CX differentiation takes efficiency and a human touch

We did it, my CX comrades — we made it through 2020. But before you take that final victory lap, ask yourself: How can your contact center get better next year? What opportunities and technologies do you have at your fingertips to deliver a truly differentiated customer experience?

In the olden days, a lot of us might have had the same answer: efficiency, efficiency, efficiency. Blast through more customer service tickets faster, at a lower cost per interaction than your competitors — easy enough, right? But in 2021, trying to squeeze every last drop of productivity out of agents simply isn’t going to cut it.

For one thing, we have far more sophisticated tech tools and optimization solutions available to us. But the real kicker is that efficiency alone isn’t the end-all for contact center success the way it once was. Research shows that in recent years, customers’ expectations of contact centers have risen. And the pandemic has only accelerated this trend.

When I, as a customer, reach out to a business with a problem, of course I want it resolved, but I also want it resolved my way. If I know I shouldn’t have to talk on the phone, I probably don’t want to talk on the phone. But if I do need to talk face-to-face with another human being, or show them something via video, I know I ought to be able to. After all, we’re using video everywhere and for everything else, right?

So here’s the real question: How do you strike the right balance between efficiency and humanity?

AI and video, perfectly balanced

Different organizations will need different solutions — but odds are those solutions ought to involve a balance of both AI and video.

Most contact centers have at least started dabbling with one or both, but few have a clear idea of how and where these emergent technologies best fit into their customer journey and flow, much less a coherent strategy to combine them.

For example, 83 percent of companies say that AI is a strategic priority in their path toward better CX. But at the same time, 34 percent of U.S. customers cited “Automated Telephone System (IVR) / Inability to reach a live person for customer support” as “the most frustrating aspect of a customer service experience” — more than any other issue.

This tension provides a perfect backdrop for how AI and video should be working together towards a differentiated customer experience. Chatbots and speech-to-text can make your agents’ and your customers’ lives easier, but only if used judiciously, and in the right types of interactions. Video, on the other hand, can provide the in-depth, human interactions that customers now expect in real time from brands, but only if it can be surfaced at the right points in the contact flow.

AI for the easy problems, video for the thorny ones

As always, the most important tenet is to see things from the perspective of the customer.

Design your contact flows and machine learning models to bring in AI and automation to resolve simple, high-volume interactions — ideally, the kind that customers know shouldn’t require them to speak with a live agent (if they don’t want to).

For more complex, ambiguous or sensitive interactions, video can be a major differentiator, by providing a human touch to establish trust (in industries like healthcare or wealth management, for example) or “hands-on” customer support.

The 3 key takeaways

AI and video are like peanut butter and chocolate — great by themselves, but absolutely perfect as complements to one another. Not only can AI automate routine transactions to free up agents for more complex tickets, it can also help identify opportunities when video might be most valuable, and intelligently route customers to the right specialists at the right time. Here are some takeaways to keep in mind when considering both solutions:

  1. There’s no time like the present for CX tech — CCaaS adoption has skyrocketed in the wake of the pandemic, and more sophisticated cloud-based technology is exploding right along with it. You don’t have to wait for AI and video; your competitors sure won’t be.
  2. Humanity hasn’t changed — Your customers and agents don’t become human tomorrow. They’re human now. And human beings are tribal, social creatures, with a powerful need for trust, connection and positive experiences.
  3. Differentiation starts with self-reflection — Does your customer experience strategy align with these two priorities? Are you not only using AI and video, but making the most of them?

For even more insights, watch the full recent LinkedIn live stream episode, “A Match Made in Contact Center Heaven: AI and Video Had a Baby.”

For discussion of similar topics, tune in for the “Customer Experience in the Cloud” live stream series with Valur Svansson, every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. CT on the Lifesize LinkedIn page, although please note that we will be on holiday hiatus until January 6, 2021. To watch past episodes on-demand, visit our YouTube channel.