The promise of a delightful customer support experience comes with the responsibility of actually delivering it consistently. Just buying and installing the latest customer support software onboard does not automatically mean that you will provide a great experience to your customers. There are various things that need to be taken into account besides the use of a support tool that will make or break the experience for a customer.
In case you’d like some insight on it, we’ve got you covered. In our interview with Ben Motteram, we’ve explored areas like customer-centric strategies, emotional intelligence and the upcoming role of chatbots.
Based in Melbourne, Australia, Ben is a customer experience specialist with over 20 years’ experience developing and implementing customer acquisition and retention strategies among some of the largest organizations in Australia. Through his consulting company, CXpert, Ben now assists clients in areas such as CX strategy and employee engagement.
Q1. Customer centricity - a lot of businesses have finally made this concept their primary focus. But are their existing strategies sufficient to keep them in business?
The success of any customer-centric strategy is determined by the extent that a business is prepared to support it. It’s one thing to say: “we are 100% focused on our customers”; it’s entirely another thing to make the internal changes that are required to deliver on that promise. Being customer centric requires the entire organization to be aligned behind the customer. That means transforming the organization so that:
- Every employee understands how their job impacts customer experience
- All KPI’s are aligned and based on customer satisfaction/advocacy which is tracked and reported on
- Customer journeys are mapped and understood by every employee
- Customer feedback is analyzed and acted upon
- All new initiatives are assessed on their impact on customer experience
- Organizational values reflect the focus on customers
- New hires are assessed on their customer centricity
If an organization has an existing strategy that conflicts with its CX strategy, that reduces the chance of success. And in the Age of the Customer, businesses that don’t execute their CX strategy successfully, run the real risk of long-term failure.
Q2. According to you, how does emotional intelligence play a role in customer support?
Daniel Goleman, the American psychologist who helped popularize emotional intelligence, said there are five key elements to it:
- Self-awareness – knowing how you feel, and how your emotions and actions can affect the people around you
- Self-regulation – your ability to stay in control
- Motivation – your desire to work consistently towards your goals
- Empathy – your ability to put yourself in someone else's situation
- Social skills – your ability to communicate, manage change and resolve conflicts
In a customer support role, all five elements of emotional intelligence are critical not only for connecting with customers and calmly resolving their issues, but also for operating successfully within a team.
Q3. Is there really a contest between live chat and chatbots? Your thoughts.
Chatbots are already adding significant value when used in the context of Frequently Asked Questions, triage assistance, lead generation and e-commerce. The potential strengths of bots are:
- They offer 24/7 service
- They provide an instant response
- They provide answers to simple questions
- Complaints are usually resolved quickly
- They can provide detailed, expert answers to complex questions
- They offer a great level of service – when deployed correctly they’re friendly and approachable
In contrast, live chat is great for customers who prefer dealing with humans and when more complex queries need to be addressed. To answer the question, I don’t think there is a contest between humans and chatbots; they’re complementary. Both have their own strengths and when employed successfully, can work synergistically to enhance the customer experience.
Q4. Many brands have set a trend in terms of customer support and become the benchmark. So can you recommend a new strategy that helps newbies get a competitive edge?
When it comes to customer support the strategy doesn’t change. Regardless of whether you’re an incumbent or a new entrant, you need to understand your customers - their wants, needs, preferences, motivations, and behavior - and deliver an experience that meets or exceeds their expectations.
For newcomers to gain a competitive edge, they should consider how incumbents are currently supporting customers and determine if it could be done better in more innovative ways. Could the industry be disrupted by the use of technology (as was done by Uber and Airbnb)? Could customer needs be preempted as Amazon successfully did with their A9 organic product ranking algorithm? Are there any customer needs that are currently being unfulfilled?
Agility is the biggest advantage that newcomers in any industry should leverage. They won't have any legacy systems or policies in place that are hard to change. They can rapidly respond to market conditions and should use that to differentiate.
Q5. How do you visualize the growth of chatbots in the coming years?
A Gartner report predicted that 25% of companies will use chatbots for their customer service operations by 2020. That’s a lot of chatbots! When you consider that 80% percent of consumers prefer to message customer support than call them (as per another report from IBM), I think that number is realistic. An Australian company, OutThought, which designs and delivers intelligent chatbots, has designed a Maturity Model specific to Virtual Assistants (see Figure 1). I think this accurately sums up where we are now and where we’re going to be in the next few years.
Figure 1: OutThought Virtual Assistant Maturity Model
Currently, Assistants in most organizations are at Level 2 and some may have integration points to other live agent systems for handover or basic integration to applications (Level 4). Coming next in Level 3 is the ability to apply context, which will enable Virtual Assistants to naturally flow through a conversation even when the user’s input twists and turns in unexpected ways.
Beyond that, in Level 4, we will start to interact with Assistants that can effortlessly include information about us from disparate enterprise systems in the organization. The example above would return the user to vehicle types and ask which vehicle they would like to make a claim for. It would also collect the claim information and store this in the CRM or another enterprise system against the customer’s record, starting the actual claims process within the Virtual Assistant.
Finally, in the stage I’m looking forward to the most, Level 5, where Assistants will start to combine simple business processes using robotic process automation such as combining linked customer data from separate sources, executing a create claim request or other, and be able to take, and send information to the Virtual Assistant to complete a user’s request or process, end-to-end for multiple processes.
It is also likely by this time that organizations won’t have just one Virtual Assistant in customer service. They will have several Virtual Assistants with different roles and capabilities that are all aware of each other and where to route users based on which assistant will serve them best.
The future looks very bright for chatbots. For those working in customer service, it certainly is an exciting time to be alive!