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Why Do Customers Keep Calling their Bank Call Center

Why Do Customers Keep Calling their Bank Call Center?

Who is more likely to contact their bank's call center - Baby Boomers or Millennials? The answer may not be what you would expect.

According to the recent study by Bain & Company Bank Branch/Call Center Traffic Jam: Why do customers keep visiting tellers and calling the contact center? , it is Millennials who are the ones who call their bank more, an average of 1.4 times in a three-month period, almost three times the 0.5 rate of older customers! At the same time, 60% of Millennials reported calling a bank contact center at least once in the last three months, compared with 42% of Baby Boomers. Let’s look at some of the reasons:

Why are Customers Still Calling So Much?

After surveying 5,300 American banking customers, Bain & Company revealed that, despite Millennials having grown up in the digital age and typically being more familiar with mobile technology, they are actually largely still learning how to complete common mobile transactions even for routine tasks, such as bill paying, check deposits, money transfers and issue resolution. However, at the same time, this study seems to suggest that Baby Boomers suffer from some of the same impediments. While more experienced bankers, they are less familiar with digital technology, and therefore, need additional support to become comfortable with self-banking, with only one out of six (17%) having received mobile app training, compared to 2% of Millennials. The result is one-half of older customers use tellers simply out of habit, and 75% of the time they are doing so for simple actions which could have been quickly completed on their own.

All of this suggests that banks would benefit greatly from offering more educational opportunities for people of all ages in digital adoption. As almost three-quarters of reported branch transactions and more than half of phone interactions deal with deposits, withdrawals, checking one's account and other routine matters that could be better handled through self-banking at less expense to banks, the of which can potentially cost a typical U.S. bank with 1,000 branches $70-$80 million of potential savings.

"It is well known by now that digital self-service is much more cost-effective for banks -- about one-tenth the cost of a teller visit or live phone call," said Gerard du Toit, head of Bain's Banking Practice and lead author of the report. "Even with that knowledge, and despite the increasing power and presence of mobile, U.S. banks have a long way to go to realize the promise of digital self-service." So where does the problem lie?

Fueling Digital Adoption

Indeed, increasing digital adoption among the old and the young can be very challenging, but it is well worth the reward. Bain's study also analyzed how some banks are stimulating this process in their customers:

  • Proactive interventions by the frontline service center and branch representatives that foster awareness and encouragement through the education of digital mobile banking services.
  • Soliciting customers to experience digital banking with the personal instruction of an employee they already know and trust. At one major North American bank, this approach achieved a 70 percent conversion rate for future interactions.
  • Agile techniques that aim to solve the causes of routine branch phone calls and visits. Banks utilizing this approach have succeeded in reducing branch and call center volumes by 20 percent in 12 months.

In the end, a thorough and proper customer digital migration is financially well worth the effort, and banks that design an easy and convenient digital self-service experience stand a better chance of creating loyal customers of all ages, now and into the future.


Publish Date: August 7, 2017

Can Chatbots be more Human than Humans?

Chatbots, more Human than Humans?

Chatbots have come a long way in a short space of time, and it looks like it’s only a matter of time before they are more human than human beings themselves.

Nearly 70 years ago, the so-called ‘father of the computer’, scientist and mathematician Alan Turing, developed the Turing test, which tests a machine's ability to exhibit intelligent behavior that is indistinguishable from that of a human. Ever since then, people have been trying to build a machine that can flawlessly mimic a human conversation.

The chatbots of today can trace their lineage directly back to the early attempts by people to create machines like this, and as technology continues to advance, it will only become more and more difficult to identify whether we are talking to a human being, or some form of artificial intelligence.

With this in mind, it is no wonder that an increasing number of businesses want to use chatbots to deliver personalized customer experiences. Naturally, such an approach can only be effective if the chatbot is able to converse with consumers in a meaningful way. What we mean by this is that it must be able to talk in a manner that is natural and contextual, and also be able to demonstrate problem-solving capabilities.

So modern chatbots need to be designed from the outset to deliver a convincing level of ‘human-ness’, as customers feel much more comfortable speaking to a machine that is able to communicate like a human would, rather than one that’s responses are obviously robotic.

To create a chatbot that is at least as human as a real agent, it needs to be able to understand language properly, being able to comprehend syntax, semantics and pragmatics. With the first of these, the chatbot needs to be able to understand language structure, or the way in which words are put together to create grammatically correct structures.

From a semantics point of view, the machine must be capable of comprehending meaning, so that when a customer talks to it as people normally do, it can appreciate the specific meaning they are trying to convey. Finally, pragmatics is all about the influence of context and shared knowledge in meaning.

Without this third aspect, a machine will only be able to understand the literal meaning of what is said to it. So if a client contacts a customer service bot because they say they ‘need a hand’, the likelihood is that it will take that sentence to mean they need a replacement for an important part of their anatomy!

Ultimately, a good chatbot within a contact center should have a handle on all three of the above language issues, since if you are going to utilize a machine to take the place of the agent, you want it to be at least as good – and preferably better – than a human being at the specific task that has been designated to it.

The good news is that there are chatbots available that can do all of the above, and moreover, these machines are able to offer you many benefits that simply cannot be obtained with a human.

For one thing, chatbots have the ability to trawl through thousands of knowledgebase entries, documents, webpages and any other source of information you link them up to, exponentially faster than the best human could.

Another key issue is that oftentimes, people will be more likely to open up to a chatbot than they would to a person. In particular, customers that have had a bad experience may be more open to discussing it in detail with a machine, which they know will not sit in judgment on them.

In addition, by virtue of being machines, these ‘virtual agents’ never get tired, so they never require breaks (and they aren’t the type of ‘employee’ to sneak off for a quick cigarette either). They are capable of simultaneously holding conversations with thousands of people, which – you will agree – is far more cost effective than having individual agents processing such discussions.

Furthermore, this capability means that consumers will experience reduced hold times, which we all know is a source of endless frustration for those communicating with a contact center. And of course, they are willing to work 24-hours a day, seven days a week, all year round (even on Christmas and Thanksgiving) without complaint.

A chatbot will never call in sick at the last minute, leaving you short of agents, and they never have bad days, so there is no chance of them getting angry with a caller. Machines don’t have emotions, so these won’t boil over at any point; your chatbot is never going to attack the customer verbally, or swear at them in frustration.

In fact, they are the perfect ‘point man’ for the customer service department, as they can easily handle repetitive tasks that might irritate human agents. They free up said agents to handle the more complex tasks that have a major bearing on customer satisfaction, and they can access far greater amounts of pertinent data in a relative blink of an eye and parse this information for the necessary details, so that customers never have to repeat their information multiple times. And of course, they are always polite and friendly, which is exactly the response you want from what will often be the first point of contact for a consumer with your customer service center.

Finally, the right bot – something like Jacada’s Intelligent Assistant – can be used for proactive customer service too. In other words, it is a machine that automatically contacts the customer to conduct a follow up. This could be as a result of a previous complaint, or even a recent product purchase. It can even wish well wishes to individual clients on their birthday, which is something that would likely require multiple calendar reminders in a human agent’s diary!

Chatbots may not have reached the point where they are more human than a person (yet!) but they are already capable of understanding the intent of a customer’s question, determining the best way to resolve this problem and returning a relevant and personalized response that feels friendly and conversational.

The machines like chatbots and virtual agents are clearly here to stay, but never fear, it will be in a manner that is beneficial to humankind and is the complete antithesis of how popular science-fiction portrays the robot revolution!


Publish Date: August 3, 2017

3 Myths of Visual IVR

Today, with over 1 billion smart phones users worldwide and growing, regular voice phone calls are slowly being replaced in favor of Visual IVR, a communication channel that transfers the existing IVR technology onto the customers’ phone screens, and enables users to leverage their devices for digital customer service on the go. However, despite its many advantages, there are still a few common myths regarding Visual IVR customer service solutions that need to be put to rest. Let’s take a look:

Myth number 1: “…Baby Boomers Won’t Use It…”

While the Millennial generation may be overall more technologically savvy than its predecessors, the truth is everyone is looking for a fast and easy customer service experience, including the Baby Boomers. In fact, many older customers are unaware that alternative digital self-services resources such as mobile applications even exist. Therefore, they do what they know, they call a contact center for help, and when contextually provided the option to do it themselves, i.e visual IVR, this is often preferred (by them as well) over waiting on hold to eventually connect with a representative. This may help to explain how nearly 90% of customers of all ages have used an automated self-service system to complete some kind of transaction — from paying a bill to making a purchase, to scheduling an appointment. As long as those online and automated channels are efficient to use and easy to navigate, customers of all ages when presented with the option to use them, will gladly do so.

Myth number 2: “…The Customer Experience of Visual IVR is Poor…”

The reality is visual IVR generally provides a top-notch customer experience. First of all, it is contextually offered to the customer exactly at the time service is needed. Also, as visual IVR negates the need for speech recognition, customers don’t have to listen to drawn out menus and can skip ahead at their own pace ahead to the information they need. Therefore, many issues can be solved on the first attempt without ever needing to contact a representative. At the same time, full contextual connectivity to the agent once within the visual IVR experience is still available to the customer. This allows them to connect with a qualified agent who can see exactly what was attempted by the customer, which dramatically cuts down on call handle time. Customers don’t need to be re-routed from one agent to another, repeatedly explaining their problem, and making dropped calls far less likely.

Myth number 3: “…We Already have Mobile Apps for the Same Thing…”

The reality is visual IVR generally provides a top-notch customer experience. First of all, it is contextually offered to the customer exactly at the time service is needed. Also, as visual IVR negates theAs mentioned above, not all customers are going to download mobile apps and these are not available contextually to a customer that is calling a contact center. Perhaps for this reason, most apps are still really built for entertainment or information, not customer care. On the other hand, customer calling a call center would have much easier access to the specific things they need to do if there was a virtual IVR link on their smart phone that shows them specific things they need to click on. It's also important to note that a customer using a mobile app is likely to be on the move and not suited to deal with a lot of clicks and button pressing to get where they need to be, especially given the annoying difficulty typing on smart phones. One of visual IVR’s main features is that it allows for complicated tasks to be collapsed down onto the more user-friendly dimensions of the caller’s screen, where after a few clicks, the customer is transferred onto a mobile webpage, already logged in and with many of their tasks already completed.

In the end, despite the myths, visual IVR is a super efficient means of customer self-service for all ages. Experience it for yourself!

Try the Demo!


[About the author] Aaron Waters is a Customer Experience & Innovation Strategist at Jacada. His duties involve engaging and bringing executives in the Banking & Financial Industry up to speed on digital adoption using Jacada’s resolutions to ensure their customers experience an effortless customer journey. Aarons previous experience includes Financial Planning as well as Marketing within Telecommunications at AT&T. Outside of work, Aaron enjoys playing and watching NCAA basketball, football and baseball as well as attending the movies and festivals of many types.


Publish Date: July 25, 2017

Rapid and Easy Authentication is to be Expected with Visual IVR

Authentication is critical to security, so it is fortunate to note that when it comes to identifying customers, most automated customer service systems are able to authenticate the consumer. Authentication, of course, is not only beneficial for security purposes, it also helps to improve the personalization of the experience a customer receives.

When it comes to authentication measures, however, systems like traditional interactive voice response (IVR) tend to be quite limited in their ability to offer effective authentication, due to the limitations of touchtone. When utilizing traditional IVR, authentication is usually in the form of an account number that the customer is expected to type in on the phone’s keypad. Of course, while this may be what is requested, often the customer does not have this information readily available, leading the customer to generally skip this important step.

In an ideal world, an effective telephone authentication solution would be able to quickly and non-intrusively verify customers, perhaps without them even knowing it. Since customer service is all about ease of use for the client, customer authentication should not impede the user experience. Unfortunately, when it comes to the standard IVR solutions, the verification process often proves to be both time consuming and potentially less effective from a security point of view.

Visual IVR is able to authenticate a caller’s identity far more rapidly than other methods, since it is as easy as logging into a website. With a visual IVR solution, users are asked to type their usernames and passwords or simply provide some form of personally identifiable information on a screen similar to a webpage, this task is considerably simpler than having to struggle with the rarely accurate speech recognition technologies or extremely limited touchtone associated with standard IVRs.

The fact that visual IVR offers users an intuitive visual representation on their mobile device enables them to more quickly and easily authenticate themselves than with a traditional, voice-based IVR. The visual aspect also allows for alternative “login” options such as social sign-in – a form of single sign-on using existing information from a social networking website.

This means that it is not only a great solution for reducing the workload on your agents and delivering the associated cost savings that come with it, ensuring clear identification of the customer increases opportunities like up- and cross-selling and a more personalized level of service.

With security only becoming a bigger issue as we move forward, providing your customers with access to a solution that enables them to do it for themselves, while also significantly reducing the hassle usually associated with authentication, means you will not only save your business time and money, you will also intentionally enhance the customer's experience as well.

[About the author] Kevin is an advocate for effortless customer experiences and quick customer resolutions. He is driven to help Telcos & Retailers as they deal with the need to change digital habits and increase utilization of their assets. He has a background in marketing, public relations and advertising and has a firm belief in the mission of Jacada. He is an Atlanta native and Georgia State University graduate who loves competition and is passionate about his family, his work and his dog Peaches.


Publish Date: July 20, 2017

Using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to Reduce Agent Churn

The increasing levels of technology being adopted into the contact center may leave some agents fearing for their jobs, but RPA will only benefit them in the long run.

Automation is nothing new, in fact, it is something that has been used in various ways for decades to introduce increasing efficiency within the enterprise. Thus, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is not a novel concept, it is merely one that takes the idea of automation to a new level.

RPA is, in effect, a series of advanced systems that can be programmed to carry out a wide range of functions that previously required humans to manually undertake. This makes it an ideal solution for contact centers, as it should enable the ability to achieve more, while at the same time delivering a better customer experience.

Unlike standard automation, which is simply a case of repeating the same task over and over again, RPA has a level of intelligence behind it. The Institute for Robotic Process Automation describes the difference between the two as the equivalent of comparing a car’s cruise control to a totally driverless vehicle.

While cruise control is designed to automate a single process, it is not able to adapt in any way to the environment. On the other hand, a driver-less car needs to be able not only to identify the current conditions, it must also self-adjust to deal with any changes to these conditions. This is what sets RPA apart from standard automation – it is able to make adjustments for changes, by following a set of programmed rules.

The obvious benefits offered by RPA is cost savings and scalability advantages, benefits that are appealing to virtually any organization. However, RPA is especially valuable in the contact center industry, as it offers solutions to the many service, process and technology challenges that are commonly faced by this sector.

Tasks faced by contact center agents can quickly become repetitive and routine. This makes them boring and dreary to undertake and can quickly lead to disillusionment, which inevitably increases agent churn. This is not to say that these tedious, routine processes are not vitally important to the contact center - in fact, in large part, these tasks make up the majority of its operations.

RPA mimics the activity of a human being, capable of undertaking those jobs that a human would find uninteresting and perform the tasks more quickly, accurately and tirelessly. This means that human agents can be freed to do other, more complex tasks, such as those that require emotional intelligence, reasoning and judgment – the ones that require a higher level of care and interaction with the customer.

Customers receive an enhanced level of service from agents who are given more responsibility with a reduced workload. Agent training costs are lowered, human error is eliminated, quality and accuracy is improved and customer interaction times are decreased.

What RPA brings to the customer service equation is not the elimination of agent jobs. RPA is the elimination of repetitive and time consuming tasks that not only drain the agent’s energy, but also open the potential for human error. It frees agents to focus more closely on building and retaining the emotional bonds that keep the customer happy and ensure they repeatedly return to your brand.

Ultimately, technology like RPA is changing the contact center industry in a massive but positive way, as the industry learns how to use these technological developments to its advantage. RPA is not something to be feared, but rather something to be embraced for the improvements and efficiencies to the operation of the contact center.


Publish Date: July 19, 2017

Digital Humanism in the Customer Experience

Today, one of the main expectations regarding the customer experience is its level of personalization. However, often personalization in customer service solutions is merely a simulation of personalization, and a poor one at that. Despite the attempt to replicate the personal experiences shoppers used to experience when interacting with “mom and pop” shops, often times large organizations are simply unable to provide the same personal experience we used to receive.

How can businesses utilize the advanced technologies fueling customer service today while really replicating the personal customer experiences of yesterday?

In this age of Omni channel interaction, customers expect companies to be able to communicate with them on their preferred channel, whether in response to a self-service inquiry, an e-mail, a live chat, a social media post or speaking with a live agent on the phone. In fact, according to a study by the Aberdeen Group, companies with an Omni channel strategy – where customers experience a consistent brand experience across channels – retain on average 89% of their customers, compared to 33% for companies with weak Omni channel customer engagement. They also experience an increase in average transaction size. So, a customer service Omni presence, wherever that may be, is essential.

At the same time, a move toward big data analytics can fundamentally change how businesses communicate with customers. Utilizing complex data sets from various sources, companies can gain important insights into customer behavior and preferences, and then use such feedback to provide a more personalized customer service, which drives sales and lasting customer loyalty. Furthermore, by leveraging big data analytics, brands can identify customer pain and passion points more effectively, while even anticipating what customers will ask for in advance to quickly resolve each customer interaction.

The need for Omni channel service and the value of big data analytics has given rise to AI (chatbots) in customer service. In fact, many companies around the globe are beginning to replace customer service representatives with virtual assistants who can provide fast, cost-effective and human-like customer service for all front-end issues. The vast amount of customer data that is collected by companies can be translated into deep machine learning that creates progressively higher and higher levels of intelligence, and providing them with the ability to ‘learn’ the correct answer to any question over time. As customers today expect to receive instant service across all channels at all times, intelligent virtual personal assistants can be easily deployed on almost any interface.

However, at the end of the day, what still matters most in effective customer service is the human touch that only engaged and inspired agents can provide. In fact, a recent study by Accenture found that 83 percent of consumers still prefer dealing with human beings over digital channels when it comes to solving their customer service issues!

Therefore, even while combining Omni channel service with AI, the future of technology in customer service relies directly on supporting, not replacing, contact center agents. While technology is great, brands need to be careful about how they leverage it to deliver a personal world-class brand experience. This is why IDC research predicts that overall customer service agent numbers will rise over the next two to three years, with many firms reporting an expected increase between 10 to 50 percent. Not only will companies need more agents, but they will see a need for more highly-skilled agents who can solve more complex inquiries and provide cross-channel consistency of service.

Today, for brands that understand the increasingly critical nature of the customer experience, AI and data analytics supporting an overall Omni channel strategy are crucial. However, only when combined with the human touch can they thrive both today and into the future.


Publish Date: July 18, 2017

Visual IVR: The New Front Lines of Digital Customer Service

As the nature of customer service is quickly evolving, new channels of communications i.e. web, mobile and social, have raised the bar of customer expectations, and delivering an exceptional experience has become critical to business success. According to a report, 33% of overall caller satisfaction today is determined by the IVR experience. However, despite companies investing considerable time and money in researching and developing the most optimized IVR technology for the best customer experience possible, it is mostly failing. Luckily, a new form of IVR is emerging that is changing the landscape of customer service. Let’s take a look:

The Failure of Traditional IVR

As 70% of customers today are utilizing the phone for customer service, for many companies the IVR (interactive voice response) is still the front-line method of choice, a menu system that uses either s touch-tone technology or speech-recognition to manage the identification and routing of callers to the customer service agents. However, while the goal of IVR originally was to be an accessible and efficient communication channel to ease the burden on call centers, thus lowering costs and improving customer service, it hasn’t quite lived up those expectations. A traditional IVR system has no awareness of what a customer did on a website before making the call, while confusing options, poor voice recognition and a limited ability to collect information have all lead to high rates of zeroing out and call abandonments. In fact, studies show that of the 60% of customers today who opt for self-service, only 20% succeed, while the remaining 80% end up in the call center. All of this apparently sends customer satisfaction spiraling downward, as are the costs savings IVR was meant to provide.

The Visual IVR: The CX Solution for the Digital Age

With already over 1 billion smartphones users worldwide and growing, "Voice" is slowly being replaced in favor of a communication channel that enables users to leverage their devices for customer service on the go. Visual IVR provides the solution to this ever-growing need by transferring the existing IVR technology onto their phone screens. By just logging into the company’s website or mobile app customers can access an intuitive, user-friendly visual IVR menu interface. Users can touch their way through visual menus, speak to a particular call center agent or even view holding time and choose a callback option – all from the comforts of their smartphones. Visual IVR is fulfilling many of the promises Voice IVR was meant to fulfill. These include:

1. Self-Service Empowerment

As Visual IVR negates the need for speech recognition, customers no longer need to listen to lengthy menus and may skip ahead at their own pace ahead of the information they require. Since self-service is made so much easier thanks to Visual IVR, many issues can be solved on the first attempt without ever needing to contact a representative. This means fewer calls to live agents as well as an increase customer satisfaction.

2. Timesaving Customers and Call Centers.

As Visual IVR collects valuable data before transferring a caller to an agent, it dramatically cuts down on call handle time. At the same time, it allows customers to automatically connect to the most qualified agent who has the full context of the customer’s issues. Customers don’t need to be re-routed from one agent to another, explaining their problem again and again, and making dropped calls far less likely when visual IVR systems are in place. Finally, automatic callbacks can help customers save time when they are kept waiting too long in a queue.

3. Agent Efficiency

Call center efficiency is not only about saving call handle time but also completing tasks in an organized and systematic manner. Visual IVR enables call center agents to deliver the best service possible since it matches customers to agents with particular expertise. Furthermore, agent efficiency improves as agents gain more time to or serve customers on other channels or focus on other tasks.

4. Cost Savings

Visual IVR is highly cost-efficient. It’s less expensive to deploy than traditional IVR systems, and may even be integrated into an existing IVR system. Agents do not require training to locate information that the system automatically provides while spending less time on the phone with customers also lowers costs on the voice channel. Furthermore, since staffing operational costs account for 70 to 80% of call center budgets, using visual IVR is crucial for minimizing the required amount of staff necessary to meet required service levels.

Now you can deliver a personalized and digital self-service experience to your voice callers, while also enjoying increased agent efficiency, greater cost savings, increased customer satisfaction and brand loyalty, all at the same time!


Publish Date: July 13, 2017

Why is Customer Service so Drawn to Personalization?

There is a definite shift towards a more personalized means of servicing the customer, an approach that offers benefits to both the organization and their clients.

Personalization seems to be one of the major buzzwords in business today, with a growing desire from organizations to personalize the customer experience, despite the associated difficulties this creates for the contact center.

Of course, while personalization seems to be the next big trend being followed by customer service leaders, it is hardly a concept that can be described as ‘new.' After all, your grandparents likely visited their local grocer or ‘mom and pop’ store simply because they received personal service from the owner. It was their local store; the owner would get to know them and understand what their preferences and interests were. He or she could greet them by name, ensure their orders were ready when they arrived and even recommend new products that were likely to garner their interest.

The growing demand from customers for this sort of service stems, at least in part, for people harking back to the so-called ‘good old days,' when everyone knew everyone and businesses treated their customers like family.

Now, while it is quite obvious that a large enterprise cannot be expected to deliver a personal relationship of this nature to individual clients today, there is no reason to think that customer service cannot be personalized to the extent that enables consumers to feel that they are viewed as meaningful to the company.

Modern customers have moved beyond accepting whatever level of service the company designed to provide them with. Today, they are more demanding and expect to be treated well and receive individual attention – and organizations need to deliver this.

One of the major reasons for companies to focus more closely on delivering personalized customer service is the simple fact that today, there is overwhelming competition for the clients’ money that personalizing your service has become a key differentiator. Providing tailored messages and interactions that improve the customer experience can really set your company apart. You can rest assured that if your business is not delivering this, one of your competitors will.

This is a key factor driving organizations towards personalization: the simple fact that customers today are no longer inherently loyal to a company – as may have been the case in your grandparents’ day – they are quite willing to transfer their business elsewhere if better service is perceived.

Thus, it is no longer enough to provide a broad, ‘umbrella-style’ service, as customers now have higher expectations of standards in service. Personalizing your offering to deliver a more focused level of customer service in every interaction and with every customer is vital if you wish to gain mindshare and loyalty. The first benefit of such an approach is that it will boost customer retention, which is both easier and cheaper than acquiring new ones.

This leads directly to a second benefit, which is that by delivering a high level of personalization, those customers that receive it will inevitably feel more connected and engaged with your business. Engaged customers feel happier to be associated with a company and will be more likely to let others know of their enjoyable experiences.

Customers that perceive you to be making genuine efforts towards personalization are likely to reciprocate your organization’s efforts through word-of-mouth and other forms of customer advocacy, like positive reviews on social media platforms. This, in turn, should help to attract other potential customers who may have experienced bad service at one of your competitors.

Of course, companies need to remember that customers today also have a wide range of choices related to which channel they choose to communicate with the business, and they expect to receive a personal experience, regardless of which channel they choose to use.

It should be recognized too that delivering personalization in customer service requires a lot of effort on your organization’s part. It will mean that you need to be able to collect, collate, store and analyze vast amounts of data, obtained from a range of sources and that you must ensure that the entire business is aligned towards achieving this goal.

Remember that – while the contact center may be at the coalface of customer service - it is equally important to make sure that salespeople, managers and anyone else who touches the customer in any way are geared towards delivering the level of personalization required to ensure that every customer’s journey with the company is happy and beneficial.

Furthermore, personalization can be provided in many forms. From calling the customer by name to delivering proactive service that solves problems before the customer may even be aware of them, personal customer service entails delivering round-the-clock service, offering due attention to their needs and meticulously processing their requirements at all times.

In the end, personalized moments at each and every point of customer engagement are what market leading companies are after.

The desire to increase levels of customer service personalization may not be entirely altruistic, but it is a win-win situation for both parties. Personalization leads to trust and can logically be expected to alter customer behavior and buying patterns in favor of a company. While at the same time, it ensures that the customer receives a level of service that is something they can tell their grandparents about.


Publish Date: July 11, 2017

5 Important Metrics for Call Center Success

Today, as more and more brands are chosen based on whether the overall customer experience matches their expectations, metrics are essential to help make sure call center protocol is in line with these expectations. However, at the same time, not every metric can be solely customer-centric as there are operational costs and other business needs that must be factored in. With that in mind, here are five critical metrics for call center success today:

1) First-Call Resolution

Perhaps no KPI has a bigger influence on the customer experience than what is known as first-call resolution (FCR). FCR calculates the percentage of incoming customer calls that are completely “resolved” on the first attempt. The challenge is accurately tracking whether a particular customer has actually received a resolution they are satisfied with, and will not need to call back. Nevertheless, FCR is a key metric to measure and understand since a high FCR greatly improves customer satisfaction. In fact, customer contact research shows that for every 1% improvement in FCR, you get a 1% improvement in customer satisfaction. In addition, reducing the costs of callbacks, especially in high-volume contact centers, can do wonders for your bottom line.

2) Call Quality

Call quality is a crucial customer-centric performance metric that can be utilized in all contact centers, and helps to measure how successful an agent is in dealing with the customers. It is typically evaluated through the recording and monitoring of agent interactions with customers and utilizes a scoring system based on a list of criteria that a call center feels indicates a quality experience from the customer's perspective. This may include, for example, FCR, courtesy and professionalism, providing the right information, capturing the right customer data, etc. Usually the criteria are added up to a total percentage score, however each criteria can be analyzed separately in order to improve call quality in specific areas of need.

3) Service Level/Response Time

Service level and response time are fundamental metrics for the effective management of the contact center and the customer experience. Service level is the percentage of calls answered within a predetermined number of seconds. It generally indicates how accessible the center is to customers, and thus is the clearest indication of what customers experience as they attempt to reach your contact center. While the faster an agent answers a customer call, the higher the service levels. Businesses also need to take into account that answering calls too quickly can actually be unprofitable because of the staffing costs necessary to meet such high service levels. At the same time, if response time is poor, than repeat contacts, escalations and complaints will eventually drive service level down even further so finding the happy medium is the key.

4) Forecasting Accuracy

One common solution for finding the right service level is a metric known as forecasting accuracy. Since staffing operational costs generally account for 70 to 80% of call center budgets, using accurate algorithms is crucial for making sure you are properly estimating anticipated call volume and thereby determining the right number of agents required to meet those service levels. In fact, one of the greatest threats to a call center’s profit margin are labor costs which comes from mistaken forecasting. While overestimating demand can lead to overstaffing and wasted resources, underestimating can be just as problematic as it leads to understaffing, which then leads to long wait times in queues. The result of this is frustrated customers and burned-out agents who now have to dedicate a portion of the call to caller complaints about hold times.

5) Customer Satisfaction

While there is no standard method for calculating customer satisfaction, there are certain common practices that allow call centers to not only effectively monitor customer satisfaction, but also to make improvements before customers go elsewhere. The most common strategy is a post-call IVR survey or a follow-up email survey which can be sent out immediately after a call or chat and customers are asked to rate each question on a scale (often 1 to 5) for a quick and easy customer satisfaction calculation.

Jacada Visual IVR is a support based mobile engagement solution that guides inbound callers to a web-based support experience – personalizing the support journey for customers already on their way to the queue. The solution makes it easy for organizations to collect the metrics listed above, among others. Emphasizing these metrics in a balanced manner will ensure that your company keeps customer satisfaction high while enabling your call center to be an efficient and profitable service center.


Publish Date: June 27, 2017

Can you reduce AHT without damaging customer satisfaction?

It is well known that metrics have an important role in the success of any call center. Perhaps none more so, regardless of the communication channel, than the Average Handle Time (AHT), which is essentially a management tool to assess how quickly employees are assisting customers.

This metric measures the average length of time it takes the call center agent to resolve the customer’s issue, and factors in the entire duration of the interaction, including total talk time, hold time and all of the follow-up or admin tasks related to the call. The formula looks like this:

While AHT goals vary between businesses and departments, truly understanding what Average Handle Time is and how to utilize this metric for specific organizational needs is critical for optimizing its results, including improving the customer service experience and providing long-term profitable growth.

Benefits of Measuring Average Handle Time

Through establishing clear cut benchmarks for current productivity levels, companies can analyze AHT metrics and identify actionable steps for both immediate improvement and future growth. The most apparent benefit a call center will experience when measuring AHT is an increase in agent productivity. Quite simply, when the call center agents know they are being being measured for efficiency, they naturally are more motivated to handle more customers. More customers being handled, means less frustrated customers waiting in the queue. On the other hand, those agents with an AHT which is still higher than the established benchmark enables mangers to easily identify agents not helping callers as quickly as they should. As a result, knowing the average amount of time it takes for employees to complete tasks helps companies determine staffing needs. If numerous employees are taking longer than anticipated, that might mean that many other customers are left waiting, and consequently more staff members are needed to help them, or the more AHT is lowered, the less staff may be needed.

Limitations of Relying on Average Handle Time

It’s important to realize, however, that while AHT and the emphasis on speed is an important and necessary call center metric, a lower AHT isn’t always an indication of success. This is because AHT doesn’t distinguish simple cases from more involved, in-depth ones. While agents handling a large volume of basic customer issues may be spending an average of 5 minutes per call, on the other hand, other agents within companies or departments handling more difficult or involved cases would likely assume higher AHTs with goal of connecting more with customers and offering a more personalized experience. Therefore, it’s important not to solely rely on AHT as the end-all be-all metric, and to make sure that you are also monitoring calls for quality. Another problem is that call center agents trying to keep their AHT score down can be very tempted to rush the customer off the conversation, while the customer just ends up confused and having to call back again. This is the reason that companies that depend solely on AHT are often plagued by repeat calls, and customers having to make repeat calls is one of the biggest drivers of customer disloyalty, so while emphasizing AHT may look great in regards to speed of service, it’s very likely that the Customer Satisfaction metric will suffer. Finally, AHT also doesn’t measure customer retention, growth or any other meaningful key performance indicator.

Tips for Reducing AHT without Damaging Customer Satisfaction:

  1. Agent Training: Refining your training program will enable call center agents to help customers more efficiently and better prepare them to more quickly resolve even the most challenging cases.
  2. Call routing: Call routing technology saves time for both customers and agents by quickly forwarding incoming customer cases to the agent who is most qualified to resolve them.
  3. Knowledge Database: Equipping call center agents with all the information they need at their fingertips is crucial for reducing AHT, so that they don’t have to waste valuable time searching for information in separate databases and software programs.
  4. Self-Service: Reduce call time by sending customers to the references that already exist online, including articles, guides and videos. Over time, this also trains people to look for help online first instead of reaching for the phone.
  5. Big Data Analytics: By leveraging big data analytics, brands can identify customer pain and passion points more effectively, while even anticipating what customers will ask for in advance to quickly resolve each customer interaction.

Today, the metrics a call center emphasizes have an effect on the customer experience that can’t be ignored. While AHT remains a valuable efficiency metric for any call center, only by balancing it with other customer satisfaction metrics will enable your business to keep customer satisfaction and brand loyalty high, while also enabling your call center to be a profitable, high-performing business entity!

In an upcoming blog article, we will investigate other useful metrics that organizations use to assess the performance of a call center.


Publish Date: June 16, 2017

Call Waiting & the Customer Experience

Today, customer service trends are driven by the need to meet consumer expectations. However, the evolution of technological innovation together with the emergence of the Millennial consumer has led to quickly changing expectations.

No matter the channel, just having a presence isn’t enough. Consumers expect quick service and a timely resolution to their problem. In other words, they do not like delays, and most of all, customers hate being put on hold. At the front line for handling many types of customer inquiries is the call center, and it significantly contributes to a company’s success by increasing customer loyalty and enforcing its brand. At the same time, one of the easiest ways to create a poor impression of your company and lose customers is through a negative call center experience. In fact, according to YouGov, 76% of consumers said that just one unpleasant contact center experience was likely to make them take their business elsewhere. Therefore, the first step to improving customer satisfaction and loyalty means reducing time spent on hold and providing alternative solutions to deliver the best possible customer experience.

Please Hold, Someone Will Be with You Shortly

While hold time is consistently at the top of the list of things that can ruin the call center experience for customers, the reality is an average of 57% of all calls today are being put on hold, so it begs the question, how long is too long? A recent survey by live chat provider Velaro indicated that 60% of people would hang up after waiting on hold for only one minute and 34% of those callers will not call back. That’s a huge problem because the average time a customer spends on hold is closer to 90 seconds, and for some industries, it’s a lot longer. According to the same study, one-third of customers believe that customer service departments should be answering immediately, with no hold time whatsoever. Unfortunately, this makes it tough for companies to meet customer expectations as customers are often frustrated before they have had the chance to speak with someone, including the psychological factor where the perceived negative experience makes customers even overestimate how long they have been on hold. At the same time, it immediately puts the call agent in damage control mode instead of solving the customer’s original issue. This same trend is occurring within the B2B sector, and no matter how short the hold period is, customer satisfaction suffers from the very beginning. So, what’s the solution?

Solutions: The Power of Choice

While many businesses may feel that they just don’t have the resources or the knowledge of how to rescue their customers from log wait times, companies that are looking to improve their customer experience management strategies need to start by finding solutions. The common-sense approach would be ensuring an appropriately-sized staff to manage to manage the amount of call volume, while, at the same time, implementing proper call routing software that delivers the call to the correct agent, department, etc., efficiently.

However, while hiring more customer service staff is one way to address the problem, it’s not the most cost-effective one since there are always down times when having additional call agents available who sit idly is unnecessary. Therefore, instead of focusing on preventing inevitable wait times, some companies are deploying more alternative solutions that help customers tolerate the wait. For example, music combined with constant hold time updates that tell the consumer how long they have left to sit on hold. This gives the customer the information they need to make their choice whether to remain on hold or call back again at another time. Also, did you know that customers left on-hold without any background music felt that a 30-second on-hold call lasted 90 seconds, while customers thought a 30-second on-hold call that used music-on-hold lasted only 15 seconds?

One of the most practical, and cost-effective potential solutions is the callback. Instead of staying on hold, a customer leaves their contact information and receives a call from a customer service representative as soon as one becomes available, (assuming they call back). Not surprisingly, this is an option that appeals to many customers as 63% of people would prefer a callback to waiting on hold, and 28% would prefer a callback to spending just one minute on hold. Once again, the callback is an effective solution because it gives the customer the freedom to go about their business while they wait, and avoids altogether the extra frustration caused by the hold experience.

Many organizations are implementing an alternative option to waiting on hold. Visual IVR is a support platform that guides inbound callers to a web-based support experience – personalizing the support journey for customers already on their way to the queue. By pivoting an inbound call to a digital interaction, Jacada Visual IVR allows you to surface all of your digital assets, in a single location, to your voice callers. The pivot to digital self-service often eliminates the need for the customer to connect with a live person, saving time and money for both the caller and the company.

In the end, the foundation of any positive customer experience today is the impression that you value their time. If you are up to the challenge, the results will speak for themselves.


Publish Date: June 6, 2017

Why the phone still seems to be the preferred channel of choice

I just called to say…I have a problem

Despite the massive investments many organizations are making in new digital contact channels, the majority of customers are still turning to the tried and tested telephone to resolve their challenges.

In the omnichannel world we live in today, customers have a multitude of options available to them when reaching out to a contact center - more than they have ever had before in history. Yet it seems strange to note that, although these channels are growing in usage, the top channel of choice continues to be one that has been in existence for close to a century and a half, namely the telephone.

A survey conducted last year by North Ridge Group of more than 1000 consumers indicates that one reason for this is that, according to these customers, companies make it easy to contact them about a service issue or inquiry via the telephone. More than half felt that the phone was an easier option than text message, mobile app self-service or social media.

This, naturally, suggests that businesses are not succeeding in their quest to convince customers to use these other channels, either because they have not yet made them user-friendly enough, or because consumers are not receiving the level of resolution they might expect.

The latter is certainly part of the reason, with customers suggesting that, while the hold time for an agent may be an issue, outside of that they tend to be able to obtain answers to their questions or resolutions to their problems quite quickly via the phone. Digital channels are still struggling because only massive enterprises – with the budgets to match – have the amount of agents required to respond instantaneously via social media or e-mail. Customers are aware of this challenge, so instead of waiting hours, perhaps longer, for a response, they prefer to call, speak to an agent and get a much quicker resolution to their problem.

There are other reasons why the telephone remains so popular. In those cases where a client makes contact via a digital channel, be it chat, e-mail or social media, the customer may not actually know who they are communicating with. Agents who pick up a telephone call, however, always provide their name at the beginning of the conversation. This, in turn means the agent - and by extension, the company - can be held accountable for the information provided.

Apart from accountability, there is another more prosaic reason many customers use the phone instead of one of the other channels on offer: there are still a lot of consumers who are simply uncomfortable using digital technology. Whether it is because they do not understand it or, as is sometimes the case with older customers, they don’t trust it; many avoid the digital channels like the plague. On the opposite side of the coin, virtually everyone is comfortable using the phone.

There are also particular queries that customers have that they find the phone preferable for. A good example of this is the handling of a billing or payment issue, resolving a product problem, or making changes to a policy or account. On the other hand, fewer people call up a contact center to make a comment or suggestion, but most will have no problem with jotting down a quick e-mail in this regard and sending it off to the company.

Naturally, the omnichannel environment is leading an increasing number of customers to try these other channels that are offered, but because many of these channels are still developing, and due to the inevitable challenges organizations face when perfecting such channels, they do not always work as well as they should. So while businesses want to deliver quality customer service via whichever channel the customer wants to communicate through, there are occasions when the digital channel of choice fails to resolve the problem. As an example, social media has just a 29% success rate in resolving customer service issues, compared to the 69% success rate of the telephone.

Still other consumers tend to prefer the phone to other channels because they feel it is simply the most accurate option. This is especially true in cases where their concern is highly complex and they may struggle to articulate it via chat, e-mail or social media.

Therefore, while it is obviously important for enterprises to offer customers a multi-channel experience, it is equally clear that they need to continue investing in the ‘call’ aspect of the contact center. This means creating ongoing training opportunities for agents and continuing to deploy high-end telephony solutions.

Despite the massive and ongoing hype around the digital contact channels, organizations must recognize the critical role that voice still plays in the modern contact center and they must continue to ensure that voice remains the foundation of their omnichannel customer service experience. The popularity of voice demonstrates that it will yet play a role in the contact center for a long time to come, and businesses must be prepared to allow it to evolve, along with the needs of the connected customer.


Publish Date: May 31, 2017

Financial Darwinism: Why Financial Call Centers Have Failed to Deliver

The Promise

Many years ago, the banking industry introduced the call center channel with the goal of lowering service costs and improving the overall customer experience. The plan was essentially to eliminate basic, low value transactions from the traditional banking branches banking, which would allow branch workers to focus on higher revenue-generating activities, while also providing customer service access around the clock.

However, even as large numbers of transactions were switched to call centers, the banks did not experience the anticipated reduction in transaction costs. In fact, as a result of customers having easy access to the call centers, the number of transactions surged, which in effect just created yet another channel with high ongoing cost management and poor customer experience. Let’s take a look:

Lack of Call Center Efficiency

The starting point for call center efficiency and lowering operating costs is to reduce the overall volume of calls. In fact, just a 5 to 10% reduction in call volume can save up to $10 million annually. However, instead many banks created a self-perpetuating cycle where 50 to 60% of the inbound calls were driven by their own errors stemming from customer-focused processes that were poorly structured and insufficient channel integration that limited the sharing of data. This resulted in many preventable service inquiries and repeat calls, which occur when the customer can’t easily find the information they need or is not attended to sufficiently the first time around, all of which negatively affected the customer experience as well.

In fact, a survey by American Express reported that in order to provide consumers with an excellent customer service experience, representatives must be able to provide a satisfactory answer to their question’ (86%) or be able to connect them with someone who is knowledgeable (78%). In other words, customers believe the most important attribute of a successful customer service professional is efficiency, i.e. the ability to answer questions or handle transactions quickly. Over the years, however, many bank customer service agents were not able to do this, due to a lack of proper training, together with being forced to rely on those same poorly functioning processes and channel integration, so agents were often forced to rely on the “go-to” product experts in their department. In fact, according to SilverCloud, 63% of subject matter experts and managers at banks spend more than 1/3 of their day answering front line questions with many spending more than 40%!

This has also led to a situation where unnecessary transfers and escalated calls have spiraled out of control. At the same time, the customer has also suffered from the lack of customer service competence. In fact, it was found that consumers themselves want to sense that customer service professionals feel empowered to effectively and autonomously do their jobs, to handle requests on their own without transfer or escalations. When employees feel confident in their ability to answer customer questions on their own, without the aid of an internal support person, their overall effectiveness and disposition with customers improves, and as a result, so does the customer’s confidence.

Lack of Self-Service Functionality

Another catalyst for the failure of the banking call centers has been the lack of self-service on-line functionality to handle all the basic customer service requests. First of all, calls handled by agents typically cost about $4 per contact, while the cost per contact online is only around: $0.10 to $0.15. Therefore, just shifting between 5 and 20% of call volume from agents to the Web would save up to $25 million per year! It’s been a badly missed opportunity for most. When an effective knowledge database is deployed on a bank’s website, repetitive customer questions, especially those that are technology related, such as “how do I reset my online banking password” are greatly reduced, which in turn frees up the customer service agents to respond to more profitable account and product inquiries.

Today, customers have evolved and are more than ever looking for ease in doing business, especially when it comes to their financial services. Now, it’s up to the banks to evolve as well or be relegated to a thing of the past.



Publish Date: May 30, 2017

The Impact of Emotion on Customer Experience

High on emotion!

The impact of emotion on the customer experience is far greater than it would at first appear. Clearly, this is something that contact centers need to account for.

If you haven’t experienced it yourself, you have certainly heard it from someone else who has called a contact center: a complaint about having to wait too long for the call to be answered; a description of an agent who was so nice it was like talking to an old friend; a problem with the center where you’ve been shunted from agent to agent, having to repeat your whole story over and over; a situation where, when the agent answered the phone, you could practically hear them smiling down the line at you.

I could go on, but what this illustrates is that emotions play a huge role in the customer experience. When we feel annoyed or frustrated, it seems as though the organization we are contacting doesn’t care about us, whereas when an agent is friendly, we are more likely to open up.

When one considers the enormous benefits of ensuring that customers experience good emotions during a contact, it is clear that companies should pursue emotional connections as both a science and a strategy. After all, people who associate mostly positive emotions with a brand will spend much more, and will also likely be more prone to tell their friends about how good such a company is.

There can be little doubt that emotions guide decisions. Even though most people would describe themselves as being logical, thinking creatures, the fact remains that in many instances, it is our emotions that inspire our decisions. More crucially, it is suggested that in cases where someone makes a decision that leads to a positive outcome, they are more likely to make the same decision in the future. In addition, it must be remembered that when people have no emotional connection to the outcome of a decision, they are less likely to actually make a decision at all.

What is interesting is that many customers will not actually link a purchase or service to a particular emotion, but studies have shown that emotions play a key role in the overall customer experience. In situations where agents are able to help a customer solve a problem, positive emotions will inevitably result. Even in instances where the client has started with a negative attitude, usually as a result of a problem they are facing or a complaint about a product, positive emotions dominate if the situation is effectively resolved.

Customer happiness should also impact on the agent working with that client. This demonstrates that the state of wellbeing of the two parties has the ability to rub off on the other. So happy agents create happy customers – who then spend more money with your business – while happy customers mean happy agents, who are thus more productive. It truly is a winning circle.

Of course, when considering the role of emotion in the customer journey, one should note research conducted by Philippe Verduyn and Saskia Lavrijsen¹ of the University of Leuven in Belgium. They looked into which emotions last the longest, and why this is the case.

These researchers discovered that ‘sadness’ and similar negative emotions are the ones that tend to last the longest. This is because these are usually associated with major events that have a lasting impact, such as bereavement.

Taking this into the idea of the customer experience, it indicates that the impact of negative emotions lasts longer than that of positive ones. So those emotions that we would normally associate with service failure or customer service problems - disappointment, anger, irritation, anxiety or stress - will last longer than those related to happy, delightful and enthusiastic experiences.

In other words, the bad experiences are more likely to be remembered, and for far longer, than those that customers associate with positive experiences. This suggests that contact centers should first place a premium on minimizing situations that can create these negative emotions. Once these instances are significantly reduced, you can then up the ante by focusing on the delivery of services that delight and impress customers.

Psychologist Jennifer Lerner, of the Harvard Kennedy School, has also pioneered research in this field and suggests that there are two types of emotions that come into play during the decision-making process.

Firstly, there are integral emotions, which are feelings that arise from the actual decision at hand. More crucial, however, are the incidental emotions, which are feelings that carry over from one decision to the next, as these are emotions that also influence decisions in the future. From the contact center perspective, these incidental emotions may impact on decisions and interactions made by customers long after the event that caused them.

If these emotions - whether they are positive or negative - continue to be influential in the future, then it should be clear that the way that consumers feel should always be considered of utmost importance by the organization, throughout the entire customer lifecycle. And the best way to ensure that customers continuously have good experiences and thus engender positive emotions towards your business is to learn everything you can about them.

By utilizing technology and leveraging big data and analytics, you can learn more about your customers. This will include understanding not only their previous interactions with your brand, but should also encompass what they say and how they interact on social media platforms. The more you know about them, the easier it becomes to quickly solve any challenges they face, and to do so in a delightful and pleasant manner. This, in turn, should engender affirmative emotions, which will hopefully also impact positively on future decisions they make with regard to your organization.

The most successful contact centers are those that are capable of regularly inspiring positive emotions in their customers and minimizing the negative ones. Customers who feel strong positive emotions will feel more satisfied with the service they have received, will demonstrate increased loyalty and provide an exceptional word of mouth references. They will also likely spend more and encourage others to do the same.

Running a contact center can often be viewed as an emotional rollercoaster, but in this case, it is one where you definitively want to ensure that there are many more ups than downs.


Publish Date: May 26, 2017

The Benefits of a Transactional Virtual Customer Assistant

Helping customers to help themselves

Virtual Customer Assistants or Chatbots offer organizations a new dimension in customer service – but not all virtual customer assistants are created equal.

There's really no denying just how important customer service is today. Companies are putting a lot of time and effort into developing omnichannel strategies in order to better service their customers’ needs, as they have realized that the businesses that win the battle of customer service are the ones that will gain a clear competitive advantage.

One of the key aspects of such an omnichannel strategy is that an increasing number of customers are demanding self-service options. And when it comes to self-service, there are new technologies coming to the fore all the time that can assist organizations in keeping their competitive edge, providing customers with the solutions they want while at the same time improving the efficiency of the business.

While many of these self-service technologies have been discussed in great detail, one that remains closer to the edge is that of the virtual customer assistant. In essence, a virtual customer assistant is a chatbot designed to provide consumers with a new self-service option.

Predicated on the growing demand for artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots are designed to provide fast, easy and human-like customer service at first contact. These chatbots hold the potential to change both how customers interact with companies, and how companies themselves interact with their customers. While still in their early stages, there is little doubt that the role of chatbots in customer service will keep on advancing, as the technology they are built on does, but even in their infancy, these solutions are proving very useful to customer service strategies.

Much like other self-service technologies, chatbots are recognized as being useful in mitigating the problem of customer frustrations around waiting times and time to resolution. After all, in a world where customer service is seen as a differentiator, the last thing you want is to do is unnecessarily keep customers on hold for long periods of time.

Chatbots also offer many advantages over other self-service technologies – for one thing, there’s no need to download an app to make it work. Secondly, they tend to be both casual and useful, something that is particularly appealing to the growing millennial market. They are casual because they are conversational, which is a far more comfortable way to obtain a self-service offering than having to listen to the oftentimes complex menus delivered by IVR, for example.

However, it should be noted that virtual customer assistants are slightly different to other self-service channels, in that they seek to intervene in activities in which customers are already engaging. This means that they don’t actually operate as an independent support channel; instead, they are a technology that is added to support an existing channel or customer behavior.

So, for instance, if a customer contacts a financial services organization seeking information related to an account balance, or a mobile company with a query related to a particular item on their bill, the customer assistant can help them by drawing on the vast amount of customer data that is collected by the company, and can parse the relevant information from the database in real-time and feed it back to the customer. And because it is AI-based, it is able to learn from these interactions and thus be better prepared for future queries.

In other words, the virtual customer assistant is able to take the necessary data and translate it into deep machine learning that creates progressively higher and higher levels of intelligence. In this way, the virtual customer assistant is able to ‘learn’ the correct answer to any question over time. Since customers today are more impatient than ever and tend to expect near-instantaneous service across whatever channel they choose to use, companies can leverage the power of chatbots to meet the rising volume of support requests with quicker response times.

Clearly then, as consumers move between different digital channels in the modern omnichannel contact center, chatbots are going to become an integral piece of a broader customer service strategy.

Virtual customer assistants offer a wide range of benefits to such a strategy, including the fact that they should deliver a faster and more efficient response, meaning customers are not put on hold and dropped calls are far less frequent. In addition, they help to eliminate human errors, such as delayed responses, incorrect information or even rudeness, and – unlike human agents – they are available to answer questions on a 24/7 basis.

On top of that, being both new technology and conversational in nature, they tend to provide a more fun and entertaining customer service experience, which can be further enhanced with custom-designed avatars and backdrops.

So then, you are now asking yourself: what am I waiting for? I should immediately go out and get a virtual customer assistant for my contact center. Well, the truth is, don’t be too hasty, as not all virtual customer assistants are created equal.

As already mentioned, chatbots are able to assist with customer queries by finding the relevant information in the corporate database and providing an answer to the customer’s query. Logically, then, a virtual customer assistant will only be useful for reasonably simple queries.

Not so. There is an Intelligent Assistant out there that operates as an interactive virtual agent that is capable of assisting customers with both simple and more complex inquiries, using a conversational chat-based interface.

Unlike the majority of virtual customer assistants, this solution goes far beyond the standard simple question-answer interface. Thanks to its natural language processing, it is able to understand the intent and sentiment, and translate this to actionable transactions.

While any good chatbot will provide natural, human-like assistance, without the need for the presence of a trained customer service agent, the vast majority of these virtual customer assistants simply grab information from the organization’s FAQ page or customer knowledge base, and then pass that information over to the customer. This certainly saves the client time and effort, but it is still only helping out with very basic transactions.

What if the customer wants to do something more complicated, like add a relative to their medical aid scheme, or add another driver onto their vehicle insurance policy? This is a much more transactional requirement, and one which most chatbots would be wholly unable to provide.

With an Intelligent Assistant, however, the customer not only has the option of obtaining answers to basic queries, but they are also able to undertake these more transactional queries as well. In the medical and insurance examples outlined above, the chatbot would thus be able to answer the basic questions the customer may have about such an undertaking, but more than this, it would also be capable of actually walking the customer through the entire process of changing their policy or scheme by adding a new member.

This takes the Intelligent Assistant into similar territory as that of a human agent – not only is it able to converse with the client like a person, but it is also able to assist them with the kind of complex processes that in the past would have required them to hold on the line until an agent was free to help them.

It is clear then that intelligent customer assistants are more than simply another shift in an organization’s channel strategy – they, in fact, offer a genuine transformational opportunity to redefine customer engagement. Think very carefully about which virtual customer assistant you choose. There are, after all, very few solutions out there that can provide the same level of service (even around more complex transactions) that a human agent is able to.


Publish Date: May 25, 2017

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