15 years ago, analysts and investors used to ask companies: “What is your Internet strategy?”. Today they ask: “What is your mobile phone strategy?”
The corollary that normally followed both questions was: “If you do not have any, you better design it fast.” Then and today, that advice is still valid because it comes to remind us that users have new preferences as to how to interact with companies, and that mobility is a key element. Failure to meet these preferences can only lead to failure.
Consumers’ ability to self-manage is increasing thanks to the proliferation of smartphones and the growing number of powerful and highly specialized applications designed for these devices. In many countries, more than half of the population already owns a smartphone.
From the mobile devices you can do almost everything: make payments, find directions, book a table in a restaurant and tweet to tell everything. And there are numerous studies that show that mobile phones have soon become a very important customer service channel. At present, more than 80% of calls made to customer service originate from a mobile phone.
This trend has revealed to us the potential for immediate results and the value of controlling our most valuable asset: time. The key to serving and retaining today’s consumer depends on the company’s ability to deliver simple, convincing, and personalized service experiences that value customer time.
One of the most important pieces of this puzzle is to know the expectations that customers have about self-service. We often hear that consumers do not like self-service, that they “want to talk to a person.” However, the facts indicate different things.
In Nuance we recently conducted a study of consumer attitudes towards self-service, and we have found that 76% think self-service may be more comfortable than conventional channels. In addition, 85% of Generation Y consumers (those born between 1982 and 1994) claim that they prefer self-service rather than talking to an agent. These statistics clearly indicate that consumers prefer in many cases to deal with businesses through self-service.
The trend towards self-service is affecting all sectors, and especially the travel and tourism sector. At a recent meeting of Nuance customers, one of them in the airline industry, said customers had radically changed their mind about self-service, stating, “We can not implement automation at a pace fast enough to Satisfy our customers “.
If self-service channels are well implemented, organizations derive a great benefit from them. A satisfying self-service experience can ease the burden of traditional contact centers, a much more costly customer service channel. This will generate better results and greater efficiency, which translates into a reduction of customer support costs and an increase in profitability. The long-term benefits may be more intangible, but they are just as important, and translate into greater loyalty and a more lasting relationship with the customer. These benefits will ultimately lead to improved business results.
Companies are forced to find ways to facilitate communication with their customers. Of course, it’s easier said than done. At Nuance, we believe that there are several ways to achieve this effectively:
In the first place, it would be a good idea to simplify the channels and facilitate their use by customers . In the case of language, we have found that adding natural language capability can greatly increase accuracy and optimize the customer experience. Hence the ever-increasing appeal of natural language-based customer care applications that allow users to pronounce their access codes and their questions. Thanks to the popularity of mobile attendees such as Siri from iPhone, Google Now and S Voice from Samsung, consumers are increasingly comfortable talking to their smartphones to request information. Language-based customer service applications take advantage of this familiarity.
Natural language processing avoids the frustration that occurs when clients use a wide variety of words rather than a limited set of predetermined terms. For example, imagine that a traveler starts the airline application on their smartphone and asks, “When does my plane leave?”, Instead of saying “When does my flight leave?”. With NLU technology, the application can understand complex words and phrases, even those that the platform has never heard before. This combination of flexibility and intelligence allows users to talk to applications as naturally as they would with a person.
Second, we must develop self-service channels in the most natural and “human” way possible. There are very good examples of conversational interfaces that deliver excellent results in the IVR channel. There are more and more examples in mobile telephony, such as Dragon Go! And personal assistants like Siri.
Thirdly, we must not lose sight of the channel’s objective and the consumer. Consumers are inclined to self-serve because they want accurate and fast results. Dynamic self-service systems are able to decipher meaning and intention, to converse or query queries intelligently and to give meaning to data without structure, all of them critical elements, because they help the client to carry out their transaction quickly and easily.
Current customers and how they choose to gather information and interact have radically changed. The rise of smartphones, social networks and natural language assistants have permanently changed consumer behavior and expectations. Regardless of the channel, one thing is clear: organizations must prepare to serve a new consumer prepared and self-sufficient: today’s customer.