Last Wednesday, I tuned in to one of the biggest webinars of the year—Megatrends to Watch in 2020: A Preview of Forces Driving Customer Technologies, hosted by Destination CRM and sponsored by NICE Nexidia, Nuance, Calabrio, and Edify (that’s us).
The panel of experts discussed everything from artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to voice technologies and advanced analytics. Thinking of adding bots? Need to introduce text support? This webinar gave loads of insights into what’s going to fundamentally change customer interactions this year and what you need to do. For those of you unable to attend (or even if you did), here’s a little recap...
Trend #1: Analytics
The first presenter was Abby Monaco, Senior Product Marketing Manager at NICE. She dove straight into discussing data, analytics, and how sentiment analysis is an incredibly powerful tool to improve the CX across entire organizations. When your contact center leverages sentiment analysis, customers can be routed to the right agent anywhere within your organization if and when it’s time. ML-powered sentiment analysis can also automatically collect customer feedback inside the interaction. Modern tools like these can quickly summarize how customers are feeling about an experience or a problem they are having. And knowing if people feel relieved or frustrated after interacting with your brand is important stuff, right?
Trend #2: Voice technologies
Chris Caile, Senior Principal Product Marketing Manager at Nuance, talked about the rise of conversational AI and the increasing demand for do-it-yourself technologies for large enterprises—like APIs and open tools—where you can manage all the work in-house. Big companies are turning to the cloud and open-source technologies. He also focused on voice technologies in relation to predictions.
Just like smart speakers in our homes, people expect their interactions with customer service agents to be as interactive, language-driven, quick and easy. It’s now possible to predict why someone is contacting your business, effectively address their needs, identify patterns in customer inquiries, and proactively contact your customers in advance via SMS or email.
Trend #3: Machine learning
The third presenter was our very own co-founder and CEO, Cameron Weeks. He built Edify after being fed up with the state of customer service technology. Cameron discussed why AI and ML are not interchangeable before diving into how ML is truly transforming customer service. Machine learning is a technology that essentially looks at things that have occurred in the past (historical data) in order to make predictions on what may happen in the future. The most common use case of machine learning in the contact center is chatbots. ‘Pound 0’ for an agent left us all with a bad taste, but society is shifting in favor of today’s bots and their capabilities. ML-powered bots can help free up humans by taking on some of the self-service activities that customers expect (like looking up account information), use predictive data modeling to see what customers are doing with your product, proactively engage those who are suspected to have a problem, and so much more.
At Edify, we believe there are endless use cases and huge opportunity to dramatically expand the way we use machine learning in our contact centers today. One example with enormous benefits is concurrent interactions; by using sentiment analysis to understand how well an agent is performing on a given day, we can start changing the number of concurrent interactions said agent is having. For example, if an agent is struggling on a particular day, sentiment analysis would flag this and the agent would receive fewer customer inquiries to manage. In a typical contact center environment, there’s no way a manager could manually do this for every agent. But smart technology can! Not only does it save time and effort, but it dramatically increases the experience for your customers, too.
It’s easy to see why ML matters so much, but the impact of ML doesn’t have to end there. Companies can also start using ML to optimize the overall employee experience. By making routing decisions so customers end up in the right place to recommending knowledge-base articles and content to help solve customer problems in real-time, ML empowers agents to be better at what they do and create happier customers as a result.
If you haven’t already implemented a machine learning-powered smart bot, you should. Nobody hates getting their answers faster or more accurately. :) Machine learning can essentially address the ultimate goal of customer service: to engage a customer before they have to engage with your company.
Trend #4: Going beyond the tools
Brad Snedeker, Director of Product Marketing at Calabrio, focused on the future of the contact center. In 2015, we were all conspiring about what would be happening in 2020. Well, here we are. Everyone is still trying to deliver the best service and experience to their customers and, unfortunately, most businesses are still falling short. That’s where predictive analytics come into play--to find solutions and prescribe potential fixes to customer issues before they are raised.
Analytics are important, but 2020 is also the time to look beyond the tools. Brad discussed the increasingly important shift towards focusing on agents and improving contact center culture (we fully support this). Agents are the front-line within every organization, so they are critical to providing top-notch service to your customers. We’re living in a gig economy where more and more employees are looking for flex work schedules and better benefits. Is your contact center a great place to work?
We say: When the employee experience is better, the customer experience is better. There’s no denying it.
The time is now
Customers today are more communication-driven than ever, and they seek immediate gratification, which is where all of these trends, technologies, and tools come into play. It’s a fact that computers are just more efficient at some things than humans are, and they should be leveraged accordingly. When used correctly, these modern tools will empower your teams. Whether you’re ready to deploy machine learning or are seeking advanced analytics, implementing these technologies is easier than you think. Start small, choose the right platform (we recommend a cloud-native platform with built-in machine learning), run a pilot, and build on what you learn.
Of course, it’s not just about tech alone. We believe it’s critical to focus on your people, too. When you can improve the efficiency and happiness of your agents, it will improve the customer experience. So think about the culture of your contact center. Do your agents feel supported by their managers? Do they believe they are integral to the success of their company? If you’re able to get your people to feel more engaged, they will give more discretionary effort and then deliver better service. Isn’t that the ultimate goal we're all working towards?
Our last piece of advice: You can’t use the same old outdated technology and expect a different outcome. To see a change in your CX, you have to make changes yourself. Rethinking how you’ve always done things might be just what you need to do in order to thrive in 2020 and beyond.