Human connection combined with bots – the best presence brands can give customers this holiday season

Matt Matsui, Chief Product Officer at Calabrio, explains that brands can build customer loyalty during this festive period by making customers feel important, heard and connected. And they can achieve that with a data-informed omnichannel experience, rather than relying too heavily on bots…

Contact Centre CLUB

There’s nothing like the holiday season to encourage people to remember the important things in life, like building relationships and spending time with loved ones. Unfortunately, this message of festive cheer and connection doesn’t always translate to how some businesses choose to interact with their customers. And, with research from Healthline finding 62% of people find the season “very” or “somewhat” stressful, there’s a major risk of brands harming loyalty by failing to provide the right customer experience.

This is particularly a risk for businesses investing too heavily in technology in the hopes that it resolves any and all issues that arise. Take chatbots as an example. They are the perfect remedy when a business has to deal with a spike in orders or returns and needs to ensure it all happens quickly and efficiently. However, this type of technology must be used alongside contact centre employees – ensuring that the human touch is kept – allowing for real engagement between the frontline agent and customer.

Ultimately, brands must adopt a strategic approach, with technology, such as chatbots playing an integral part of a broader investment in people, processes, technologies and training.

So, how can businesses build festive goodwill and give their customers the gift of a superior experience? Here are a few strategies to consider:

Change the channel

An omnichannel approach to delivering an exceptional customer service rests on understanding that different channels play complementary roles.

In the same way that GPS navigation recognises there’s never just one way to a destination, offering alternative routes depending on traffic and road closures, customers switch between different channels depending on their specific needs. Whether a customer is looking for in-depth understanding or speedy convenience, businesses need to offer communication channels that best meet these various requirements.

During the holiday season, when the speed at which a customer can query unclear product information or request a replacement item determines whether that gift arrives on time, the added speed and reassurance of a human connection offers the sort of brand experience that creates genuine loyalty. Meanwhile, for simple queries like shipping status, a Facebook Messenger bot might do the job.

With that in mind, how do businesses decide how and when to use certain channels? Companies need to examine the data to get this right and ensure they are investing in the channels which customers prefer to use.

This will likely show that stressful situations require calling options, whereas easier tasks can be dealt with via chat or email. It might also show certain businesses that some channels they have invested in are ineffective. If customers aren’t embracing certain channels or they are poorly serving customers, it’s smart for companies to get rid of them.

With the right analytics in place however, businesses can understand which channels receive the most traffic, the abandon rate, how customers switch from one channel to another, and build sophisticated staffing and forecasting strategies so that the right people are available in the right place, at the right time.

High quality interactions across all channels

The key to ensuring all channels play their part in an effective omnichannel strategy is applying quality assurance (QA) to all customer interactions. This holds true for interactions driven by bots, a QA practice often forgotten. Businesses must use analytics tools to ensure customers receive a uniformly high experience whether dealing with a bot or an employee. This approach not only allows businesses to better understand customer preferences, but also allows the contact centre to monitor quality and consistency across all interactions, no matter the channel.

While many businesses haven’t applied QA beyond the phone, applying QA to chat, text, email, social and bots powers new customer insights. The data this creates can inform smarter, more targeted training for human contact centre operatives, as well as the opportunity to improve bot scripts.

The Christmas Countdown

With everyone beginning the countdown to the 25th, businesses may be thinking now is not the time to make changes that will impact the customer experience. However, this is untrue and there are certainly changes that can be made today to ensure companies continue to build customer relationships during and after the holiday season. For one, don’t see reliance on bots as a way to simply reduce costs. Ramp up the humanity a.k.a. staffing if necessary. Offering customers a connected, helpful seasonal experience will pay off in the long run.

If companies take a step back and look at how technology and human connection can work together within a truly omnichannel experience, the result will be increased customer loyalty and festive cheer, now and well into 2020 (and beyond).