Step 4 of 5: AI Self-Service Without Compromise – Avoid Siloed Channels With a Unified, Omnichannel CX Platform
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This is the fourth of a five-part blog series that outlines the Five Best Practices for AI Self-Service Without Compromise. Use this guide to automate your contact center and Customer Experience (CX) with AI self-service in voice, chat, and text.
Best Practice #4: Avoid siloed channels with a unified, omnichannel CX platform.
Every organization has its own channel strategy for the contact center. But the common thread should be to provide an omnichannel self-service experience that is both consistent and effortless for customers. As you’re exploring contact center self-service, choosing the call types and chats that are perfect for automation, designating the “guardrails,” and connecting to customer data, the fourth best practice is ensuring that all of that work can be scaled across customer channels instead of building in silos in each channel.
Research has told us that live chat is the fastest growing channel, both by volume and preference. Other studies say that SMS text is the most important. Meanwhile, voice continues to offer the greatest opportunity for call center deflection and savings. The reality is that every customer channel is important in its own way. With the rise of conversational AI, it is imperative to implement self-service options in every channel; it is not scalable to continue to hire more live agents to handle the growing number of inquiries.
Building in Silos
Many organizations have defaulted to a siloed approach in order to keep with the pace of change and build out automation in their different customer channels. A siloed approach is when all customer service channel offerings are built independent of one another, from initial design to final deployment and ongoing monitoring and tuning. As a result, the voice channel is not connected to or consistent with chat, or SMS text, and so on. Therefore, customers have different experiences with the brand, depending on their preferred channel. When they switch channels, they often need to start all over again and repeat information to multiple virtual assistants or live agents.
This kind of development opens you up to great risk of expending significant time, money, and resources to smooth out the full experience. You end up needing to train separate AI engines for each channel and build out unique integrations to customer data for each engine. Keep in mind, a strong omnichannel contact center includes between 3-6 channels, so you can see where the resource investment begins to weigh you down.
On top of that, siloed channels can reduce or eliminate information-sharing across channels, leading to increased customer effort. For example, most customers who initiate contact with a company through live chat will not be recognized when they abandon the chat and call the contact center. Customers are required to reauthenticate, repeat their issue, receive the same troubleshooting steps – essentially they start from scratch. This extra effort hurts the CX and impacts customer loyalty, especially when competitors offer a seamless experience with reduced friction.
Moreover, since every self-service project is a journey of perpetual improvement and never simply a destination, there is an enormous amount of work related to ongoing management after going “live.” All the monitoring and tuning required will lead to applications that fork further and further away from each other in time if managed independent of each other. These differences become even more exaggerated if the back-end technology for each channel has different capabilities.
Lastly, siloed channels lack consistent reporting mechanisms, making it difficult to evaluate success in a uniform way and define a consistent roadmap for ongoing changes. Inconsistent reporting also creates pain points for live agents; when customers need to be transferred out of automation – no matter the channel – agents will struggle to pick up the conversation where it left off because the information is in disparate places. As you evaluate your self-service strategy, make sure the technology you choose supports omnichannel to ensure unified management, capabilities, reporting, and agent access capabilities.
Automate in Voice First for the Greatest ROI
Best practice is to begin automating in voice before scaling to digital channels. Why? Despite the growth of chat, SMS text, Facebook Messenger, and other messaging apps, voice remains the channel of choice for most customers and represents the greatest opportunity for call center deflection, cost savings, and ROI. Then, after proving success and ROI, scale the same solution to digital channels like chat and text for a seamless CX from a unified platform.
This idea of a unified platform for conversational AI is key to the future of the contact center. In their recent report titled “The Future of the Contact Center,” Gartner analysts Simon Harrison and Steve Blood say:
“The contact center is critical to meeting the organizational objectives of delivering consistent, intelligent and personalized customer experiences, irrespective of the customer engagement channel.”
The days of using simple IVR self-service for voice and chatbots for chat are gone. You need to think about how to create consistent and seamless experiences across channels. TechStyle Fashion Group (Fabletics, ShoeDazzle, JustFab, Fabkids) saw this shift happening when they examined their customer preferences and the landscape of conversational AI technology that was available to them. They deployed AI-powered virtual agents first in voice, deflecting thousands of repetitive call types such as order status, skip the month, and account management. Then, they scaled the voice bot solution to web chat – their fastest growing channel – to provide a consistent CX to their members. The AI chatbot automates the same processes handled in voice. Facebook Messenger is the next messaging channel that TechStyle plans to tackle with virtual agents.
The advantage of an omnichannel self-service solution extends to both CapEx and OpEx savings:
- CapEx savings – no need to build, train, and integrate different applications from scratch for each channel.
- OpEx savings – no need to manage each channel separately.
SmartAction offers best-in-class AI voice automation that scales seamlessly to chat and text—a feature known as Omni-bot™. This allows contact centers to deliver conversational self-service to customers in every channel – voice, chat, text, Messenger, Skype. SmartAction delivers its proprietary conversational AI as a service, so contact centers can outsource all of their automation needs to SmartAction.
The fifth and final best practice, “Use Human-Centric Design from a Team of CX Experts,” ties the entire initiative together. At the end of the day, Customer Experience is the single point of focus, but it’s hard. The best way to make life less hard is automating via a team of CX experts who guide you through the transformation to AI automation, putting CX above all else.