundation enables key transformative initiatives, and, as trust comes through the front line staff – business leaders must stay connected with these teams. Netomi Founder and CEO Puneet Mehta, in his keynote speech at the event, also underscored the importance of trust, which is established by providing secure, responsive, and reliable digital services, and needs to be built with a combination of both human and machine intelligence.

As more people are seeking transparency about the use of their data, central to all of this is trust – a trusted data foundation enables key transformative initiatives, and, as trust comes through the front line staff – business leaders must stay connected with these teams. Netomi Founder and CEO Puneet Mehta, in his keynote speech at the event, also underscored the importance of trust, which is established by providing secure, responsive, and reliable digital services, and needs to be built with a combination of both human and machine intelligence.

Provide customers with numerous options, and don’t discount the power of choice

In his keynote session, ‘Redefining CX through Personalization,’ Jim McKeown, VP of Customer Experience and Mobility at Selective Insurance, emphasized three CX Guiding Principles:

  1. Listen to your customers
  2. Keep the “human element” alive
  3. Recognize the “power of choice”

This third point is crucial. When driving along a highway and seeing numerous options for fast food restaurants, customers are more likely to make a selection if presented with a variety than if only a sole option was available, in which case, they may be not inclined to stop at all. Once a consumer feels as though they have a choice, they are more likely to make a choice, and the same applies to the customer experience realm, whereby presenting customers with options to engage on various touchpoints and channels, from email to social media, is critical.

Optimize your omnichannel approach

While choice is essential, it is also important to ensure a connected customer journey throughout. We at Netomi are firm believers in the sheer significance of an omnichannel customer experience – one that enables a customer to interchange devices and move fluidly between channels, carrying context forward with every interaction.

Much to our delight, the concept of omnichannel was a recurring theme that popped up in multiple sessions. Emphasis was also placed on the concept of ‘omni-journeys’ – when it comes to customer experience, the entire journey is what matters, as the channel where customers begin is not necessarily the channel they end up in. For instance, a customer may initiate a support conversation on a desktop computer and later transition to a mobile app, carrying on with a conversation regarding the same issue. Omnichannel refers to a connected experience, and is all about removing friction for the customer, making it as easy as possible with no need to repeat themselves or re-start a task. These cross-channel integrations need to be seamless, interconnected and multi-directional, and empower customers to complete tasks at each touchpoint – from email, to chat, web, and mobile app.

From dialogue on weaving together the omnichannel customer experience, to growing engagement from a digital perspective, CXFS 2022: Customer Experience for Financial Services was an inspiring event that made us excited about the possibilities of AI and transformational change in the financial services realm.

What did you learn at #CXFS2022? What innovations in financial services are you most excited about? Connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter to share your thoughts with us, and we’ll share ours!

How Does Investing In AI Pay Off In Your Financial Services CX?

Written by Amy Wallace  on   Jul 26, 2022

Today, nearly 9 in 10 Americans use digital apps and services to manage their finances – a 52% growth rate from 2020. Along with this digitalization of financial services, the unbundling of services and a shift from working with one bank to using various apps and services for different financial needs is on the rise. One prediction is that the rebundling of financial services will lead to the “neo-super-app,” which will offer multiple services within one single tool, such as banking products, budgeting, bill payments, or investments.

In addition to these large-scale changes, this is also a time when financial uncertainty, concerns and challenges abound. Amid rising inflation, financial advisors urge that having a plan is more important than ever — and can help to “stress test” one’s investment strategy. However, many Americans are unprepared about their financial futures – about 63% of workers admit they don’t know as much as they should about retirement investing, a recent survey by Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies pointed out. Meanwhile, the survey also found that only 35% work with a professional financial advisor, and, although most workers (70%) have some form of financial strategy for retirement, only 29% have a written plan.

What’s more, the June 2022 American Psychiatric Association (APA)’s Healthy Minds Monthly Poll found that 87% of Americans indicated they were anxious or very anxious about inflation, and 51% are more worried about a potential loss of income. In the United Kingdom, workers are struggling with the biggest drop in pay in more than two decades, as food and energy prices continue to surge, taking a large bite out of wages. In Canada, a recent survey found that 54% of Canadians aged 55+ have delayed retirement due to soaring inflation and high costs of living, while 62% have delayed retirement because they don’t have ample savings or investments.

This doesn’t mean that customer service becomes an afterthought – seven in 10 U.S. consumers say they have spent more money to do business with a company that delivers great service. With shifts in how services are delivered, and to successfully meet the needs of the modern consumer in today’s environment, the importance of customer experience (CX) in the financial world is only pushed to the forefront. How can financial services professionals go above and beyond to deliver exceptional customer experiences, concentrating on the human element of support? Taking a personalized and proactive approach, what if they could dedicate time to helping their clients solidify their savings plans and improve their financial wellness?

The Power of AI in CX for Financial Services

Conversations at scale, and at speed

Customers expect many things (speedy food delivery, online banking transactions completed) instantaneously, and completely tailored to their individual needs and personal context. Today, with conversational AI, companies can interact personally and contextually in real-time with customers at scale, delivering effortless experiences and rapid resolutions to support queries.

By speaking to and picking up from different silos of data, AI can personalize and contextualize every interaction, in real-time. This is key, as customers today have different needs – just consider a tech worker who may be laid off due to pandemic-related cutbacks, or a public sector worker in the UK who is facing wage cuts, and has been starting to consider retirement. Previously, customer service agents needed to access multiple systems in order to resolve a single ticket; AI can do this faster and more accurately than ever before, allowing for ultimate VIP service, at scale. Additionally, through integration with back-end systems such as CRM, the AI can easily pull in data to resolve customer service issues on an individual basis without human intervention.

With finances, the stakes are higher, and customers demand immediate support. Adopting an ‘always-on’ approach to support (because customers can encounter issues 24/7/365), conversational AI can deflect and handle the majority of customer service inquiries, at all hours. This reduces the cost of keeping a human support team on hand, by minimizing the number of employees required after-hours.

Becoming customer advocates

By identifying issues and offering solutions unprompted, this is the space where conversational AI shines – such as reminding a customer to transfer balances from one account to another, or alerting them that, based on their savings goals and spending patterns, there might be a higher interest savings account. This type of customer advocacy is increasingly expected, as customers look to brands to be partners, rather than solely as suppliers of goods and services. Consider a young family who is looking to purchase a home, in a rocky real estate market with rising mortgage rates, and navigating a complex territory that is unfamiliar to them. In such a case, an extra personalized and proactive touch will go far.

Paving the way for ease and speed of service, AI can help financial services professionals dedicate their time to uniquely human care – perhaps helping a client create an investment plan, helping a young couple with their first mortgage payment, or helping an elderly client transition to online banking and bill payments.

Constructing Immediate & Effortless Financial Services Interactions

From inflation-era concerns to the changing nature of financial services and evolving customer preferences, there are a number of reasons why a great customer experience is especially critical today. Helping support teams swiftly handle interactions at scale, while preserving that all-important human touch, investing in AI for a fintech customer experience will pay off, time and time again.

A Whole New World: Customer Experience in the Metaverse

Written by Amy Wallace  on   Jul 6, 2022

A new space is emerging for customer engagement and interactions beyond online and in-store to be considered.

This is the metaverse, a futuristic concept for many, but one that is taking shape, with a great deal of potential to be the next big thing. Gartner predicts that, by 2026, 25% of people will spend at least one hour per day in the metaverse for work, shopping, education, social and/or entertainment, while Bloomberg posts that the global metaverse revenue opportunity could approach $800 billion in 2024, compared to about $500 billion in 2020.

To back up for a minute, what is the metaverse? A vague but also fairly complex term, Wired author Eric Ravenscraft pointed out that the metaverse “doesn’t really refer to any one specific type of technology, but rather a broad (and often speculative) shift in how we interact with technology.” A seamless amalgamation of our physical and digital lives, the metaverse stands as a unified, virtual community where consumers can play, work, transact and socialize.

Just as the metaverse is (and will) shape consumers’ interactions with technology, allowing them to do cool new things like attend virtual concerts and browse luxury goods, the relationships between brands and their customers will also shift. For customer service leaders, it is a whole new world, where AI can play a key role in helping them successfully navigate the shift, keeping users engaged and fully immersed in the process.

CX 3.0: Customer Experience in the Metaverse

Why is a great customer experience (CX) so important, especially in the metaverse?

As brands start staking out their territory in these virtual worlds, there will be a new kind of customer support to coincide with this. As with any new and novel circumstance, questions inevitably arise. A report from JP Morgan pointed out that, in time, the virtual real estate market could start seeing services similar to those in the physical world, including credit, mortgages and rental agreements. Additionally, in the metaverse, there are opportunities for businesses to profoundly scale. Rather than having numerous store locations spread across cities, for instance, a major retailer may opt to build a global hub in the metaverse that is able to serve millions. With an enlarged customer base, the need for a strong customer experience strategy will become greater.

Evolving customer expectations, big time

We now know that good customer support is sought-after and highly regarded – 77% of U.S. consumers believe that good customer service is crucial to earning loyalty as well as business. Expectations have evolved with time, a recent survey from Netomi found that 65% say they have higher expectations for their customer service experience today than they did 3 to 5 years ago. Does this level of expectation extend to the metaverse? Only time will tell.

Support, delivered in real-time

In the world of gaming, offering in-app support is key to keeping users engaged and lowering the chance of churn or their attention shifting elsewhere (what avid gamer wants to exit mid-game to contact a support team, in the event that something goes awry?) For brands, offering support at the precise moment of relevance is the key to success, capturing both short-term attention and long-term loyalty. Because the metaverse is a highly immersive experience, complete with richer interactions than traditional gaming, support delivered in a timely manner is critical.

“Every company needs to find a place in the metaverse. If companies are not ready for that, then they seriously need to consider their future. Whether it’s services or training applications, everything’s moving this way.”
– Julie Smithson, co-founder of MetaVRse

When it comes to shopping in the metaverse, for instance, newly imagined 3D spaces that are both detailed and interactive encourage shoppers to linger for longer periods of time than conventional websites or mobile apps. Imagine simply scrolling through an app versus ‘trying on’ designer dresses from the comfort of your own couch? With this level of intricacy and technological acumen, consumers will likely come to expect support experiences that are equally as modernized – that carry speed, efficiency, proactive and always-on care. As new and innovative experiences start taking shape, there is the potential for customer demand and engagement to rise.

In the metaverse, we foresee brands leveraging conversational AI in the form of chatbots and virtual assistants. Working alongside human agents to offer immediate resolutions to customer queries, such solutions empower companies to provide the support that customers have grown to expect – quick, convenient, and personalized.

Let’s take a look at some innovative examples of brands that are making waves in the metaverse, for the ultimate customer experience.

3 Innovative Examples of Customer Experience in the Metaverse

1. Lowe’s

Lowe’s helps builders and customers visualize projects. In a move to help customers easily visualize their home improvement projects, home improvement retailer Lowe’s will equip builders of the metaverse with products from its real-world shelves, by making more than 500 3D product assets available for download, free of charge, via Lowe’s Open Builder, a new asset hub.

2. Nike

Sneakers, sports gear, and celebrity sightings. Since its launch in November 2021, Nikeland, the sporting goods brand’s metaverse constructed in Roblox, and based on its real-life headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, has attracted 6.7 million people from 224 countries. Visitors of Nikeland can socialize, purchase exclusive digital products to decorate their avatars with, and enjoy celebrity appearances from sports stars such as LeBron James.

3. Charlotte Tilbury

Immersive shopping experiences for beauty fans. As part of beauty brand Charlotte Tilbury’s ‘Pillow Talk Party Virtual Beauty Wonderland’, customers can explore and shop the company’s products, interact with virtual 3D experiences, and watch exclusive content such as behind-the-scenes interviews with beauty influencers. With the interactive “shop with friends” feature, beauty fans can shop together in real-time, by sharing a link to the virtual store via email or text, along with integrated video that allows those in the group to see and hear one another as they navigate the virtual environment, together or separately.

AI, Customer Service & the Metaverse: The Possibilities are Endless

Venturing into the metaverse will help brands to tell their stories in a unique way, engage with customers in real-time, and this new realm will likely lead to the emergence of new services and business models. Retail leaders will need to reimagine what a store really is, and with it, there is the opportunity to craft an equally immersive customer support experience in the metaverse to turn their customers into raving fans, in both the virtual and real-life worlds.

The Need for Speed: How Telecoms Can Offer High-Speed Customer Service

Written by Amy Wallace  on   Jun 29, 2022

Customers today seek speed – speedy access to services, and in a timely fashion. This extends to customer service in the telecommunications (telecom) industry, as many rely heavily on mobile devices and networks in an era of remote work and social connections. With advances in technology, lightning-fast connectivity is already here, or well within reach.

Take, for instance, 5G, the fifth generation of cellular networks, a game-changing technology that is up to 100 times faster than its predecessor, 4G. By the end of the first quarter of 2022, global wireless 5G adoption hit a milestone of 701 million connections and is expected to accelerate again in 2023, reaching 4.8 billion by the end of 2026. Canadian telecom giant Bell recently announced the network readiness of 5G+, to soon be deployed across the country on its 5G wireless network, offering unprecedented mobile data speeds of up to 3Gbps (gigabits per second) for gaming, streaming, and video conferencing.

In parallel with this sense of momentum, telecom companies must offer speedy resolutions when it comes to customer service and support.

Providing High-Speed Telecom Customer Service in a Connected World  

New advances in technology = more service offerings = more support tickets

As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, the telecom industry is also growing more intricate and complex, with a slew of new offerings. Gone are the days when customers had a landline phone and dial-up (!) internet. Now, with the advent of 5G, fiber internet, fixed wireless access (FWA) and IoT-connected devices, customers are spoiled for choice when it comes to how and with whom to connect to the internet, and the competition among service providers is heating up. Additionally, unlimited data plans, as well as improved network coverage and capacity, are increasingly attracting new 5G subscribers. Service providers are offering packages that include gaming, music and video streaming and speed tier options to incentivize service uptake, providing additional value to subscribers.

With this combination of a growing customer base and an increased number of services, there is bound to be an increase in support-related queries.

Choices, choices, choices: An example of how customers can build custom service packages.                                                                                  Source: Ericsson Mobility Report June 2022

This complexity calls for improved organization and a streamlined customer support process – here is where AI-powered virtual assistants can play a leading role. For instance, the virtual assistants can summarize and route tickets to the most appropriate agent for the task, and also assist agents by gathering information from the customer and back-end systems prior to handoff to a human agent, such as a customer’s account status. Such assistants help to tackle the problem of providing immediate responses, and directing customers to the right resources to find what they are looking for.

Yet, in the increasingly sophisticated landscape that is the telecom industry, there is a need for sophisticated solutions to deliver an exceptional customer experience. How can telecom customer service teams get ahead to offer truly exceptional, proactive customer care?

Timely and proactive support, in the moments that matter

Going one step beyond AI-powered chatbots for customer service, this is where it becomes critical to adopt conversational AI systems that incorporate advanced natural language systems – systems that intuitively understand that the statement “I want to pay my bill” has closely the same meaning as “I’d like to settle my account.” Armed with this understanding, they are better able to leverage customer-specific information, to provide customer responses that are both instant and relevant. Conversational AI, for instance, might notice that customers are inquiring specifically about 5G network roll-outs, and generate a set of comprehensive and standard responses in anticipation of more of these queries. Such systems can easily handle common and highly repeatable queries, such as ‘Can I change my current plan’ and ‘how many GB of data do I get per month?’ phone capability, plan limitations and modifications.

As global demand for 5G technology increases, however, so does the need for enhanced security. Due to the convergence with traditional IT, the threat landscape for 5G is more complex than with previous generations. As networks such as 5G grow more software-based and decentralized, their surface attack area and points of entry increase. Recently, several U.S. Government security agencies warned that, by exploiting software flaws in routers and other network infrastructure equipment, hackers breached major telecom companies. Because of heightened concerns of customer personal data potentially at stake, telecom companies need to be more vigilant about continual communication with their customers, as they will likely be seeking more information, as well as thoroughness in responses.

Based on in-depth knowledge of the customer, AI is adept at predicting and resolving potential issues before they occur, at using simple insights to take action on behalf of the customer, or informing them that it is time to take action. Working alongside AI-powered virtual agents, human agents can preempt and prevent – halting any potentially budding issues in their tracks before they turn into issues. For instance, a telecom company may have new internet service packages that meet a customer’s profile current needs. Virtual agents could initiate a proactive conversation with the customer with a friendly message such as: “Looking to upgrade your current home internet plan? We have several new packages available that may be suitable for you and your family.” Such a gesture can go a long way in terms of driving customer loyalty.

Transmitting a State of the Art Telecom Customer Experience

Netomi’s The State of Customer Service in 2022 report discovered that telecom companies are the most dreaded customer service calls to make – this was reported by 53% of respondents. Wireless companies took the lead with 27% of consumer votes, with cable companies at 26%. It is time for this perception to change, time for telecom companies to adopt AI-powered solutions and harness conversational AI to deliver high-speed service in the rapidly advancing and hyper-connected world of today.

Wait Times: How AI Helps Customer Service Teams Win the Waiting Game

Written by Amy Wallace  on   Jun 22, 2022

Customer service is notoriously a waiting game. This has been more rampant in recent years, with a stretched labor pool and staff shortages across numerous industries. Canada’s federal government has warned of long wait times for passports, due to the surge in the number of applications since COVID-19 border measures were relaxed (the number of Canadians applying for passports is 40 times higher than it was pre-pandemic). On a recent Monday morning, more than 100 people lined up at the passport office in downtown Montreal, some arriving as early as 11:00 p.m. the night before, some who also spent hours waiting on the phone beforehand. Service Canada, the government office that provides access to such services, hired 600 new employees to help sift through the influx of paperwork, and additional service counters have been added at more than 300 centers. The government said that it is receiving more than 200,000 calls per day for passport requests at Service Canada!

Lengthy customer wait times are attracting the attention of lawmakers. In a move to eliminate the “administrative labyrinths” faced by customers when they contact company call centers, a new customer service law in Spain limits the time that customers are put on hold to a maximum of three minutes. Companies that fall under the basic service sector, including those providing water, internet, transport and electricity, will need to guarantee 24-hour call center service, on all days of the week.

“Customer services far too often cause endless headaches for Spanish families, because far too many companies create bureaucratic labyrinths to stop you from exercising your right to service. These difficulties also represent an enormous waste of energy, time and money for the families, [with] many being resigned to giving up on their rights.”

– Alberto Garzón, Spain’s Consumer Affairs Minister

The logical solution would be to hire additional support staff to assist with customer queries in a timely and proactive fashion. Yet, with a little help from AI, wait times in customer service can be drastically reduced.

AI: Giving Time Back to Customers and Agents When it is Needed the Most

Enable businesses to scale, without the added headcount

AI-powered solutions afford teams the ability to quickly scale up and down without adding expensive, short-term hires, and to deal with expected and unexpected spikes in tickets, to be better prepared for busy times.

A seamless and streamlined escalation path to human agents

There are a number of ways that human and virtual agents can work in tandem, as the ultimate dynamic duo. At the center of a customer support bubble, the AI-powered virtual assistant works alongside human agents to offer support and escalate issues as needed, drastically reducing the need for additional labor, and streamlining the ticket triaging process. Here’s how this process works:

  • When a query is received, such as a request for passport renewal, the AI-powered virtual assistant swiftly categorizes and prioritizes these tickets. As this type of query is fairly basic and repeatable, the live chatbot is able to resolve the issue without human intervention. Or, it can route it to the right agent, as needed.
  • Alternatively, AI agents can also help agents with more complex tickets by doing basic ‘prep’ work, such as gathering order details from the customer, prior to involving an agent.
  • The human touch factor in customer service is essential (consider Spain’s proposed customer service law), which is why it is imperative to always offer an escalation path to human agents, based on topic, user sentiment, customer profile, or when a customer asks to converse with one. Additionally, some companies have business policies that mandate a human be involved in certain decisions (such as refunds and exchanges), in which case, the AI needs to escalate these queries to a human agent. Escalation may also be required when the customer has a premium membership and the SLAs require a live human agent for certain interactions. Similarly, if an issue is fairly complex or involves sensitive information, a human agent would need to take the lead.

In Service Canada’s passport situation, the sheer volume of similar support tickets received means that AI will have a wealth of historical data from which to learn, such as chat records and common questions posed by customers, which will result in its enhanced performance. This efficiency improves the experience of agents themselves, helping them feel more engaged and productive in their roles (because there are only so many repetitive passport applications a person can sanely handle). The process also frees up human agents to focus on resolving more complex issues that necessitate a human touch, such as assisting an elderly customer who is not at all tech-savvy.

A tremendous time-saver, AI-based ticket classification and the automatic routing of incoming customer contacts to the right agent can save agents up to 1.2 hours per day!

Limit wait times for customers

According to call-center analytics firm CallMiner, the average length of a service call rose by several minutes since the pandemic began. Dwindling patience is evident among customers, especially in the fast-paced and digital world of today. Research from Netomi discovered that 39% of people have less patience now than they did before the pandemic, with 43% reporting that long wait times are the most frustrating aspect of customer service. What’s more, issues are resolved in a single interaction just under 35% of the time, meaning that customers resort to reaching out to customer service teams for a second time, thus spawning a cycle that results in more wait times and a greater number of tickets.

Paving the way for customer self-service to occur, the AI can help customers resolve issues by themselves by surfacing the right content to common queries, at the right time (such as how-to articles and FAQs). This, in turn, will reduce wait times.

Customer Service Wait Times, Be Gone (Or At Least, Minimized)

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a revaluation of many aspects of life, from working and living situations, and perhaps most significantly, offered customers a good hard look at the concept of time and how it should best be spent. When it comes to customer service, customer standards have risen, and customer service support teams need to meet customer desires for quick service. By being at the frontline of customer support, AI-powered virtual assistants play a leading role in reducing customer service tickets, by immediately resolving queries, or funnelling tickets through the triaging process to ensure that each one gets into the right hands.