The slam dunk is one of a few plays in sports that has the power to make you an instant fan. It may only count for two points on the scoreboard, but it hits fans at an emotional level as well. It puts such an emphasis on the score that it can shift momentum and change the outcome of a game. When it happens, everyone takes notice. And, unless I already have a firmly held allegiance to a particular team, I instinctively start to root for the team that scored that slam dunk. It’s almost like it strengthens my faith in the team’s ability to win and I start watching for them to dunk again.
This is exactly the kind of emotional engagement we should all be trying to achieve with our customers. We want them to be fans of our brand. We want them to take notice when we deliver a stellar experience. And, the rewards can be huge. Gallup’s report on the State of the American Consumer points out that “customers who are fully engaged represent an average 23 percent premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue and relationship growth. In stark contrast, actively disengaged customers represent a 13 percent discount in those same measures.”
While marketing may secure the customer at the start, it often falls to the customer service team to build the kind of emotional equity that creates a customer relationship. As Michael Maoz at Gartner said, “Marketing may fill the sales funnel, and the sales department can close a deal, yet it is the overall impression of the enterprise generated by the quality of customer service that differentiates one enterprise from another.” But how do you provide cost-effective customer service solutions that stand out? It seems that we can learn a lot from the slam dunk play.
As with the slam dunk, you get extra emotional points for boldness and successfully doing something difficult. It makes sense – all the easy stuff is now table stakes, so you’ll need to push the boundary of what is possible. That is where digital innovations can create a competitive edge. For instance, text messaging has taken hold as a preferred communication channel for many. However, it often suffers from one glaring deficiency – there are only a few responses that are typically understood by the sender, such as Yes, No and Confirm. With such rigid response options, we typically see 10 to 12 percent of responses error out because they don’t conform to the stated options. By adding Natural Language Understanding (NLU) technology to the mix, we’ve seen a 50 percent reduction in text responses that error out because the system doesn’t understand them. That translates into a better customer experience – and customers will take notice of companies who are shifting the current SMS paradigm with the use of innovations like NLU.
The shock element is another aspect of the slam dunk that can be incorporated into a customer service playbook. Surprise your customers with experiences that are unexpected, yet delightful. One of the easiest ways to do this is to create connected conversations for consumers across the entire customer journey. For example, Nuance tracks proactive engagement messages sent to each customer and uses that context to immediately offer automated solutions when they call the contact center. Imagine the customer’s surprise and delight when, instead of navigating IVR menus, they hear “Are you calling about the recent notification we sent you?” and then are immediately transported to the next step.
A final lesson from the slam dunk is the inevitability that comes with that play. As the player jumps into the air, we all know what is coming. There is almost no stopping it. This is how Nuance views the artificial intelligence revolution that Greg Pal so aptly described in his recent blog post. A time is coming soon, when almost all of customer service will be automated and customers will actually prefer it. Virtual assistant technology is already starting this transformation. The companies that lead the way with smart artificial intelligence will make a lasting impression and shift momentum towards their brand.
As we gear up for the Final Four in this year’s NCAA March Madness, the slam dunk is a great reminder for all of us to shoot for the win in delivering innovative customer experiences for our consumers.