We had the privilege of speaking with Brian Cantor, Principal Analyst and Digital Director of Customer Contact Week, about trends in the industry. In this final of a three-part series, we talk about the consumer’s evolving ways to communicate with brands via voice, text, and chat – in other words, the evolving contact center. We also gleaned insight into what’s coming up for CCW Austin in October. Take a look!
RB.AI: You alluded to the fact that a lot of people certainly don’t necessarily like picking up the phone, it’s not their first option — email and chat messenger are preferred. Is that true today? Or is that going to be true? That customer support chat is the dominant vehicle in today’s contact center?
Brian Cantor: Because we ran a survey on this last year and we actually went out to several thousand average Joe or Jane consumers — not the people we typically talk to that are more on the business side, but actually what consumers want, and they actually did say that they preferred the phone for customer service via the contact center. And I think that that last qualifier is important. I think if you were to say — how do you prefer communicating with people? — you’re going to say things along the lines of text or email or more digital tech space interactions. When you add the customer service or customer support qualifier, that’s where people still think of the phone, and that’s in many ways because there’s an accountability associated with live chat agents in the contact center. So even though the initial process or the idea of calling is a hassle — and there’s definitely things that go wrong when you call — you have to authenticate and you have to answer those annoying questions over and over, here’s there’s hold times and transfers and all that kind of stuff. But the customer ultimately knows that there’s someone on the other end listening. There’s someone on the other end adapting, and accountable for working on a solution.
So I think that that interest in a real person is not going to go away — the idea that you need to hold someone accountable so that they act fast enough, that they really take your issue seriously, that they really explore the nuances — that interest, I don’t see going away anytime in the foreseeable future. What may change is the medium.
And that is, as people get more comfortable with the idea of — these people that they can truly hold accountable, the agents who know the product are knowledgeable, are in power to make real decisions — when they trust that they are available in SMS, or available in kind of a chat landscape, then they’re going to feel more and more comfortable having those conversations with contact center representatives, because now they get their communication preference and they get that customer service accountability together. And they never have to sacrifice live agents. Because if you think of something like chat, you are still talking to a person.
So basically I see that as meeting the best of all worlds and that you have the quicker and more digital interactions, you have the accountability because people trust chat as a channel where things will get done, things will get resolved, and you also have the idea of, obviously, that you’re talking to a live person, so you’re not having to sacrifice that live component either. So I think as those all go together, you’re going to look at the best outcome. Now, it may not be in the traditional web chat model, so I don’t know that the future will be everyone kind of pressing that button, “start chat now”, and then that’s where the chat happens. But I do know that, the idea of a web chat regardless of platform, maybe it’s more in a Facebook messenger situation, maybe it’s a platform that hasn’t been invented yet, but the idea of that kind of conversation, I absolutely see as the future of interactions. Because we’re not going to give up on our demand for live agents, but we’re increasingly going to tolerate less difficulty with the phone as we become more comfortable using these other channels, not just to communicate but for customer service as well.
And so what I also like about chat is that it serves as a very seamless breeding ground for AI. Within a chat conversation, you can use automated language or human language depending on the situation, the complexity of the issue and the needs of the customer. And you get to a point where the business can actually optimize everything based on that.
So if the issue, if you have a lot of volume, let’s say power went out in a certain area and everyone kind of chats, complaining about the situation, that might be a case where automated language, where a bot is the most effective way to solve these problems, because they want a quick answer, they don’t want to wait, and the bot has the answer they’re looking for so they’re not sacrificing any value of the interaction. So that will be an area where you can automate those responses within that channel.
Alternatively, there may be a case where it makes more sense for a live agent to be handling the customer chat, and that still happens within the same platform, within the same window.
So I like that seamless interplay where you could have automation handling some issues. You could have humans handling some issues. You can have them dividing different responses maybe while — you start with the bot qualifying the customer and then the live agent jumps in if needed. Maybe if the live agent has to jump to a different area, you use a bot in the interim. I think a lot of optimization play is around the idea of having both bots and humans interacting in the same platform, and that’s another reason that I really like chat and why I see that as something that is worth continuing to pursue, if you’re a customer experience, customer facing brand, really making sure that your customers know you have a robust offering there because they’re going to be happy with the convenience that’s familiar to them, and you’re going to be ultimately able to end up delivering a very valuable experience for them.
RB.AI: CCW Austin is upcoming up. What are you looking forward to seeing there?
Brian Cantor: We’re really excited about this program for a few reasons, and this is October 9 through 12 in Austin. We’re thrilled that we’ve expanded the CCW brand into these different areas. Because obviously there’s so many great people that are in the space that — whether they come to all three or just come to one — we’re always happy to hear their viewpoints, understand their challenges, and leave them with something that they can take back and really put into place.
What I like is the key theme here, and it’s really along the lines of delivering world class service with speed and efficiency. And representing an AI-based organization, this is very much the heart of what you do, it’s the heart of what I recommend as well. And this is this idea of — the customer experience as we talked about the very beginning of the call, those contact center standards are higher than ever. They’re not going down. They’re not going anywhere. Customers aren’t taking less. They still expect to be valued. They still expect their problems to be solved. They still expect you to create those magical moments, but they also don’t want to wait around for those magical moments to happen. They’re not going to hold their breath. So they do value speed.
So what’s great about this is that, not only does this concept really apply to businesses who want to do more with less, it actually aligns with what customers are looking for from the contact center, which is getting more with less time. I think that this really ties very deeply into what business stakeholders and what customers really want from the customer experience and what contact center agents can deliver.
Now in terms of the actual program, it’s headlined by Daymond John. He appears on Shark Tank. So obviously a great business leader as someone who has had success within the business world and also thinking about a variety of different offerings and how those can connect with customers via the contact center. And also he definitely has a lot of inspirational stuff on goal setting as well. So he’s not just going to be typical — here’s how you budget a call center — but really getting people thinking about what it takes to be a leader who can drive change within their organizations. And then some strong keynotes from people within the MBA and Dow Jones and Microsoft. And a wide variety — tons of great speakers — and obviously put together by our really strong advisory board.
So we’re very happy to have a great speaking faculty. We know we’re going to have great attendees, a great core theme for the event and some great partners on board as well as sharing some great solutions.
So everything that we just came back enjoying from in Vegas I think is going to be really great here. Just with new faces, new ideas, and a really robust theme and I can’t wait for it to happen.