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.
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.