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Putting the customer first has been the mantra of every company in the pre-digital era. However, many providers found it noticeably difficult to actually fulfill this promise. Over the last few years, amid the great digital transformation, new ways to live up to the claim have risen and are quickly maturing.
The buzzword is "conversational AI": virtual agents that enable brands the ability to respond more precisely to what customers want and deliver a compelling experience. With the focus not just on customers, but the entire user journey and user experience, 2022 is the year of the user. After all, it is not only customers who will benefit from communication options across channels, but all stakeholders, right up to employees – which is particularly significant in times of labor shortage.
Above all, it is about SERVICE: conversational AI chatbots ensure faster and better responses to customer inquiries across all channels and offer more reach. Most importantly, they enable personalization on a whole new level.
Last year our predictions included democratized platforms, a UX tipping point and conversational automation analytics. As we continue to navigate global uncertainties, it is customer- and digital-centricity that will pave a new road into 2022 and beyond. Look for these new developments and shifts poised to disrupt and transform customer service this year.
Central to this focus on becoming more customer- and digital-centric is coming to terms with hyperautomation where organizations automate as much as possible within the business. Gartner expects the worldwide market for technology that enables hyperautomation to approach $600 billion by next year. That’s an increase of almost 20% compared to 2020. Skeptics might argue that customer service is immune to this. But the rise of conversational AI and intelligent chatbots brings with it the need to reinvent how customer service is managed in a digital landscape.
Instead of “the robots” replacing humans, hyperautomation ushers in a new era where people and machines work together. Using hyperautomation as the foundation, conversational AI will empower employees to be more efficient. For instance, contact centers can accelerate their investments in automation technologies to equip agents with more ways to understand customers and respond to labor shortages efficiently and effectively. While automation can take care of basic self-service requests, agents will be freed up to assist customers with more complex queries. Simultaneously, the agent experience will be better than ever: Smart agent assist tools will support agents in real-time, listening into conversations and providing contextual information, pulling up related content for instant help, or suggesting next-best actions. The combination of automated AI-powered services and semi-automated AI-assisted services will be the benchmark for customer care.
While today’s conversational AI implementations are already great at responding to incoming customer inquiries in real-time, more and more virtual agents will be designed to actively initiate conversations with customers or employees. Well-modeled processes and deep integrations into back-end systems will enable services where bots proactively reach out based on data-driven triggers and provide intelligent assistance in a convenient, frictionless manner.
As an example, smart HR bots can ping employees on Microsoft Teams and remind them of left-over vacation days before the year ends. More than just a smart suggestion, employees can then enter into a conversation with the bot and immediately start a scheduling process (integrated into their Outlook calendar) or request a carryover to the next year from the HR department.
In a similar manner, government institutions can text citizens a notification reminder with a call to action, for instance: “Just a quick heads up that your driver’s license will expire in four weeks. Can I assist you with the renewal process?”
As the text channel is asynchronous and does not require real-time action, customers or employees can join the conversation at their convenience. Seamless integration of identification and verification, as well as document processing, ensures that transactional cases can be solved end-to-end without having to change the channel. The ability to solve customer problems before they even manifest will be a major differentiator and enable brands to reach new levels of customer loyalty.
Big Tech agrees: The internet of the future will be transcendent, immersive, and 3D. Moving beyond the innovation of trying out new clothing or test driving a car virtually from the comfort of your own home, the metaverse could transform all real-world aspects into the digital realm where we could interact with everything, even an inanimate object like a door or a tree.
With the metaverse boom beginning to pick up steam, conversational AI has a pivotal role to play as it will enable the creation of AI-driven virtual interaction partners – or avatars – that will populate these immersive worlds. These avatars could make anything in the metaverse conversational. Characters, objects, even locations or brands could be interaction partners. In the future, customers might visit a virtual service center to seek help, looking to find a digital assistant readily available for support.
The life or death of the metaverse will depend on the level of immersion achieved, its usefulness, and the convenience it delivers for users. And conversational AI will be the underlying technology that fuels digital interaction.
One lesson learned from 2021 is that the traditional way of managing customer service by relying exclusively on human resources is outdated. Digital businesses require a fresh approach that embraces both human and automated support by leveraging AI, machine learning, and data analytics technologies to deliver a more personal experience.
2022 will further pave the way to a world where conversational AI works alongside humans, creating the best possible service experiences for businesses across industries around the globe.
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