What defines an extraordinary experience? We heard some great insights about this and other topics from Accenture and Everest Group leaders during our recent What's Next seminar.
For our inaugural 2022 hybrid seminar hosted by Amelia Founder and CEO Chetan Dube, Accenture Senior Managing Director and Global AI Solutions Lead John Bolze and Everest Group Founder and CEO Peter Bendor-Samuel explored how companies can employ a Digital First strategy and harness the power of AI to deliver truly extraordinary customer experiences.
To watch the full seminar replay, click here.
Peter set the stage for the seminar by discussing the difference between approaching end user support with an “efficiency” mindset versus going after “extraordinary” experiences. He said that most organizations begin with an efficiency mindset and focus on “how do I do this more cheaply, how do I do it quicker, and how do I make it quicker for my customer.”
In contrast, the organizations that go after extraordinary customer experiences also have these goals, but it is not the focus of their approach. “They’re thinking about enhancing the relationship,” Peter said. “These people are predatory. They are after share, and they are intense in what they do.”
To further differentiate between efficient service and extraordinary experiences, Peter shared three critical traits of the extraordinary approach, using the acronym, ACT: Anticipate, Complete and Timely. “You have to anticipate what your customer needs, you have to understand who they are, you have to understand where they are on the journey,” he explained.
The next requirement is for experiences to be complete. “What do you hate most about a customer experience? Being transferred – that really stinks,” Peter said. Customers do not want to be bounced around between agents to complete a task. They want their question to be resolved within a single interaction. Customers also want their questions to be answered in a timely manner, which is the third critical trait.
Creating these end-to-end experiences can be enabled by going Digital First, a strategy where companies put human-like digital agents, armed with Conversational AI and Intelligent Automation, on the front lines of their automated service operations and call centers to resolve virtually all first-touch calls and inquiries, with the same levels of completeness and personalization that would be provided by human agents.
This strategy requires more than utilizing scripted chatbots or adding more FAQs to call menus or online services. It’s making a vital switch — taking the majority of the responsibility for service off of human agents, and placing it instead with intelligent digital agents that can provide first-touch resolutions.
Peter said that the great irony is that while creating extraordinary experiences may require companies to spend more money, time and effort versus an efficiency approach, the result is a lower cost to serve. “You will not get to an extraordinary experience by cutting costs as an intent. You may get to a lower cost if you go through an extraordinary experience,” he explained.
How to Transform Customer Service
John Bolze is seeing a similar pattern in his work. Accenture recently surveyed more than 3,000 different clients and found the number one topic for 78% of CEOs was “the customer,” and that they’re focused on transforming service.
“A few years ago, it was all about growth, growth, growth. But listen closely, [the CEOs] said it because they believe service is the path to growth. Extraordinary experiences get you to growth,” said John. “Only one in five, though, did see service as a value center, but the ones that did had three-and-a-half [times] more revenue growth.”
CEOs today care about growing their business through being proactive, ensuring their services helps customers use their products more, and enabling a continuous cycle where end-user feedback is used to make services better. To help businesses achieve these goals, John shared several key considerations for creating extraordinary customer experiences.
First, organizations need to create disruptive journeys in their industries. As an example, John referenced Chief Experience and Innovation Officer John Padgett, who led Walt Disney Parks & Resorts and Carnival Corporation in disrupting the amusement and hospitality industries. From enabling guests to place food orders before arriving at a restaurant, to streamlining the experience of boarding a cruise ship, to knowing which drink each guest wants, he highlighted how John Padgett “harnessed the power of innovation, he harnessed IOT to the extreme... he harnessed analytics” to create a disruptive journey that transformed guest experiences.
Second, companies must leverage all channels. “SMS is going through the roof. How many clients do we know who sit there like, ‘I want to keep pushing people to my website, I want to keep pushing people to my app,’” John said. “People just want to text.” Empowering both customers and employees with omnichannel capabilities is a crucial step in creating extraordinary experiences, as it empowers everyone to use their preferred channel, instead of requiring every user to follow a strict digital journey.
The final consideration involves leveraging automation and human AI (or whisper agents) for customer support. “Where [virtual agents] used to be dumb chatbots and still most of them are... customers are actually enjoying having self-service done,” John explained. “The key to having that happen better and better, is having amazing AI.”
Utilizing AI for Extraordinary Experiences
For organizations to provide proactive customer service, they need sophisticated AI that is capable of complex, conversational understanding and learning. “I have so many clients going, ‘When is real learning happening?’ ... And it’s pretty rare,” John explained. “It is here at Amelia... that’s not out of the box anywhere else, so that’s a big deal to get there.”
Peter also pointed out how AI is critical for organizations to scale the ability to anticipate customers’ needs and to completely resolve their questions. “How on earth does one person get complete? You can't know everything. By drawing on AI, and particularly where you’re seamlessly interacting with humans often, you can get a complete [interaction],” he said. “It’s really helpful to have AI, because you’re [anticipating users’ needs] en masse.”
Some deployments may face internal resistance, which hinders the technology from reaching its full potential. For companies that face organizational hurdles for successfully integrating digital workers with a Digital First strategy into their workforce, John shared the following insight: “The big changes happen in the companies where they realize the digital employees are a part of their staff... they own managing those virtual agents, and they’re actually watching their performance [and] they take the time to fix it.”
And he noted that when organizations own the business value of their digital employees, they can finally achieve a true digital-human hybrid workforce with phenomenal results.
For more expert insights from our hybrid seminar, What’s Next in Extraordinary Customer Experiences, click here to watch the replay.