TECHNOLOGY

2018: The Year for Customer Experience Transformation

BY Kathy Juve

The customer experience as we know it is changing. The industry today is being transformed by some of the most significant technological developments of our generation including artificial intelligence (AI), big data, analytics and robotic process automation (RPA).

It is a fascinating and exciting time to be in the retail industry, and as we look into 2018, there are three important and transformative customer experience trends that we should be considering.

1. Rise of the Virtual Assistant
Artificial Intelligent virtual personal assistant (VPA) speakers, such as Alexa and Google Home, are going mainstream. In the first quarter of the first quarter of 2017, 710% more VPA speakers were sold than in the same quarter the year before.

Some businesses have started to use these devices to make day-to-day tasks easier, such as starting a conference call or scheduling meetings, but very soon these new “toys” used in the office will fundamentally change the way retailers across the world interact with customers.

Although Amazon has only just made it possible for third parties to create their own skills for Alexa, customer service companies are in full gear ahead. Alexa can now enable organizations to receive and respond to customer inquiries made through popular virtual personal assistant (VPA) speakers. Right now, for example, a customer can say to Alexa, “Alexa, open ABC Bank” to initiate a conversation and then the user can ask, “What was my last deposit?”

VPA speakers are going to be able to handle ever more sophisticated commands as the technology evolves and, much like the smartphone, consumers will depend more and more on these devices in everyday life.

2. Voice of the Customer (VoC)
Have you ever made business decisions based on customer feeling and emotions? You should try.

Research firm Forrester argues that in nearly every industry, emotion has a bigger influence on loyalty than that of effectiveness or ease of interaction. Forrester defines a VoC program as a systematic approach to collecting customer feedback, mining that feedback and data for insights, and then incorporating the insights into business decisions.

It is all about listening through data and analytics. Data-driven evidence from customer feedback and other data points can modify, optimize and transform every touchpoint for customers. The ability to capture customer feedback and use that to retain customers, increase revenue and grow, is causing more retailers to invest in the technology.

3. Agent of the Future
Robots are not replacing humans anytime soon, but they will continue to change the way we work.

As AI evolves, it will take on and support lower level, simple, day-to-day work, enabling agents to focus their time on resolving the trickiest customer calls. To make this effective, the agent of the future will need the knowledge and capabilities to handle more high-level conversations across various platforms and channels.

In 2018, and beyond, it will be vital that companies invest in providing the proper means for their agents to handle such calls. Training is important, but so is the technology and data available to them.

Retail is undergoing a transformation and old models, and ways of operating are being tested like never before. Get ahead of the trends above this year, and you will thrive.

Kathy Juve is senior VP marketing and product development, Convergys, a provider of customer experience outsourcing.

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TECHNOLOGY

AI steps up Lamps Plus’ post-order customer engagement

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

A specialty lamps retailer has a new way to deliver real-time information to its customers post-purchase.

Lamps Plus is using artificial intelligence (AI) to provide customers with real-time updates and answers about their online order status. By adding an AI-powered platform from Linc, the retailer now enables shoppers to use a conversational chatbot to track orders via digital channels, including Amazon Alexa and Facebook Messenger.

The customer care automation solution leverages AI and commerce-specialized natural language understanding, a move that eliminates the expense and burden of a custom-built solution, while still offering two-way customer communication. It is also a scalable solution that gives the retailer the opportunity to expand the automation in the future.

Specifically, the solution enables customers to track orders through live-updating emails, SMS text, and 2-way chat via Facebook Messenger chatbots and voice assistance via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant platforms. This configuration reduces customer support tickets and calls with more clear tracking emails, proactive updates and deflections to carriers.

Customers stay abreast of the entire delivery process by tracking details — including what is contained in an order — for each shipped item. Shoppers can also message carriers directly, and gather real-time details about each item’s estimated arrival time. The platform also captures customer feedback, giving Lamps Plus insights needed to continue improving their customer care strategy.

“When customers place an order, they expect real-time updates and answers via new communication methods including Facebook Messenger, Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant,” said Angela Hsu, senior VP, Internet business and marketing, Lamps Plus. “Linc’s AI platform enables us to enhance and automate our customer communications, while reducing costs.”

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RILA’s Retail CEO Forum honors ‘game-changing’ tech start-ups

BY Marianne Wilson

And the winners are….

The Retail Industry Leaders Association has announced the winners of its first-ever (R)Tech Retail CEO Innovation Awards. The winners — IamBot, Multifold Retail, and Persado — were chosen by RILA’s board of directors, the CEOs and heads of innovation for some of America’s largest retail brands. The company were showcased at RILA’s Retail CEO Forum this week in Tucson.

“It’s an incredible opportunity to have CEOs and chief innovation officers from America’s most well-known brands interacting directly with emerging companies that, through their own commitment to innovation, are enabling the future of our industry,” said RILA senior VP of research, innovation, and sustainability Adam Siegel. “We’re excited to recognize these three companies, who have embraced the charge from our consumers to deliver ubiquitous and ultra-personal shopping experiences and in turn, have developed game-changing technologies.”

RILA’s (R)Tech Center believes that one trend is driving change in the industry more than any other: the trend toward ubiquitous and ultra-personal shopping. The winners were hand-picked by America’s leading chief executives for their groundbreaking work in promoting the industry’s move tow move towards shopping wherever, whenever through artificial intelligence and augmented reality, according to RILA.

Here is a brief overview on the winning companies:

IamBot helps brands and retailers sell directly to customers through messaging platforms. It is a comprehensive conversational commerce solution based on the state-of-the-art artificial intelligence. It seamlessly integrates with stores’ messaging channels to provide customers with the ubiquitous and super convenient shopping experience.

Multifold Retail believes that augmented reality will change the way that consumers shop. It offers all the tools retailers need: content creation (3D model creator, editor & library), viewers (augmented reality & 360 degrees), marketing and advertising tools (social media, catalog, in-store/OOH campaigns) and tracking/analytics.

Persado is the marketing language cloud — AI generated language that resonates the most with any audience, segment or individual. Comprised of the world’s largest database, with over a million words and phrases tagged and scored for consumer marketing, Persado’s marketing language cloud enables brands to increase acquisition and retention while building long term consumer relationships.

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