This article was originally posted on Verizon.com.
Adversity often carries the seeds of innovation, and at a time when many customer experiences are redirected to digital channels by necessity, new ideas are forming that demonstrate how to exceed customer expectations through automation and intelligence.
With online shopping, remote collaboration and remote customer service channels surging during COVID-19, the time to invest in digital-learning tools and solutions is now. If you're looking to exceed customer expectations, here are five avenues to consider.
1. Cloud contact center
The old model of densely packed call centers was effectively vaporized by COVID-19. Those companies that had already virtualized their contact centers easily navigated the shift to distributed customer support. Cloud contact center software makes setup fast and easy, and organizations that can accommodate part-time and remote workers have less staffing and logistics headaches. Customer support is better, too, because companies can hire the best agents without concern for their location and work hours while still managing to improve customer experience.
2. Provide multi-point access
Customers want to interact with the companies that do business with them on their terms, regardless of the location or the device they are using. Nearly 60% of respondents to a Microsoft survey said they expect to receive service through any channel and on any device. For companies that sell goods and services online, a mobile app is now a necessity. But even companies in service businesses should make FAQs, appointment scheduling and customer agents available anywhere at any time.
3. Intelligent agents
The quality of machine-powered virtual assistants and chatbots has improved by leaps and bounds in recent years, to the point that many routine inquiries can now be dispatched without any human involvement. However, the possibilities of how to improve customer experience with virtual agents goes beyond just cost savings. Customer calls are answered quickly with minimal hold times; ponderous phone menus can be replaced by simple commands; and interactions can be personalized based upon a customer's history and profile and, in many cases, even held in the customer's native language. If human agents are required, details about the call can be passed to the customer service representative upon transfer to minimize duplication of effort.
4. Knowledge assistants
Contact center turnover rates average between 30% and 45%, making training new representatives a constant cost and headache. Knowledge assistants empower representatives with current information using a simple search-like interface. Using machine learning, smart assistants collaboratively build content across an enterprise based on the questions customers answer to deliver faster and more precise responses. They can also query a wide range of internal and external sources. These assistants are crucial to exceed customer expectations and improve the customer experience.
5. Social engagement
In industries like hospitality, travel and consumer electronics, peer ratings are just as important as reviews in respected publications. But understanding what customers are saying about your company, products and competitors goes beyond monitoring review sites. Nearly two-thirds of social media users across all three major platforms expect brands to respond to their posts, according to a recent survey by social marketing firm Khoros. Sentiment analysis of online conversations yields benefits across the organization.
What can you do to exceed customer expectations through social engagement? Product designers can use customer input to discover which features are resonating with customers and which are falling flat. Marketing organizations can fine-tune messages, discover online influencers and build positive word-of-mouth. Retailers can detect surging customer interest and adjust inventory and promotions accordingly. Investors can identify new trends emerging in online conversations that foreshadow market opportunities.
Research has long shown that organizations that respond receptively to customer comments have higher retention, satisfaction and revenue-per-customer rates than those that don't. At a time when many conversations have shifted online, active listening and responses can set businesses apart.
Verizon is a global leader in the delivery of cloud, security, Machine-to-Machine, mobility, and advanced communications. Verizon also provides converged communications, information, and entertainment services over America's most advanced fiber-optic network, and delivers integrated business solutions to customers in more than 150 countries.