Do you know that you are talking with a Chatbot?

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There has been increased chatter on how Chatbots Provide New Opportunities for Self-Service. According to Gartner, by 2020, 30% of web browsing sessions will be done via voice rather than a screen. A new wave of enterprise applications harnessing intelligent virtual assistants will be rolled out in 2017. Speech analytics and speech recognition technology will improve virtual assistants significantly in 2017.

The boundary between digital and physical keeps getting blurrier, and emerging tech like virtual reality and AI-powered chatbots is going mainstream. This is raising the bar for customer experience (CX): It’s becoming not only omni-channel but more multi-sensory and complex to design. To adapt, companies must embrace a design thinking approach focused not on technology but on ease, effectiveness, and emotion.

In his article for The Center for Client Retention (TCFCR), founder and president Richard R. Shapiro offers starting points for converting prospects into customers and fostering customer loyalty via customer experience. As Shapiro points out, customers are impatient and expect answers without a wait, and organizations are turning to chatbots to deliver communications and customize the user experience to address the issue.

Key points from the 2017 Customer Experience Trends:
* Chatbots are not a fad. They deliver a direct, easy channel for communicating with a brand
* Chatbots make logical guesses about customer desires based on their previous actions
* Chatbots address customer questions and requests at a reduced cost per contact
* Chatbots will serve as most customers’ first experience with AI
* As AI develops, it will drive a need for machine learning capabilities to become more emotionally intelligent and pave the way for developing the next generation of digital services
* AI chatbots already enable companies to scale highly personal services that previously were unavailable
* Computers must listen, learn, interpret, and anticipate the customer’s demands and deliver a desired outcome
* Investment in AI will triple in 2017, according to Forrester.
* “You can create the easiest, most effective experience in the world, but unless it has the right emotional quotient – unless it leaves customers feeling the way they need to feel – customers won’t walk away saying the experience was great” ~ Rick Parrish, principal analyst at Forrester
* CX pros use technology more often to deliver emotionally engaging experience
* Acknowledge and pursue the link between emotion and customer loyalty
* Consumer data shows brands do not understand consumer expectations or the positive and negative emotions that result when those expectations are met and broken
* Customers have a more personal and reciprocal relationship with brands today
* According to Forrester, emotion is the number one driver of customer experience, outranking even ease and effectiveness

The delta between those simple-to-build, but anemic in functionality, chatbots and conversational self-service tools designed for real enterprise environments is great.  To truly meet a need for enterprise-grade customer service, chatbots must be able to understand what a customer speaks or types, pick out the customer’s actual intent, respond in a conversational manner and maintain the conversational state across multiple back and forths, and act on the customer’s behalf. These chatbot interactions must take place in a secure environment.

Additionally, the chatbot must have a way to seamlessly hand off the interaction to a live agent when it either cannot resolve the customer’s request or when it would frustrate the customer to continue the self-service interaction.  Finally, as customers choose to have interactions across multiple channels (phone, chat, web, mobile, messaging, social, etc.), enterprises should be able to deploy their chatbots in multiple channels. Although the idea of truly ‘write once, deploy many” chatbots remains elusive, directionally, this is where enterprise chatbots need to head.

The vendors that offer such enterprise tools range from stalwarts that have been working with virtual agents for more than a decade to startups that have only existed for a little more than a year. Many of the enterprise-grade chatbot vendors mask the complexity of the technology from their clients. The care and feeding of machine learning and natural language understanding tools require expertise and several of the vendors take on this responsibility themselves. They employ the data scientists (and, in some cases, speech scientists) necessary to continually tune the systems and they provide that tuning as part of the service. For some enterprises, this will be a huge boon; for others, this black box approach offloads too much control of a critical function to a third-party. By contrast, other vendors provide brands much more granular control of managing the learning and continuous improvement process. You’ll need to evaluate your own appetite for tackling this work and make that part of your vendor evaluation process.

Do you think chatbots will become increasingly popular in the future of customer services? Please let me know your thoughts through your comments.

Thanks for your time and interest!

Regards,
Shilpa

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Mobile Customer Experience

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Bruce Temkin is a customer experience visionary, speaker, advisor, and researcher who co-founded the Customer Experience Professionals Association. In his Customer Experience Matters article, Temkin explains 2017 will be the year of purpose, as companies will be elevating purpose and customers will be looking for purpose and meaning in their lives. He expects mobile will become even more dominant as companies and brands look to interact with one another and pursue their purpose using remote digital devices.

Three key points we like from 2017 Customer Experience Trends, “The Year of Purpose”:
* Mobile continues to become the dominant interaction channel.
* People can access mobile channels through a variety of devices including those fitting the IoT category.
* Companies will shift their strategy to become mobile first and design customer offerings based on the understanding that a remote digital device will be the primary interface for interaction.

Steve Olenski also wrote a nice article about the state of mobile customer experience in Forbes. The June 2017 research study from UserTesting on the retail mobile customer experience found that consumers expect a seamless online shopping experience no matter what device they use. Success in providing that exceptional experience for mobile shoppers involves making it as easy as possible. That means very little effort on the consumers’ part to get to what they want and complete their purchases. That also means a lot of work for retailers who have not necessarily all made the changes necessary to provide such an incredible mobile experience for their customers.

The mobile user experience is a top priority for these retailers because of the amount of potential revenue involved in direct online sales and offline revenue.  The study noted that mobile sales totaled over $60 billion in 2016 while mobile interactions influenced $1.05 trillion in offline sales. With the available potential that mobile retail holds and the proven strategy of offering a frictionless purchase path with seamless integration into omnichannel shopping, why is mobile CX still so challenging?

There are a number of challenges remain, according to those who study the environment, including Brian Smith, VP of Marketing of UserTesting. “Increasing customer expectations make attaining a delightful mobile customer experience extremely challenging.

Smith referenced the thoughts of Amazon leader Jeff Bezos who wrote about the advantages of a customer-centric approach in his letter to shareholders. Bezos noted that customers will always want something better but may not even realize it. The desire to delight customers can drive a retailer to reinvent themselves to address that. Part of this ongoing dissatisfaction among consumers may be their changing preferences about where they want to research, shop, and buy. Sometimes they just research via their mobile phones but want to finish the sale in the store while other experiences a completely through their mobile devices. This leaves a retailer unsure how they can be customer-centric if they aren’t even sure where to reach them and when.

Backing up the multiple personalities of shopping with today’s consumer is a report from Forrester Research that found that sales completed through mobile phones are still only a small percentage of retail sales.  In a summary of the findings, Julie Ask, Vice President of Forrester wrote, Mobile phone sales (excluding tablets) topped $60 billion in 2016, but that’s nothing compared to the $1.05 trillion in offline sales that mobile phones influenced.”  Others like Smith from UserTesting agree that the brick and mortar environment is not dead.  He explained, “According to many estimates, 90% of commerce takes place offline. Yet, the landscape is changing dramatically so brands need to track this evolution.

Please let me know your thoughts on mobile customer experience through your comments.

Thanks for your time and interest!

Regards,
Shilpa

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Everyone talks about creating innovative experiences. How do you actually deliver?

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According to Forrester Research, successful organizations will differentiate themselves by delivering consistent, highly secure, customizable, and scalable customer experiences. Organizations that deliver great customer experiences will realize true business impact through better operating efficiencies, improved customer loyalty, and growth. The first step of that journey is to better understand your customers. What next?

1. Connect: Whether your customers are buying online or in person, delivering a reliable application experience over any connection is the critical first step.
2. Analyze and learn: Knowing where your customers go and how long they stay is key. The right location-based analytics will help you understand behavioral data so you can use those insights to improve customer interactions.
3. Make it personal: Relevant, contextual data is valued by 90 percent of the customers who receive it. And 50 percent of customers who receive relevant information act upon it. Use data about previous purchases and preferences to provide relevant content in the right way at just the right time.
4. Apply what you’ve learned: Use the insights you gain to make better decisions and respond to new preferences and trends.
5. Never stop evolving: Innovative customer experiences are never static. Use latest technology to get the insights needed to guide your business decisions and engage with customers on a more personal level.
6. If possible, improve customer loyalty with face-to-face communications nearly anywhere, on any device.
7. Deliver personalized information in real time to speed up cycle time.
8. Extend access to experts to any location, to use your resources more efficiently.
9. Delight your customers with the highest quality application and video experience in the industry.
10. When required, smoothly integrate latest technologies with your existing infrastructure to maximize your return on investment.

I’ve read an article in Upwork Global Inc that Next Gen Customer Experience (NGCX) joined senior level customer experiences executives from all industries to discuss the latest CX strategies across all channels and touch points. Their team released The Director’s Report: Next Generation Customer Experience 2017 to share four months of qualitative and quantitative research with top CX practitioners across industries. The report highlights quantifying CX initiatives as one trend organizations should not miss in 2017.

Three key points we like from The Director’s Report: Next Generation Customer Experience 2017:
* Continued investment in CX will need to show monetary returns
* CX professionals continue to find a metric that shows the long-term monetary value of customer satisfaction
* Net Promoter Score and Customer Effort Score are not enough to show a tangible reward for CX

Please join the conversation and tell me how you plan to transform your customer and workforce environments to compete in the experience age.

Thanks for your time and interest!

Regards,
Shilpa

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Converting Feedback into Actionable Insights

Screen Shot 2017-07-30 at 2.40.47 PMDo you agree that the purchasing decision journey for consumers involves multiple steps? Many of these steps are now being captured, digitized, and transformed into metrics and data. As this data becomes an implied derivative of essential retail and consumer technologies, the focus is shifting from how to acquire the data to how to extract insights from it—insights that can be turned into differentiation and competitive advantage for the retailer and a better shopper experience for the consumer.

As mentioned by Upwork Global, “Businesses have numerous tools at their disposal to convert VoC data into insights that help employees do their jobs (speech analytics, digital dashboard/visualization tools for reporting customer activities, real-time reporting and alerting). The use of customer experience analytics helps VoC practitioners take large sets of historical and recent data and analyze them to reveal trends, identify correlations, and conduct root-cause analysis.  For example, a business using business intelligence tools would be able to identify customers that are most likely to share positive feedback about their interactions with the brand.  This information would then be used to target other buyers with similar attributes through marketing campaigns designed to drive earned-media results.”

According to Gartner, “By 2020, information will be used to reinvent, digitalize, or eliminate 80% of business processes from a decade earlier.”

Recognizing the network’s ability to deliver insights is the first step in harnessing its value, and no one is more capable of doing this than you. There are several sources of intelligence such as connected devices, applications, users, machines and sensors.

Analytics are driving the move from merchant-driven business models—where the product is the differentiator—to digital models, where every decision is informed by data. Brand engagements are becoming more closely aligned with individual shopper preferences, creating a brand relationship that is shifting from a “nice to have,” time-sensitive offer-based relationship to a “must have” digital companionship based on deep insights and understanding of the consumer. To achieve this critical differentiation, retailers are depending less on increasingly shorter product cycles and more on the enduring differentiators of relationship and customer experience created
through strategic use of data and analytics.

Conversion is the measure of transactions generated by a population of shoppers. For example, if 1,000 shoppers generate 800 transactions, the result is an 80% conversion rate.

Organizations such as Cisco believes that the possibilities are almost endless when it comes to analytics projects—retailers may choose to begin in any number of business areas, pivoting to the data-driven decision culture as technology evolves. The key is to launch and define a winning data strategy for key business areas, mapping the right metrics to decision processes. Such programs help retailers achieve differentiation of products, drive conversion, personalize the customer journey, and manage the business more efficiently. Based on a more accurate and comprehensive body of data, you will lay the groundwork for business success both now and into the future.

How does your organization convert feedback into actionable insights? Please let me know through your comments. Thanks for your time and interest!

Regards,
Shilpa

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Importance of Customer Feedback

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“Customers want to feel their opinions are being heard. Listen to what they’re saying on social media and take action on their suggestions. Actively encourage input by conducting surveys about all aspects of the customer experience, including your customer service, so customers have an opportunity to provide feedback that will help you improve.”

Karin Surber, a Global Sales Business Development Manager at Cisco provided great insights regarding customer feedback in one of her blogs.

Customer Feedback, whether good or bad, is gold for your business. Taking an active stance in making sure there is an easy process for customers to give feedback is an important first step. Tracking and storing that feedback is equally critical for your company for many reasons.

Let’s look at four ways that feedback can help move the needle in your business.

  1. Comparison Against the Competition

One of the important ways you can use feedback from customers is to better understand how your services or products rate in performance against your competition. It’s critical to understand where you fall short or exceed in all aspects of the business. You may find that your customers really appreciate your company’s service based on responsiveness to technical issues but then predominately favor a competitor’s service because they have a wider variety of options. This feedback would suggest that you would want to add more variety to your service offerings.

  1. Significance of Your Services in the Market

Products or services will likely fail in the marketplace if you do not proactively leverage customer feedback to determine customer needs and tastes. Since the market, and subsequently customer wants, are constantly changing, it vitally important that you are checking in consistently so you can evolve with the changing market. Common ways to gather feedback related to product/service features and styles are focus groups, in-person research, and phone surveys. This type of feedback for your industry can often be purchased so you don’t even have to conduct the research yourself.

  1. Lessons Learned from Deals Gone Wrong

Revisiting prospects who did not buy your service or lost customers is especially important even if it’s not the most enjoyable listening you can do. But it’s invaluable to finding out if there is anything the company can do to win a customer’s business back or do differently when pitching to the next prospect. Swallowing your pride and genuinely listening can really be instrumental in making the necessary changes to thrive. 

  1. Customer Testimonials

It’s simply human nature that people tend to seek out ways to validate that their decisions and actions are correct (i.e Facebook and gathering comments to support your opinions). This is why customer testimonials can be so valuable. Make it a regular routine to ask customers to provide a review or testimonial about your products or service.  Then you use those testimonials to:

  • Promote your company on your home page
  • Place Product reviews on product pages
  • Aggregate customer rates to display on service or product categories

Bottom line, customer feedback, if used and analyzed honestly and effectively, can become a valuable asset for your company. Make sure you are taking the necessary steps to capture customer feedback, both good and bad, on an ongoing basis to maintain your relevancy in the market and to provide the types of products and services customers are looking for. Taking these extra steps can help differentiate your business and ultimately result in incremental revenue for you and the business.

Please let me know your thoughts. Thanks for your time!

Regards,

Shilpa

 

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The Next Stage In The Insights Revolution

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Predictions made by James McCormick and team in their Forrester article about AI and the insights revolution was truly thought provoking. They have mentioned that to liberate customer insights from the typical silos of data scientists and other analytics specialists, artificial intelligence (aKa cognitive computing) technologies will be rapidly assimilated into analytics practices, giving business users unprecedented access to powerful insights that drive action.

The big data floodgates will open in 2017, driven by the business’ voracious appetite for deeper contextual insights that drive customer engagement via mobile and the Internet of Things (IoT). These trends and events represent the beginning of an insights revolution that will kick-start a strategic move among many firms to become insights-driven businesses. Truly insights-driven businesses will steal $1.2 trillion per annum from their less-informed peers by 2020.

2017 will be the year when businesses gain direct access to powerful customer insight via new cognitive interfaces and other AI-related tech. Deriving insights from contextual customer data from mobile and other internet-of-things (Iot) devices will become mainstream in 2017. The appointment of data and insights executives and the investment in enterprise customer data projects will place customer insights (CI) pros at the center of business transformation.

Across all businesses, there will be a greater than 300% increase in investment in artificial intelligence in 2017 compared with 2016. Through the use of cognitive interfaces into complex systems, advanced analytics, and machine learning technology, AI will provide business users access to powerful insights never before available to them. It will help, says Forrester, “drive faster business decisions in marketing, e-commerce, product management and other areas of the business by helping close the gap from insights to action.”

The combination of AI, Big data, and IoT technologies will enable businesses investing in them and implementing them successfully to overcome barriers to data access and to mining useful insights. In 2017 these technologies will increase business’ access to data, broaden the types of data that can be analyzed, and raise the level of sophistication of the resulting insight. As a result, Forrester predicts an acceleration in the trend towards democratization of data analysis. While in 2015 it found that only 51% of data and analytics decision-makers said that they were able to easily obtain data and analyze it without the help of technologist, Forrester expects this figure to rise to around 66% in 2017.

Big data technologies will mature and vendors will increasingly integrate them with their traditional analytics platforms which will facilitate their incorporation in existing analytics processes in a wide range of organizations. The use of a single architecture for big data convergence with agile and actionable insights will become more widespread.

In general, Forrester sees encouraging signs that more companies are investing in initiatives to get rid of existing silos of customer knowledge so they can coordinate better and drive insights throughout the entire enterprise.

Please let me know your thoughts through comments. Thanks for your time and interest.

Regards,

Shilpa

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Leadership required to foster Innovation

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Innovation leadership is a philosophy and technique that combines different leadership styles to influence employees to produce creative ideas, products, and services. The key role in the practice of innovation leadership is the innovation leader. Without innovation leadership, organizations are likely to struggle.

Trend research done by the Talent Management Expert DDI provided interesting insights related to Innovation leadership. While organizations vary widely in their approach to innovation, there is one common thread. The ability to consistently conceive of, create and bring to market new innovations is highly dependent on the quality of talent and the environment in which they work. And, in turn, responsibility for the quality of talent and a culture highly conducive to innovation squarely falls on leaders at all levels. In fact, the research on behavior of leaders spotlights them as one of the most, if not the most, important drivers of innovation. In a recent IBM study, over 60 percent of a sample of 1,500 CEOs cited creativity as the most important leadership quality over the next five years. According to the research, “CEOs now realize that creativity trumps other leadership characteristics. Creative leaders are comfortable with ambiguity and experimentation. To connect with and inspire a new generation, they lead and interact in entirely new ways.”

Yet, a full 50 percent of the leaders in the sample considered themselves ineffective at doing it, more than any of the other critical skills! A leader’s impact on employee innovation cannot be overstated: Teresa Amabile, a pioneer in research on the role of leadership in inspiring creativity, demonstrated how leaders can either nurture or destroy innovative behaviors based on their behaviors.

And, nowhere is this point about the role of leadership made more compellingly than in a recent work by Gary Hamel. In a widely-read 2009 Harvard Business Review article, Hamel stresses the need to innovate the role of management itself. Working with Hamel as part of our Global Leadership Forecast 2011, we found leaders themselves often describing their organizations as rigid, restricting the opportunity to innovate to only a select few, or tending to value those who value the status quo more than the renegades. With nearly 1 in 3 employees who participated in the forecast feeling that their own creative ideas are squashed by organizational bureaucracy, it’s time for a wakeup call for many organizations today.

The leader behaviors mentioned below are crucial to creating and sustaining an environment in which associates are motivated and enabled to innovate.

(1) Inspire Curiosity – Innovation leaders encourage employees to expand their understanding of both internal and external stakeholders: who they are, how they are interdependent, and the unique contexts in which each one operates.
(2) Challenge Current Perspectives – Innovation leaders help employees view problems and opportunities differently and envision alternative possibilities.
(3) Create Freedom – Innovation leaders empower experimentation, risk taking, learning from mistakes, and valuing effort over perfection.
(4) Drive Discipline – Innovation leaders help employees identify execution implications early and often and align efforts to ensure successful implementation of innovative solutions.

Leaders should be actively engaged and personally invested in driving innovation. Leaders need to be innovative, but much of the onus for driving innovation lies with the organizations for which they work. So what is the role of the organization’s culture of innovation (or lack thereof)? The short answer is: the stronger the culture of innovation is, the more both leaders and their teams will report that innovation behaviors are demonstrated.

A leader’s negative impact on employee innovation—by destroying or starving it—can be extremely damaging to an organization’s pursuit of innovation as a strategic goal. As the first reviewers of ideas generated by individual employees, leaders are the make-or-break deciders on what ideas are pursued, and which ones are not. From the perspective of an employee who has taken the personal initiative and risk to develop and propose a radical idea, poor leader openness can severely inhibit innovation motivation—possibly permanently—to the company’s detriment. While this effect is relevant for leaders of any level, the scope of a leader’s poisoning influence on employee innovation grows as he or she climbs the organizational hierarchy.

Encouraging new approaches to leadership, involving employees and customers in all innovation-related processes, rewarding creative effort, learning from failure—all are elements of an organizational culture that is 100 percent supportive of innovation.

Is your organization’s commitment towards innovation inline with the innovation leadership? Please let me know your thoughts through comments.

Thanks,

Shilpa

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