05 Growth Areas

Chapter 5

Future success hinges on two emerging growth areas

Even the most successful customer service teams are only as good as what’s in their toolkit. And while having the best people can help, there’s only so much they can do without the right technologies in place.

Customers want on-demand service that’s available when they need it. They want to have the freedom to communicate over whatever channel they choose and don’t want to waste valuable time getting agents up to speed on their order or issue. This means that businesses looking to drive and sustain growth – both now and in the future – need to focus on two emerging customer service capabilities: artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, and conversational customer service.

More than half of businesses surveyed (56%) are making better customer experiences the top business priority in the coming year. That’s great news. Unfortunately, many are struggling to implement new capabilities in ways that benefit their customers and their balance sheets.
With this research, we’re helping companies of all stripes get on the right track by explaining where these technologies currently stand, how customers really feel about them and why they’re a key ingredient in any customer service growth strategy.

AI and automation

A far cry from the feared sentient robots in movies like Blade Runner or Westworld, these days customers and companies seem to be welcoming AI with open arms.

So much so that seven out of 10 consumers now agree that AI is good for society. And its impact on customer service has certainly not gone unnoticed. 66% of customers give AI a thumbs up for making their lives easier, while similar margins applaud it for saving them time, effort and improving their overall experience.

Many people believe artificial intelligence is good for society

39%
strongly agree
33%
somewhat agree
21%
neither agree nor disagree
5%
somethat disagree
2%
strongly disagree
22%
strongly agree
32%
somewhat agree
31%
neither agree nor disagree
9%
somethat disagree
6%
strongly disagree
18%
strongly agree
39%
somewhat agree
34%
neither agree nor disagree
6%
somethat disagree
3%
strongly disagree
44%
strongly agree
44%
somewhat agree
10%
neither agree nor disagree
2%
somethat disagree
<1%
strongly disagree
58%
strongly agree
27%
somewhat agree
12%
neither agree nor disagree
2%
somethat disagree
<1%
strongly disagree
69% of customers say they’re willing to interact with a bot on simple issues, a 23% increase from the previous year.

In business circles, companies large and small are fanning the AI flames.

26% have allocated a quarter or more of their customer service tech budget to AI, and 43% plan to spend up to a quarter more in the next year.

But that doesn’t mean that everyone knows what to do with it. 26% of companies surveyed currently offer AI and chatbot-guided self-service, while 25% plan to add this capability in the near future. Despite the optimism, half of businesses agree that chatbot performance has been disappointing to date.

Technological limitations bear some responsibility here, but 57% of companies blame their ad hoc approach to AI integration. Without an overarching strategy or a clear understanding of the potential benefits or pitfalls of the technology, businesses are standing in their own way of realising the full benefits of AI.

Technological limitations bear some responsibility here, but 57% of companies blame their ad hoc approach to AI integration. Without an overarching strategy or a clear understanding of the potential benefits or pitfalls of the technology, businesses are standing in their own way of realising the full benefits of AI.

To start, customers are increasingly willing to turn to chatbots for simple problems. More tickets solved by bots means more time for agents to focus on complex problems. But customers expect a smooth handoff: if a bot isn’t solving their issue, they want a quick transfer to a human agent.

The potential gain for companies is massive: nearly one in five business leaders say they get a “very high” return on investment (ROI) from using AI or automation. And it makes sense. Bots can respond to customers at all hours, even creating a ticket for a human to pick up once they’re back in the office. They can also guide customers to relevant information in a help or FAQ centre, saving customers and agents valuable time.

Chapter 5 arch 35

54% of customers say that their biggest frustration with chatbots is the number of questions they must answer before being transferred to a human agent.

Get more information

Later this year, we’ll take a deeper look at the capabilities most important to customers so companies can better align their strategies for growth.

Companies are allocating more of their customer service technology budgets to AI

42%
10% to 24% of budget
23%
less than 10% of budget
21%
25% to 50% of budget
9%
don’t know/not sure
5%
more than 50% of budget
22%
10% to 24% of budget
39%
less than 10% of budget
23%
25% to 50% of budget
7%
don’t know/not sure
9%
more than 50% of budget
23%
10% to 24% of budget
45%
less than 10% of budget
20%
25% to 50% of budget
2%
don’t know/not sure
10%
more than 50% of budget
18%
10% to 24% of budget
55%
less than 10% of budget
19%
25% to 50% of budget
5%
don’t know/not sure
3%
more than 50% of budget
25%
10% to 24% of budget
40%
less than 10% of budget
19%
25% to 50% of budget
4%
don’t know/not sure
12%
more than 50% of budget

Conversational customer service

Customers hate repeating themselves and they certainly don’t want to wait on hold while an agent hunts around for information that should be readily available. Enter conversational customer service – the ability to offer fast, personalised, uninterrupted service across web, mobile and social apps

Instead of siloed chats that start and stop each time a customer reaches out (or switches channels), each interaction becomes part of a larger conversation that carries over a lifetime of interactions with the company. The result is a seamless experience for customers and agents alike.

Let’s get conversational

Customers are increasingly turning to social messaging apps when they connect with companies. Enquiries over WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and regional favourites like WeChat or LINE jumped 36% last year — higher than any other channel.

More than a third of companies have already integrated conversational customer service capabilities. And another 37% say they’re actively on their way to making their plans for conversational customer service a reality. While the focus is currently on adding and integrating with other messaging channels (namely Apple Business Chat, Google Business Messages and other social messaging options like WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger), companies are already looking ahead.

Seven out of 10 say their top priorities include:
Digitally verifying customer identity and history without having them speak to a live agent
Switching between channels to resolve a single customer issue, if needed
Giving agents a full view of customer data to inform the conversation

It’s a good time to get on board.

More than 70% of customers expect conversational care experiences when they engage with companies, and it’s not just Gen Z or Millennials that are driving the trend. In fact, more than two-thirds of customers over the age of 40 are also seeking seamless, conversational engagement with companies. Only a third of companies are omnichannel, so that means there are still opportunities to offer the channels and experiences that are driving greater loyalty and lifetime value. Even so, only 17% of companies are set up with one platform that connects all service channels.

There’s reason for optimism: among those not currently using a single platform, 69% have plans to consolidate their existing point systems.

Conversational customer service is on the rise

37%
are in the process of implementing conversational customer service
34%
have already implemented conversational customer service
14%
are planning on implementing conversational customer service this year
8%
are not interested in implementing conversational customer service
7%
would like to implement but don’t have concrete plans to
35%
are in the process of implementing conversational customer service
39%
have already implemented conversational customer service
13%
are planning on implementing conversational customer service this year
8%
are not interested in implementing conversational customer service
5%
would like to implement but don’t have concrete plans to
40%
are in the process of implementing conversational customer service
30%
have already implemented conversational customer service
16%
are planning on implementing conversational customer service this year
7%
are not interested in implementing conversational customer service
7%
would like to implement but don’t have concrete plans to
36%
are in the process of implementing conversational customer service
49%
have already implemented conversational customer service
9%
are planning on implementing conversational customer service this year
2%
are not interested in implementing conversational customer service
4%
would like to implement but don’t have concrete plans to
35%
are in the process of implementing conversational customer service
28%
have already implemented conversational customer service
14%
are planning on implementing conversational customer service this year
10%
are not interested in implementing conversational customer service
13%
would like to implement but don’t have concrete plans to
Check back in later this year as we take a deep dive into what’s needed to be truly conversational and the changes to systems and processes required for success.
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