Nuance - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog
“Human interactions are declining with the rise of digital channels and will become a rarity and more valuable. Therefore, if you can apply human interaction at a defining moment for a customer, it will have a far greater impact.” (Gartner)
The new generation of smart virtual assistants is redefining digital commerce and customer care as enterprises seek to provide an engaging customer experience using natural language understanding, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to reduce the workload for brands. This new hype regarding conversational commerce enables brands to let the virtual assistant answer the load of repetitive and fairly simple inquiries from the user, thus leading to lower contact center costs and higher revenue as customers reach a purchase decision more quickly or develop a stronger loyalty to the brand.
Bots have the potential for driving a real-time, one-to-one interaction that is highly intelligent and conversational, thus delivering a more efficient experience for customers. (Mobile Marketer) But what if the bot can’t help us and the user is stuck in an endless loop of “I don’t understand the question. Please rephrase it so I can answer it.”?
If we want virtual assistance to succeed, the technology needs to be combined with real human knowledge in order to deliver an experience that balances self-service with empathy
Nuance blends the powerful targeting, NLU routing and agent-to-consumer communication technologies with the industry’s leading virtual assistant technology (Nina) to help brands target, engage and converse with consumers in a more cost-effective way at the time that customers need assistance with their self-service experience. The virtual assistant engine utilizes existing live chat transcripts to create the human-like dialogue with a “smart” virtual assistant that’s able to understand the intent of an inquiry and provide answers quickly and accurately to guide the consumer the right way. The power of Nina resides in the fact that the live chat agent and bot collaborate, improving knowledge and accuracy over time. Furthermore, if the virtual assistant is not certain of what the answer should be, a live agent can take over to continue the conversation and provide the right answers.
In addition to breathing life into traditional virtual assistance by empowering it with features that bring the human side of customer assistance into the self-service experience, Nina leverages the Nuance omni-channel customer engagement platform to provide the best in virtual assistance:
Serving the right digital interaction to the right visitor at the right time
Nuance targeting engine chooses between live agent, guides or virtual assistant, based on user behavior, profile and page, on a per conversation basis to serve the right digital interaction to the right visitor at the right time.
Integrated interaction design
Nina & live chat integrate into the same elegant, floating, engagement window and are supported across multiple devices such as desktop, tablet, mobile browsers, and messaging apps.
Seamless escalation to chat without losing context of the conversation
If the consumer or Nina itself want to escalate to a live chat agent, the transfer happens seamlessly inside the same engagement window for the consumer, including a data pass of the transcript and all important information to the live agent.
Higher agent productivity
Nina is trained based on existing live chat transcripts and is set up to answer simple questions reducing the overall agent handle time and boosting agent productivity. And over time, the live chat agent becomes a robot trainer and makes the virtual agent better at answering questions and understanding content.
Integrated reporting dashboard
Analytics from live chat and virtual assistant conversations can be used to measure and continuously optimize key metrics along the funnel - from the business rules to the automated conversation to the live chat engagement - to provide interactions leading to increased revenue, reduced costs and higher customer satisfaction.
The ultimate goal of Nina is to deliver intelligent automated conversations leading consumers to self-serve. But Nuance understands the need for human involvement to reach that goal or to give the customer what he needs when self-service doesn’t.
Publish Date: August 4, 2017 5:00 AM
Chatbot - what a buzzword! They are everywhere, and it’s getting harder and harder to understand what they really are and what they are not. The lines are getting blurry as the media uses this word to describe simple scripts, intelligent and conversational versions; even “messaging” and “chatbot” are intertwined for some. That’s why it’s difficult to explain the actual differences between a bot, chatbot, virtual assistant, and messaging and to understand what customers really want.
Everybody uses the word chatbot, so it allows vendors to sell something very simple and narrow in function; but the brand, buying into the vendor’s claims, expects something more sophisticated and, when everything is deployed, is disappointed in what they get. How do brands find the needle in a haystack full of chatbots?
Let’s talk about the difference between a bot and a virtual assistant
- “A bot (short for “robot”) is an automated program that runs over the Internet. Some bots run automatically, while others only execute commands when they receive specific input. […] Chat bots were one of the first types of automated programs to be called “bots” and became popular in the 1990s, with the rise of online chatrooms. These bots are scripts that look for certain text patterns submitted by chat room participants and respond with automated actions.”
- Chatbots have evolved since then. Some say that “virtual assistant” and “chatbot” are the same; some disagree. At the end of the day the name doesn’t matter; it’s the function that is important.
- Both chatbots and virtual assistants are more intelligent than a simple bot. When a bot only follows the script, the chatbot and virtual assistant have more options to interpret the command. Supported by artificial intelligence they understand the meaning of what was said or typed. They can look at the phrases but also understand what specific words mean in a certain context. They can utilize information from other sources, like a CRM, real-time insights and more.
The problem is that there are a lot of scripted bots out there that are sold as something bigger. Enterprises can start with a simple, scripted version and can evolve over time. But they need to make sure that the vendor they choose allows them to grow. Thus, they should look for:
- Strong Natural Language Understanding (NLU) capabilities
- Capability to work with human agents, either by seamlessly escalating to live chat or secretly asking a human for help
- Learning capabilities based on machine learning algorithms, for example:
- Train the base model – the first version of the VA – based on existing chat and/ or call transcripts
- While deployed, ask humans for help, observe them and learn from this interaction
- Utilize actionable Voice of the Customer insights to optimize and enhance the dialog
- Enterprise scalability during training, deployment and conversations
Join us for more insights on smarter learning for virtual assistants in the upcoming blog articles.
Read Part I of the series “Meet the new generation of virtual assistants” here.
Publish Date: July 27, 2017 5:00 AM
It’s human nature to seek ways to get things done in the easiest or most convenient manner possible. We search for the shortest line at the grocery store and the fastest way to get products delivered. And while this has increasingly been happening due to a rise in cool new apps or an online experience, more organizations are extending this further by connecting the digital and physical worlds. Today we can order a TV on the web and pick it up in store the same day. Or you can try on clothes in a store and get the exact right color or size shipped direct to your home from the company website.
This bridging of physical and digital worlds applies to customer service, too. Consumers engage organizations digitally through the web or mobile apps and, when needed, use the “physical” world and call the contact center for more complex issues. When they engage, they want the freedom to move between channels to best suit their needs. But guess what? Many times they can’t move efficiently between each channel, which creates a poor customer service experience.
Forward thinking organizations must find ways to allow customers to move between channels without complexity, while at the same time reducing costs by moving callers from higher cost channels like the contact center to less expensive channels such as the web. Today this is difficult to achieve, and it typically results in someone hanging up and starting over.
IVR to Digital to the rescue
Good news! The Nuance IVR to Digital offering can help. IVR to Digital helps callers move seamlessly from traditional phone calls to digital experiences such as a virtual assistant or live chat.
Imagine that someone calls your contact center only to find the wait times longer than normal. This might normally involve waiting on hold or a call-back option, but with IVR to Digital companies can offer callers the choice to get immediate help from a virtual assistant or chat. And the decision is up to the customer. Callers remain in control and choose the channel that best suits their situation. The result is a more satisfied caller who gets their issue resolved faster and an organization that reduces call center volumes.
And there’s more. Besides moving people due to long queue times, IVR to Digital also enhances information delivery by allowing agents to better assist callers with more complicated transactions in a simplified manner. Imagine if someone calls trying to re-set their password. Contact center agents can use the automated guides feature to set up a co-browsing session on the web and visually show customers how to both re-set their password and learn where the steps are for the future. Teaching callers to solve issues directly provides a better overall customer experience and reduces the need for future calls on the same issue.
Implementing an IVR to Digital solution allows organizations to both offer their customers a better experience and optimize channel use. Targeting features mean that only selected customers are presented the option to move out of the call center – keeping organizations in charge of the channels and allowing them to best optimize their channel engagement.
Physical + Digital = Omni-channel
Today’s service channels are disconnected and IVR to Digital makes it possible for organizations to successfully pair the digital experience with the “physical” phone and offer true connected, omni-channel experiences. This approach benefits callers and companies alike with improved customer satisfaction and optimized channel engagement.
Publish Date: July 24, 2017 5:00 AM
How can a virtual assistant win in a ranking of top chatbots? According to the new Forrester report, The Top 10 Chatbots for Enterprise Customer Service, “To truly meet a need for enterprise-grade customer service, chatbots (also called virtual assistants and cognitive agents) must be able to understand what a customer speaks or types, discern their intent, respond in a conversational manner, and act on the customer’s behalf.”
The word “chatbot” is used interchangeably with AI, virtual assistant, personal assistant and messaging, but essentially a chatbot has very limited functionality and can answer questions according to a set script. Intelligent chatbots can recognize customer intent and can evolve through machine learning.
A virtual assistant, on the other hand, has a distinction that makes a huge difference. The industry definition of a virtual (customer) assistant is a business application that simulates a conversation in order to deliver information and, if advanced, takes action on behalf of the customer to perform transactions.
So, although chatbots and virtual assistants are on two very different levels, they’re put into the same category of customer service technology because enterprises need to evaluate both according to their individual needs.
Announced in today’s report by Forrester Research, Nuance Nina is cited as a Recommended Product, receiving the number one ranking amongst the 10 most significant chatbot/virtual assistant vendors in the market.
It’s not a surprise to us that Nina topped the charts. Nina is conversational, recognizes intent, and learns from historical transcripts. Live agents assist Nina in some of its conversations- a new functionality called Nina Coach. In some cases, the best resolution is for the VA to seamlessly transfer the customer to a live chat agent within the same window. This interaction and partnership between virtual and live agents help Nina to learn, also known as the “learning loop,” by feeding in conversations and actions so Nina knows the answer moving forward.
Yet, the human touch is only part of the reason that Nuance Nina was named the Top Chatbot for Enterprise Customer Service by Forrester Research. Nina differentiates itself from other “chatbots” in that it can be implemented into an omni-channel framework on multiple channels, from desktop to mobile app, from SMS to voice (IVR). It uses natural language understanding (NLU), multimodal biometric security, and robust analytics capabilities. Not only is Nuance a technological leader in the chatbot/virtual assistant arena, but it also shines in producing proven results of increased revenue and customer satisfaction.
To get the full story of this impressive win, read more here or download the full report here.
Publish Date: June 29, 2017 5:00 AM
What does it mean to be relevant to your customers? “Relevant” means applicable to, pertinent to, connected with the matter at hand. Your matter at hand is obviously your customers, and your offering should be applicable to them. If your brand claims to be customer-focused, then your offering should provide what is trending with customers at the present moment, not what they liked a year ago.
Customer trend ignorers
Some of the most prosperous brands found themselves in self-destruct mode during the recession – not because people stopped spending money, but because they stopped paying attention to how their market was changing. They grew complacent and wouldn’t change as their customers changed. They lost their relevance. (e.g., Circuit City or Blockbuster)
Customer trend watchers
So how did other companies rise to power during that time of financial strain? They became relevant. They watched the trends and gave the market what they hungered for. They even saw into the future and influenced the coming trends. (e.g., Amazon)
Relevant customer service
The next wave in customer service is brought to us by AI (artificial intelligence). Robots can be taught and can learn on their own the needs of customers and how to answer their questions. Yet, a brand who thinks they’re staying relevant just by putting chatbots on their site is sorely misunderstanding today’s customer. Not only do we like the latest techy gadget out there, but we cling to human connection – quite the opposite of the former. Our addiction to social media alone should tell brands that society needs to be acknowledged (or liked) and they want people to interact with them. Granted, it’s not necessarily face-to-face, but it’s connection.
Hey, your robot is in my human! No, your human is in my robot!
A smart brand will take those two vastly different trends and combine them to meet both ends of the market – artificially intelligent self-service and live, human interaction. (e.g., virtual assistance and live chat) It is possible to keep cutting-edge customer experience technology relevant to what customers want - by using intelligent self-service with the option to connect with a real person. Adding advanced technology to human interaction does not take away from the customer focus; rather, adding experienced human interaction to highly advanced technology intensifies the customer focus. That is why Nuance caught the attention of top industry analysts in 2017 CRM Service Leader awards. We stay relevant to the customer by giving them the sophisticated technology they seek and the human touch they crave.
What trend could your brand leverage to be relevant and become the brand of choice?
As you think about that, I’ll leave you with the following list written by Leigh Buchanan of Inc. magazine:
Ten ways companies remain relevant
- They see their past, present and future as a continuous arc and understand what made them successful at each juncture.
- They are shrewd consumers of technology, adopting and customizing new platforms as applications for customers become apparent.
- They pay attention and respond to societal changes.
- They study new entrants closely but avoid knee-jerk reactions; some of those new players might become partners rather than competitors.
- They practice a kind of perpetual beta with customers, working together closely so that both sides learn from each other.
- They seek new partnerships and the perspective of outsiders.
- They become thought leaders in their fields.
- They listen to their young employees.
- They improvise and innovate on core strengths, rather than blow up everything and start again.
- They remain true to foundational values.
Publish Date: June 23, 2017 5:00 AM
What do consumers want out of the customer experience? According to eMarketer, technology drives up consumer expectations, as customers increasingly expect fast, consistent and reliable experiences across all devices. They expect your brand to be all-knowing and always-available when it comes to serving them.
But customers get frustrated with technology when they can’t find the answers they want in a timely manner. Virtual assistants can be a fantastic solution to this problem, but not all are created equal.
Addressing the need for capable customer service virtual assistants
In both the consumer and enterprise space, the word “chatbot” is becoming a buzzword. Though often used interchangeably with “virtual assistant,” the two terms are different, in that a virtual assistant is more humanlike, contextually aware, and consistent across channels. But at a base level, both terms describe a conversational interface designed to help customers solve problems.
Consumer expectations for this type of technology are high, with AYTM data showing that 73% of consumers agree that interacting with an automated system that they could converse with would significantly improve their experience. The problem is, much of the chatbot technology on the market is simply missing the mark. Further AYTM surveys seeking to understand current consumer perceptions of chatbots have revealed that fewer than one in three (30%) consumers today are confident in a chatbot’s ability to successfully help them when it comes to customer service. For instance, the majority of consumers (71%) who are using chatbots today are primarily searching for news or information, playing music, or playing games. But few consumers are confident in a chatbot’s ability to assist with more complex and domain-specific activities.
Closing the gap between what customers want and what they get
So how can brands close the gap between customer expectations and customer experience? By increasing a virtual assistant’s confidence. When deploying a virtual assistant, brands often start from scratch, meaning the virtual assistant isn’t even able to understand questions at first. Over time, the more someone interacts with the virtual assistant, the smarter it gets, thereby increasing its confidence.
But why start with a virtual assistant from scratch? Wouldn’t you rather start with one that already understands consumer questions?
The beginning of a virtual assistant’s journey to optimization
The ideal virtual assistant would be designed with pre-loaded, industry and business-specific knowledge and expertise. It would leverage past experiences to deliver answers with a wide range of knowledge upon deployment. Your company would be able to start with a virtual assistant that can understand customers’ questions, and then you could personalize its answers. This ready-made virtual assistant would be available faster versus 90 days of set-up and training.
With this kind of virtual assistant, businesses would be able to give customers the self-service experience they expect with efficiency and accuracy, and receive a faster ROI. A virtual assistant that can quickly and accurately respond to questions with understanding of the customer’s intent from the get-go – that’s what both enterprises and their customers want.
The rest of the story…
OK, so companies should start with a virtual assistant that comes with a preset library of knowledge on which to build more customer answers. Check. It should also have an innate understanding of customer intent. Check. What’s the next step in “educating” a virtual assistant to be smarter and smarter? Stay tuned for future installments of Learn and grow smarter!
In the meantime, you can find at Nuance just such a virtual assistant that is designed with business and industry-specific knowledge to get you started with quick and accurate responses to your customer’s common questions. Learn about Nuance virtual assistant, Nina.
Publish Date: June 20, 2017 5:00 AM
Have you watched today’s Developer Preview Session at Apple WWDC?
We did, and with all the new products and features coming out we were thrilled to see Nuance, in the middle of all the excitement. Apple introduced Business Chat and with it a new opportunity for brands to connect with millions of consumers using Apple Messages (iMessage).
Nuance Customer Service Messaging allows brands to connect with their customers via iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and others, to solve customer issues immediately and in context. With the Nuance Digital Engagement Platform, brands are able to initiate direct conversations for efficient, conversational customer service or sales engagements.
Apple’s new Business Chat will allow millions of consumers to add enterprises as contacts within Messages, and then securely chat with their bank, telco, airline and more. With Business Chat, enterprises will now be able to chat with their customers automatically using either Nina virtual assistant, or Live and Asynchronous chat using the Nuance Agent Desktop in the contact center.
Read more about what today’s news means for Enterprises – and consumers – below.
Customer service messaging – the next big thing
Messaging is ubiquitous, easy to use, always available, and supports both real time and asynchronous messaging – features that make chat a hugely popular way for family, friends and co-workers to connect every day.
It is those same features that will one day make customer service messaging mainstream. And with Apple’s announcement of Business Chat, coupled with Nuance unique messaging technology that day is getting very close indeed.
The addition of Business Chat to iMessage will provide millions of users with the ability to connect with businesses - iMessage is the #1 Apple app and iMessage users send an estimated 200,000 iMessages a second. But this volume of messages also presents a challenge in terms of how businesses and enterprises will handle the potentially millions of messages they are likely to get each day – even when the contact center is closed. How can an Enterprise “turn on” customer service messaging and affordably deliver customer service that meets consumer expectations?
Nuance Customer Service Messaging
Over 6,500 Enterprises worldwide, including many of today’s leading brands, have selected Nuance to enhance and automate customer service – with an estimated 14 billion customer engagements flowing through Nuance solutions each year.
Nearly two years ago Nuance introduced Customer Service Messaging, supporting chat within messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WeChat, SMS and more, as well as messaging within enterprise apps. By supporting virtual, live and asynchronous messaging within our platform, Nuance gives enterprises everything they need to “turn on” Customer Service Messaging for iMessage, Facebook Messenger, WeChat and more. Here’s how:
Messaging is ubiquitous and always “on.” Enterprises will get millions of chats a day, every day and it simply isn’t affordable to hire thousands of contact center agents to handle the volume – and to expect that the contact center can be staffed 24 hours a day, every day.
The solution is to use the Nina Virtual Assistant to be the “always on” virtual agent. Nina delivers first contact resolution of 80% and more – meaning that the consumer gets all the information they wanted from the Nina virtual chat. This means that 20% or less of incoming messages will need to be routed to a contact center agent.
Real time chat is made possible by Nuance connecting to contact center live chat agents when they are available, using natural language understanding (NLU) that intelligently routes chats to the Nuance Agent Desktop. Nuance’s NLU routing automatically detects the customer request from the chat message and routes to the agent or agent pool who best able to service the customer for that specific request. This shortens the time that it takes to engage with the customer, and also speeds getting the customer the answer they need.
And make sure that customers get answers when agents are not available by using Asynchronous messaging and NLU routing to intelligently send customer messages to specific agents and agent pools who will work on the customer requests when they become available. Messages can automatically be sent to the customer to share estimated time for a response, or by using micro-bots, can let the customer know that progress is being made on their request.
To read more about Nuance Customer Service Messaging, please go here.
Publish Date: June 9, 2017 5:00 AM
The NBA Finals are in full swing! It’s Golden State vs. Cleveland for the third time in a row. That’s remarkable and a testament to both teams’ talent and hard work. But there’s more to it. The two team leaders Steph Curry (Golden State) and LeBron James (Cleveland) take their games and their teams to higher levels by utilizing three principles critical for NBA success. These principles also apply to customer service leaders looking to take their game – particularly their IVR game - to the top.
Know your opponent
Think LeBron James doesn’t know which way Steph prefers to dribble off a pick? No chance. Both players know the strengths and weaknesses of the other in detail and use that insight to put them in the best position to score or defend. Good customer service leaders must do the same. They must know as many customer details as possible to set themselves up for success. Does a particular customer prefer to call each week on Monday? Does your IVR know they are calling from a mobile phone? It all starts with data, analysis, and reporting. Strong IVR reporting capabilities create opportunities to understand who’s calling, why, and where the IVR is underperforming. Deep knowledge puts companies in the best position possible to offer the most personalized customer experience.
Create a plan
How can Steph and the Warriors stop LeBron? Even knowing which side of the floor he prefers and his 3-point shooting range, he’s still an excellent player. He won’t do things exactly the same each time. The coaches must devise a game plan to be ready for whatever he brings.
Can your company’s IVR handle whatever comes its way? What’s the plan to handle complicated questions? Can it understand someone speaking in a foreign language? Or what if they just keep pressing ‘0’ every time to get to the agent? If the plan is to make someone “Press 1 for Sales, 2 for Service,” then callers will increasingly skip it and you won’t be winning any awards. Plan a thoughtful approach to why people call and consider implementing a natural language based conversational IVR that helps meet customer needs – no matter what they bring. A conversational IVR with natural language understanding allows your callers to say whatever they want and the system is intelligent enough to understand and take the right next step.
At tip-off everything changes. Now it’s time to execute. When the ball is stolen from the Cavaliers, plans are great, but Kevin Durant needs to run the floor fast and make a precision pass to Steph Curry for the shot. This is the payoff to the preparation and planning.
Today, right now, is your IVR executing efficiently? Are your customers getting the service they expect? Are you hitting your containment and automation rates? If not, what will it take to raise the bar? There are so many IVR innovations available today. If you’ve already moved to a natural language based IVR then it starts simply with tuning the existing experience to deliver the right performance. Or consider enhancing your customer’s call with biometric based greeting that authenticates callers based purely on their voice. It’s a solution that promises to delight callers while greatly improving security and reducing fraud. Or take it to the ultimate level and create a transition as smooth as a Durant to Curry bounce pass by handing off IVR calls to your digital channels. Sometimes shifting callers to the web or virtual assistant is better for them and less expensive for the organization.
Whatever situation your IVR is in, adopting the principles that make Steph Curry and LeBron James great will also elevate your service game. And be a slam dunk with your customers.
Publish Date: June 8, 2017 5:00 AM
Wonder Woman is, well, wonder-ful. I like her because she has bullet-proof bracelets and a magical lasso that, wrapped around a person, forces them to tell the truth - both very useful tools in everyday life. Unfortunately, Hollywood super heroes aren’t real. Which is too bad, as today’s consumers could use someone to help them battle the fight for a fast answer to their question.
With the shift of communication channels to mobile phones and messaging applications, brands struggle to keep up with consumers’ expectations for immediate answers. Since 2011, with the rise of Facebook Messenger, consumers want to consolidate their communication channels with friends and family. And thanks to the introduction of chatbots within messaging platforms, brands can also communicate with customers in these channels.
Get rid of the villains in your customer engagement
Messaging allows users to answer at any given time, and the history of the conversation is never lost, which makes it easier to follow up on topics hours, and even days, later. The problem is that there are many villains (poorly designed platforms) out there that don’t answer questions in a timely manner, deliver wrong or unhelpful results, and force customers to run in circles and constantly repeat themselves. All in all, it can be a very frustrating experience that sucks the life out of the user.
Engaging with businesses could be so much simpler, if there would be fewer villains and more real-life super heroes. These “heroes” would have amazing capabilities such as:
- Answering questions at the speed of light
- Solving issues as easily as leaping over tall buildings in a single bound
- Reading the customer’s mind by having access to 3rd party data
- Being able to handle any number of incoming messages, thanks to robust strength
- Jumping back in time to receive context from prior conversations
Thankfully, there are not-so-secret societies out there that help businesses deliver incredible customer service on messaging platforms. Nuance’s Wonder Woman is not called Diana Prince, but Nina, and she doesn’t wear a cape. Instead she can answer customers’ questions immediately, and, even if your customers answer a day later, she can continue seamlessly by referencing the history of the conversation.
Request help from other super heroes
Similar to the Justice League, your customer service can have several super heroes. A virtual assistant is just one of the members with incredible superpowers. Human agents can help save the day as well. In those cases where the virtual assistant can’t assist your customer – for example, if the request is rather complex – the engagement can be moved to a live chat agent. Equipped with the context of the prior conversation, the chat agent can then leverage their own super power to continue assisting your customers for maximum customer satisfaction.
To learn even more about automated and human engagements in Messaging channels and best practices for efficient and stellar customer engagement, join me and my guest Julie Ask, Vice President, Forrester Research for a webinar on June 8th, 8am PT/ 11am ET.
Publish Date: June 2, 2017 5:00 AM
In the era of instant information, customers expect service to be personalized, simple and fast. As such, businesses must provide quality, customized experiences to drive loyalty. When looking to evolve the customer experience, businesses can look at personalization across a spectrum, from standard services to more proactive communications. Here’s a closer look:
Standardized: Standardized personalization is a great introduction to proactive individualized service. With standardized personalization, companies are making compelling interactions by using data to personalize, with information such as names, delivery numbers or flight itineraries.
Customized: Customized personalization is very similar – it is a first recognition from a company of customer preferences. Companies can modify their outreach and communications based on a customer’s explicitly provided preference – such as channel preference (for example, they want text messages) or frequency (for example, only as reminders for upcoming appointments). A customized personalization experience can be seen across many industries. Many organizations offer consumers a “preferences center” where they can indicate the type of messages they want to receive and their channels of choice.
Segmented: With this level of customization, companies are segmenting large groups of people that fit into certain categories based on data gathered about the customers such as demographics, geographic regions, and types of behavior. In organizing people into groups, companies can shift messaging based on customer needs.
Individualized: An individualized personalization experience allows the same type of interaction and context to grow. Businesses can leverage explicit preferences, previous behavior, past communication, and upcoming events to create a unique experience for specific individuals. The most innovative example of individualized personalization is when we leverage contextual knowledge using tools like conversational IVR and virtual assistants to customize the inbound experience. This creates a more connected, conversational dialogue over multiple channels that is specific to an individual’s unique set circumstances.
Anticipatory: Anticipatory personalization refers to when companies use predictive analytics to anticipate customer needs and enable more proactive, relevant experiences. This requires designing personalization for the entire customer journey – taking interactions from a transactional level to an ongoing relationship – and continuing to integrate inbound and outbound capabilities. Leveraging integration between technologies like conversational IVR and virtual assistants with more intuitive voice biometrics and natural language understanding has the ability to continue improving the customer experience and anticipate consumer needs.
The benefits of personalized experiences
Providing a personalized and positive experience has direct business implications. It often takes twelve positive experiences to make up for one unresolved, negative experience. There is increased intolerance for these negative experiences and two-thirds of customers cancel services or end relationships with companies after a single bad experience.
From our own research, we also know that the majority of consumers respond positively if they receive good customer service. Eighty percent of consumers have taken positive action after a good experience. For instance, fifty-five percent of customers have recommended the company to friends and family or conducted more business with that company, because they have had positive interactions. And for us, those are numbers worth remembering.
Publish Date: May 18, 2017 5:00 AM
Whether you’re trying to get a right answer to win one million dollars or spin a wheel to guess a phrase, game shows can be exciting. Many game show participants rely on a strong foundation of knowledge; however, all players must also lean on luck and have a knack for making guesses. And although taking calculated guesses is fun on a game show, guessing shouldn’t be a business strategy when improving the customer experience.
Today, the brand is synonymous with the customer experience. Every experience either enhances or damages brand reputation in the mind of the customer. And when done right, businesses across any industry can see a dramatic revenue impact by focusing on the customer experience.
So how can companies stop guessing what customers want and deliver more relevant, hyper-personalized experiences? By consistently leveraging customer data across channels. To do so, businesses can capitalize on this data by following five main steps:
- Integrate data across channels and touch points. Integrating channels and data across touch points is a key first step in effectively interpreting and using customer information. It’s common for customer data to live across multiple channels and touch points in the customer journey. Look for omnichannel solutions that can handle most interaction points, but can also integrate data from interactions that are happening outside of one specific platform.
- Run predictive analytics to better understand consumer needs. Use big data technology to run models on massive data sets across channels, and look for patterns that influence or predict success and failure. Start by identifying the desired outcome and then run big data modeling to find what factors predict the outcome. The value of the modeling will depend on how much of the customer data has been integrated. You can predict outcomes much more accurately if you feed a comprehensive view of customer interactions into the model. Trying to predict outcomes using a sliver of interaction data is inconclusive because of all the other factors that are not considered. In utilizing predictive analytics across data sets, companies can provide a more contextual understanding of each customer journey.
- Implement contextual awareness. If you can make your IVR technology contextually aware of recent customer communications across the different channels, the customer’s interaction can be streamlined, thus saving the customer and the company excessive time and resources, while improving customer satisfaction scores. For example, based on survey data from one of our customers in the financial space, a streamlined interaction such as “Welcome back John. I see we texted you earlier about a payment due today. Are you calling about that?” can increase satisfaction scores by 7 percentage points, while reducing the call duration by an average of 30 seconds. It is hard for companies to achieve these types of gains if they don’t have access to data regarding all of the company’s recent interactions with the customers. Armed with the data, however, a social team can engage in an intelligent way that shows an understanding of the situation. The company that is perceived to be smarter and more responsive to the customer will gain a competitive advantage.
- Experiment. Experimentation generates valuable data. If businesses always gather data in the same way, it is difficult to know why a customer experience is or is not working, or if something might work better. Companies that try multiple approaches to see if another strategy works better can find the factors that really matter in creating a positive customer experience, versus those that do not.
- Document the Results and Socialize. Why reinvent the wheel? Effective documentation and communication of the results guarantee that these gains can be reproduced with minimal effort. Moreover, incremental enhancements can be built on top of proven methods to achieve even better results.
A guess-free future.
The better job your organization does at providing an effortless, personal experience, the more customers will buy from you – and be less likely to buy from your competitors. At the same time, these customers are very likely to become evangelists for your products and services. And the more people who can advocate for your company, the better – no guessing required.
Publish Date: April 21, 2017 5:00 AM
Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Consumer Bankers Association’s annual CBA Live conference. More than 1300 senior-level bankers gathered in Gaylord, Texas to network with colleagues and find ways to address a multitude of challenges facing their companies. At the general session, attendees were asked what they thought would be the top issues facing the banking industry over the next three years. In a major change from previous years, “regulation” slipped from 1st to 5th in terms of priority. Instead, issues that pertain to better customer and employee engagement rose to the top of the priority list.
I say it’s about time.
In the nearly 10 years since the Great Recession, banks have been dealing with an increasing array of new and in many cases, complex regulations. While acknowledging that some of these rules were a necessary response to the excesses that led to the financial crisis in 2008, the consensus at the conference was that the regulatory pendulum had swung too far. Banks have been spending too much on compliance, in some cases stifling innovation at a time when consumers and employees are increasingly demanding a more engaging and frictionless experience when it comes to financial services.
Now, as Washington is pledging to reduce regulatory burden on American businesses across the industry spectrum, bankers appear poised to address this innovation challenge. Many ideas were shared about how to do this at the conference, and they all had one thing in common – the future of banking will be digital.
Based on what I saw at CBA Live, here’s what the not-too-distant future will look like in the banking industry:
- Checkbooks and lengthy branch visits are giving way to mobile apps and virtual assistants powered by natural language understanding. Customers increasingly use these tools to handle almost all their transactions through self-service. The bank employee of the future will be skilled at mapping these customer journeys through a variety of digital channels, looking for ways to remove friction and improve the experience.
- New products are emerging from the combination of big data and artificial intelligence (AI). One speaker at the conference called AI “the electricity of our era”, as revolutionary in its impact in this century as the light bulb was in the last. AI will fuel everything from personalized recommendations to proactive transactional alerts. One-size-fits-all products will morph into unique solutions for every need.
- Concerns about privacy and data security will be eased as passwords and PINs are replaced by biometric authentication. Soon, something you are supposed to know but have probably forgotten will be replaced by something you are and can never forget. Already voice biometrics are being used by banks around the world to simplify customer access to their accounts and to weed out fraudsters. Facial recognition and behavioral biometrics are adding to the flexibility of these solutions.
The conference ended with an inspiring talk by Richard Davis, retiring Chairman and CEO of U.S. Bank. Mr. Davis reminded the audience that only bankers can turn one dollar of deposits into seven dollars-worth of realized customer dreams. With two standing ovations, the crowd at CBA Live showed they enthusiastically agreed and then set off to make it happen. I am glad to be with them on the journey.
Publish Date: April 14, 2017 5:00 AM
There’s a book on the New York Times best seller list that’s all the rage in the U.S.: “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. Why are Americans so hungry for a how-to guide to organize their home? A UCLA study found that middle-class Americans face a clutter crisis due to a continuous deluge of hyper-discount goods. The madness of accumulating stuff has driven people to a breaking point, and they’re ready to self-assess and reprogram.
Kondo’s method of decluttering centers around the question “What sparks joy?” She instructs readers to take inventory of their belongings by holding each item and asking themselves if it makes them happy. If it doesn’t, then chuck it. Once they’ve purged the non-joy-inducing items, they can then easily recognize the true holes in their wardrobe, kitchen, library, etc. The overarching benefit of this process? The simplified surroundings enable people to be more productive and fulfilled.
What does Tidying Up have to do with customer service?
The same clutter crisis can happen with a large company that invests in multiple customer engagement solutions. Businesses find themselves trying an assortment of solutions for each individual area or channel. But often, those disparate systems don’t work well together, resulting in inefficiency and unnecessary complexity. When this happens, it’s time for companies to step away from the chaos and experience the game-changing magic of tidying up.
Brands should take inventory of joy-inducing programs
First, you as a brand, should “take inventory” of your customer service processes and solutions. Does the performance of each one bring joy to the customer or joy to your bottom line? If the answer is no, it’s time for a change. Once you’ve weeded through the non-joy-inducing programs, look and see where the holes are. What are you lacking? Is it efficiency? Is it proficiency? Is it unity among the various channels? What about the ability to measure cross-channel performance?
If it doesn’t add value, it’s time to simplify
Kondo’s decluttering method may seem over-simplified, and certainly the application of this method upon a brand’s customer service is extraordinarily simplistic! But what resonates for both individual people and large enterprises is the mindset that if it’s not working for you (and it’s not adding true value), it doesn’t belong in your life or business.
Marie Kondo is a professional cleaning consultant who untangles messes for clients (who wait for her services for three months). Sometimes, spring cleaning is much more successful when someone on the outside looks in on your muddled life to transform it into one that works more efficiently and effectively for you.
When seeking an objective outside perspective, large enterprises will find it pertinent to partner with a vendor who is in high demand for transforming customer experience with exceptional professional services and best-in-class technology. Organizations and vendors can collaborate to declutter the multiple channels of technology and contact center operations that don’t work together. From there, in order to provide the type of customer service that brings joy and satisfaction to consumers, businesses can work with vendors to organize their omni-channel customer service program into five critical components: 1) a digital-first strategy, 2) connected conversations, 3) targeted interactions, 4) anticipatory involvement, and 5) use of artificial intelligence. With the ability to view these components within one unified platform, you’ll then begin to see the rewards of your catharsis and restructuring.
Are you ready for spring cleaning?
Publish Date: April 11, 2017 5:00 AM
Over the past few weeks, you’ve heard our take on some of the key trends that were presented in Forrester’s “2017 Customer Service Trends: Operations Become Smarter and More Strategic” report. From self-service via IVR to smarter field service, we’ve witnessed in our blog series that customer service is working smarter. To continue the series, let’s take a look at Kate Leggett’s prediction that companies will sustain automated customer conversations. At Nuance, we completely agree about the importance – and necessity – of embracing automated conversations. But, in order for those engagements to work smarter, they require embedded artificial intelligence (AI) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU).
2017 is the year in which the future will be pulled into the now, and as soon as more businesses get on board to what is happening, these futuristic possibilities will become reality. Take, for example, the financial services industry. A recent Accenture report found that artificial intelligence will become the primary way banks interact with their customers within the next three years.
The following scenario illustrates the magic that’s happening in the background of our everyday interactions with intelligent agents of all varieties.
Picture, if you will, in the not-so-distant future, Rick, who is waking up from a good night’s sleep. Rick’s intelligent virtual assistant tells him from his home speaker all about his upcoming day; he then asks it to move his 12 p.m. appointment with the bank to 12:30 p.m. Shortly afterwards, he receives a notification via SMS, telling him that the appointment has been rescheduled.
On his way to work, Rick tells his phone’s voice assistant, “Call my bank.” When he reaches the bank’s conversational IVR, it asks him if he is calling about the appointment later that day, which he confirms. Because the IVR understands natural language, Rick can ask it, “What papers do I need to bring with me?” However, if the IVR doesn’t have the answer, it can immediately move him to a call agent who tells him what documentation he would need at the appointment.
Rick’s appointment goes well, and shortly after the visit, he receives a quick summary via SMS with a link to the bank’s mobile app. While looking at the update in the app, he asks the virtual assistant to check for outgoing wire transfers. The virtual assistant suggests adding some buffer to the checking account since it looks like the current balance will not cover all the transfers. While Rick is talking, the virtual assistant verifies his voice and schedules a money transfer from savings to checking for the next day.
On his way home, Rick receives a Facebook message from a friend sharing news about increased fraudulent charges on credit cards, similar to what Rick has. He advised his phone’s voice assistant to start a new text message using Facebook Messenger to his bank. The phone translates his voice to text and sends the message. After a few Facebook Messenger exchanges with the bank, he gets connected to a chat agent who informs him about the current news and assures him of the procedures the bank has already put into place to protect Rick.
Rick’s day was reliant on the AI interfaces that allowed him to interact with the bank when and where he needed to. Sounds like a great way for customers to connect with enterprises, right? The problem is that enterprises know what their customers want, but have difficulties deploying such a solution. The key lies in communicating with the customer using natural language. Natural Language Understanding allows customers to use their own words to describe why they are engaging, resulting in a faster, more direct path to resolution. NLU enhances the customer’s self-service experience, while delivering efficiency and automation improvements.
These fully AI-integrated, language-intelligent engagements are becoming universal at this very moment, almost second nature. If financial institutions can envision a scenario like the one you’ve just read, and anticipate that AI will change the face of banking in the near future, then that’s a good sign that the customer service trend of automated conversations is more than just a trend. It’s an everyday function – like clicking a mouse.
Publish Date: April 5, 2017 5:00 AM
As the Chief Medical Officer for Landmark Hospitals, I’m responsible for seven long-term acute care (LTAC) environments, where we primarily treat high acuity medical patients. I am also the CMIO for Chartpad, a cloud-based EMR with Technomad based out of Bonita Springs, FL. In this type of setting our patients are very sick; they are often transferred from other hospitals and may come to us with 12 diagnoses and 20 medications. It’s our responsibility to make sure we are giving them the very best care possible.
One of the things I’ve seen in my 15 years of practice is the increasing number of requirements being placed on physicians. We’re seeing more patients every day, and with an aging population those patients are sicker. With Medicare cuts, we need to see more patients in order to break even financially. One of the ways we can combat these pressures is to look at the time-consuming processes in our day, and see how we can improve them.
Ideally, I’d like to get rid of my keyboard and mouse altogether. I want to be able to sit down at my Electronic Medical Record (EMR) and create all of my notes and place all of my orders quickly and easily, and then get back to my patients’ bedsides or to family meetings. To me, it’s all about interacting with people and spending less time at the computer.
That’s why I was excited to meet Florence. To set the record straight, Florence lives inside my computer. Named after Florence Nightingale, the pioneer of public health, Florence is a virtual assistant created by Nuance that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to help lighten the load of clinicians. Florence not only helps me to update the EMR more quickly, but it actually takes things a step further and thinks ahead to do things like create orders for me.
When I had the opportunity to try Florence, I jumped at the chance. Florence is now omnipresent and built into our EMR. I don’t have to type in the order, I can just speak it. No matter where I am in the record I can turn to Florence and have a conversation without touching the keyboard or mouse.
I’ve always found that one of the biggest problems of everyone moving so quickly is that doctors will put a recommendation in the plan of a patient’s medical record, but they might not place all the orders to activate that plan either because they get interrupted or are so busy that it doesn’t get done. Computer Physician Order Entry (CPOE) is very time consuming especially in a LTAC setting like ours which is why I felt that Florence was a perfect complement for our workflow.
The real benefit to me is as I think of something, I can order it immediately. If I’m creating progress notes and creating my plan, Florence can extract all those orders from my plan, create orders on its own and confirm them with me. This is a tremendous help in eliminating that error rate of stating something in your notes, but not actually completing all the steps to get it done.
The hard evidence
I participated in a 6-month pilot with Nuance where Florence was integrated with our system, Over that period of time, we completed about 3,000 orders. I was truly impressed with the results. Florence reduced my time entering orders using CPOE by 35% and reduced my keystrokes to 0. Now that I’m even more familiar with Florence, I would estimate that I reduce my average input time by up to 50% on complex orders. You can see my side-by-side video comparison here.
How does a Virtual Assistant help?
I’ve found that Florence really guides you through the process. It’s a “conversational agent” using speech recognition and language understanding, but the beauty is that you don’t even notice it. As I enter notes or orders, Florence makes suggestions or asks questions when appropriate. That’s the built-in intelligence to assist the clinician for that error-free rate we are all striving for when we provide care.
Teenagers are not the only ones who use technology. I believe that most doctors want and need this kind of innovation. For example, if I rattle off an order I might not notice I missed something, but Florence will see what I forgot, and will ask me for it. Busy doctors need that help.
Artificial intelligence technology has come a long way in the last couple of years. I believe that AI-enabled solutions with this type of real time intelligence will help us shift our time back to our patients, while Florence can help handle all the important, yet time consuming clinical documentation and medical orders.
Publish Date: March 29, 2017 5:00 AM