Consumers demand more intelligent self-service options: 5 solutions to keep in mind

Customer self-service options have become pervasive, offered by a large percentage of leading companies around the world. And for good reason. Consumers want and like self-service, and companies which provide these options can significantly reduce their operational costs and enhance their customers’ interaction experience. However, consumers do not want self-service interactions that are not actionable, meaningful, or of low quality. What they want are smart, intelligent self-service options that effortlessly provide the solution to their needs.
A recent survey from Wakefield Research found 81% of consumers want more intelligent technology options in customer service situations.

We’ve all had this experience: you call in to customer service, but are greeted by an automated system that doesn’t allow you to reply, severely restricts your response options, and provides inadequate information to allow you to successfully resolve your inquiry. Or perhaps the information that was provided was simply not relevant to what you were trying to accomplish. In either case, how frustrating!

The underlying reason for these issues is generally due to an inadequate, unintelligent automated system that does not have the capacity to understand your intent and provide for you, in a smart way, the information or resolution you seek. These types of systems are incapable of overcoming the limitations previously mentioned, and tend to provide a customer experience that leaves users frustrated and less likely to do business with the company.

Research recently commissioned by Nuance Communications looked at what type of automated self-service experiences consumers were truly looking for. The survey of 1,000+ U.S. consumers revealed that what consumers want are smart, intelligent self-service options that understand their intent and that effortlessly provide the resolution they seek.

In fact, 81% of the consumers surveyed indicated explicitly that they want and would prefer intelligent technology options for a variety of scenarios. The following chart details the 5 most frequently asked for cases where consumers want intelligence injected into their self-service interactions:

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Let’s look at what each of these solutions really mean for consumers and the companies they do business with.


Technology that verifies identity without using passwords

In previous blog posts, I’ve covered the topic of digital amnesia, the experience of forgetting information that we’re confident is only a click away. Today’s consumer faces the task of having to remember PINs and passwords across tens if not hundreds of different businesses they interact with. Correctly remembering passwords for all these accounts can be a daunting task! To combat this, many consumers use virtually the same password across all accounts to reduce the risk of forgetting a password and becoming locked out of an account.

However, doing so can open the door to fraudsters attacking your accounts, putting at risk your personal and company information among other sensitive data. These issues can be mitigated by using a technology such as voice biometrics, where a person’s unique voice characteristics are used to authenticate into an account. Voice biometrics gives consumers the freedom to use their voice as their password instead of trying to remember complex PINs and passwords. This leads to an enhanced and effortless authentication process, all the while providing enhanced security against fraudulent activities.


Systems that know history

When seeking a resolution to an issue, today’s consumers visit a company’s web site to find that resolution first. If they can’t find a solution, they call into the company’s Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system which attempts to resolve the customer’s inquiry through automated means. If this cannot be done, the call is escalated to a live agent. By the time a consumer reaches a live agent, they are  undoubtedly frustrated. At this point, when the agent begins to query the consumer about what they need, yet again, consumer frustration mounts and satisfaction drops. That’s bad.

Of course, the best way to avoid this frustration is to first resolve the issue with a great web experience, or secondarily resolve it within the IVR system. But if the consumer journey does get to the live agent, wouldn’t it be great for the agent to have all the history of that journey – the web pages the consumer looked at, the search terms used, the IVR transcript history. With that context and data in hand, the agent can immediately provide a resolution that does not involve re-interrogating the consumer.


Phone system that anticipate and provide relevant information

How irritating is it to get on a call with an automated system that doesn’t understand what you want, or is unable to provide the information that is relevant to your needs? Many consumers today face this issue as they dial into legacy and outdated IVR systems. Consumers want a modern IVR platform that is intuitive and that can understand caller intent and provides a natural, conversational experience. Advances in the technology of Natural Language Understanding now provides companies the ability to deliver that type of experience, and can do so in a personalized and anticipatory fashion. Implementing a Conversational IVR solution enables higher self-service resolution rates for consumers, giving them the experience they want and the outcome they desire.


Resolving issues through text messaging

Texting has grown into a preferred communication channel. And why not? With the low cost of texting, and the prevalence and accessibility of smartphones, texting is convenient and easy. Millennials in particular have an expectation that companies they deal with will not only accept their texts, but will respond to them in a timely manner. This is true for the world of customer service as well.

Consumers now expect to be able to text a company’s customer service department, landline, or 1-800 number to address a need. Traditionally this has been difficult since 2-way text interactions have been limited to constrained, simplistic interactions such as, “Respond YES, NO, or STOP”. That doesn’t get a consumer very far in a customer service scenario. However, similar to IVRs, texting has evolved to incorporate Natural Language Understanding, permitting even complex consumer service inquiries to be contained and resolved in the text channel in a natural, conversational manner. In fact, Conversational Text can be used both for outbound, company initiated texts, or inbound, consumer initiated texts. Regardless of how the conversation was started, a human-like 2-way self-service conversation can be had over the low-cost text channel.


Virtual assistant technology for websites and mobile apps

The prevalence of information and content on corporate websites has been exploding over the past few years, as has the use of mobile apps. The ability to find information on a website has grown dramatically harder, and simple search solutions just don’t do an effective job cutting through the clutter. Consumers are clamoring for a solution to this problem, and a true virtual assistant is a great answer. I say ‘true’ because there are a number of solutions on the market that purport to be virtual assistants, but are closer to glorified search engines.

A true virtual assistant employs Natural Language Understanding to interact with consumers, permitting a conversational dialog. This allows a company to provide personalized answers to inquiries and guide consumers to a successful resolution. A true virtual assistant provides a consistent experience across all channels and allows a company to lower total cost of ownership by providing tools to rapidly create and extend the virtual assistant’s intelligence as business conditions change. A true virtual assistant can help lower operational costs by deflecting expensive phone calls to live call center agents and successfully resolve consumer issues at the same rate as a human.

Consumers are demanding smart, intelligent self-service technology options that effortlessly provide the solutions to their needs. So if you want deliver on these customer asks, and lower your customer service operational costs while enhancing the consumer experience, the technology exists today for you to do so.

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James Mastan

About James Mastan

James Mastan is Director of Solutions Marketing in the Nuance Enterprise division, and has over twenty years of high-tech marketing experience. Previously, James held various marketing leadership positions at Microsoft and more recently founded and ran a marketing consulting company and a mobile application start-up company.