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What it takes to build Extraordinary Customer Experiences

Introduction 01

Businesses today flourish or fail on customer service, and the pandemic brought the need for efficient customer service into sharp relief. Spurred on by consumers' march to all-digital services when in-person support all but disappeared for almost two years, many enterprises made improvements to increase customer service efficiency while simultaneously handling massive spikes in digital-service demand — with varying degrees of success.

With the world moving to a post-pandemic state, companies are now taking an even deeper look at every aspect of their customer service operations, and how to make them even more efficient and remove any points of friction. However, in addition to efficiency, customer service also needs to be memorable, personalized, trusted and proactive. In other words, customer service needs to deliver truly extraordinary experiences, ones that make users feel valued, understood, and loyal to your brand.

In this paper, we'll explore what elements are required to create extraordinary experiences, and the mission, mindset and technology that enable this new era of customer service.

The Undeniable Changes in Customer Service 02

Many companies took the pandemic as an opportunity to work on creating greater efficiencies for their customer service operations. This effort was, for the most part, completely unexpected and involuntary, in that the pandemic radically altered users' buying patterns and behaviors and their perceptions of what customer service means.

Customer and user expectations for what defines quality service have irrevocably changed. Accenture's recent research of 25,000 consumers across 22 countries shows that a majority of customers said that the pandemic made them rethink what's important to them in their lives. A majority of those consumers, whom Accenture dubbed "reimagined" customers, also said many companies "disappointed them by not providing enough support and understanding of their needs during challenging times." In addition, 72% expect companies to understand and address how their needs and objectives change during times of disruption.

Reacting to the statement "The pandemic made me totally revise my personal purpose and what is important for me in life."

Base: All respondents (N=25,444)
Source: Accenture Global Customer Pulse Research 2021

Weighted importance of factors in consumers' purchase decisions was determined through survey responses to questions about seven different value drivers for decision-making on brands in each of 14 industries. This is an aggregate global industry view.

Base: Reimagined and Traditional Consumers (N=17,165)
Source: Accenture Global Customer Pulse Research 2021

Efficient Service is Not Enough 03

Efficient service is a concept dominated by time -- completing a task, transaction or query successfully in the quickest manner. This may sound elementary, but as anyone who has been stuck on what feels like an endless customer service call can attest, it's still a basic precept that many companies are struggling to achieve. Quick and efficient customer service is not only required but expected among users and consumers, and there are some companies that are still failing their users in this regard (just consider the abysmal state of customer service at major airlines via mobile apps, text of chat in recent months).

The entire raison d'etre for digital customer service is to resolve an issue, place an order or complete a transaction in a way that's faster than an in-person experience, in a manner that's as effortless as possible for consumer and company. When that doesn't happen despite repeated attempts, it shapes consumers' and users' perceptions not just about the subpar service delivered but of the companies behind that service.

Question When it comes to making purchase decisions, how important is the customer experience in choosing between options?

As PwC Research shows (see chart), these perceptions greatly influence which providers, companies and brands that users globally prefer for their goods and services. It's even worse for consumers if they experience poor customer service or long wait-times through digital technology that, in theory, is supposed to make the process run more smoothly -- such as simple chatbots, online portals or menu-based phone support systems in call centers (known in the industry as Interactive Voice Response or IVR).

  • 72%


  • 75%


  • 88%


  • 84%


  • 89%


  • 77%


  • 65%


  • 63%


  • 31%


  • 87%


  • 76%


  • 74%


The Shift to Extraordinary Customer Experiences 04

Consumers' growing sophistication with digital channels is beginning to shape their perceptions of simply efficient service versus extraordinary customer experiences. Companies are responding with multiple efforts and investments designed to remove any barriers, technological or otherwise, to experiences that make users feel served in unique and personalized ways.

Achieving this goal means a company must commit to first rethinking how service is delivered, and then investing the necessary capital. For several years, many enterprises skipped the first step and went right to technology investments in low-level chatbots for FAQs, RPA and analytics tools to enhance service, which is why so many businesses are currently struggling. Some gained new efficiencies, but others discovered that the technology was inadequate as it simply layered new tools on age-old and broken processes, so any underlying failings in customer service operations remained.

Some businesses are starting over, mapping out detailed customer journeys with an eye toward making service not just efficient but extraordinary, taking into account consumers' desire to have service available 24/7 over any channel, and users' heightened expectations (as Accenture notes in recent research) that companies need to make users feel that they care about their needs. This approach has major implications for how a company's back-end systems (orders, purchasing history, personal user buying preferences and patterns, invoicing, payment processing, etc.) must be seamlessly integrated in order to access all necessary information and provide an end-to-end experience.

For example, a customer seeking information on account balances or credit card charges, without the need to perform anything transactional, requires a very different journey compared to someone looking to make a purchase, transfer funds or schedule an important appointment. Each of those two distinct journeys may initially need access to similar systems (customer name, account number, identification verification), but ones requiring a completed transaction need an ability to process and execute on certain tasks securely and in a much more nuanced way.

Moreover, the interaction between user and company for each customer journey will be very different. For example, a consumer looking solely for a checking account balance can be provided the information rather simply, with a relatively high degree of confidence that the information is accurate. However, what if a user notices fraudulent information that must be addressed immediately? The user will want to alert the bank, stop a payment, and/or ensure that their account hasn't been compromised.

Those outcomes require a much higher level of urgency. The overall experience must leave the user feeling assured and comforted that the bank takes this matter seriously, that it cares about the outcome, and that the situation will be resolved so as there is no negative impact on the user -- and those are much higher standards to reach compared to mere speed and efficiency.

More AI means more benefits

To reach those higher standards, companies are increasingly realizing that AI technologies, in particular Conversational AI and back-end Intelligent Automation, are fundamental to make a move beyond efficient to extraordinary. A PwC study found that 52% of companies accelerated AI adoption plans due to the pandemic.

More businesses now recognize how deploying intelligent digital agents, armed with human-like conversational intelligence and complete user histories via back-end data integrations, can create a virtual front-line of customer service agents that can tackle any issue with a personal, AI-powered touch.

Creating the Extraordinary 05

Companies are taking ideas about extraordinary experiences seriously. Service must be cost-effective and efficient, of course, but companies also want AI-powered service that motivates repeat customers, creates real emotional connections with end users, and engenders new customers as satisfied users spread the word about their experiences to friends and family.

In thinking about what elevates efficient to extraordinary, businesses can frame their thinking along several dimensions as they build their AI-based use cases.

With these kinds of connections, companies can drive improved retention rates, cross and up-sell opportunities, and ultimately revenue -- not to mention create a more loyal and satisfied customer base. There are already companies and businesses out there that have made these investments and are experiencing the benefits first-hand.

Extraordinary Experiences Require:

Service that is personalized and interactive, so customers feel as though a company treats their problems as priorities, and that it is truly invested in building relationships for the long-term.

Services that are tailored to customers within specific industries, especially banking, insurance and retail where traditional brick-and-mortar businesses are disrupting their own business models in an effort to keep up with digital-born competitors.

A method for customers to interact with companies on any device or platform securely and instantaneously, and seamlessly switch between platforms without any loss of information or context.

Service that is proactive, anticipating a customer's future needs, before the customer even realizes what those needs are.

Extraordinary Use Cases 06

There is a growing group of companies, based in a variety of industries, that are making investments to provide the kind of extraordinary experiences that will position them for future success. These companies have hired Amelia, the industry-leading solution that has both the front-end Conversational AI capability to interact with customers in a personalized, human-like fashion, and back-end Intelligent Automation to connect seamlessly to any required system or customer information source. Below is a sample of use cases from companies that are determined to rise above mere efficiency to the extraordinary.

Take the Extraordinary Journey 07

Extraordinary, as the word implies, applies to things that are unexpected and surprising -- even joyful and delightful, in the proper circumstances. At present, few would consider dealing with many companies' customer service operations as an extraordinary experience -- and customers' collective dissatisfaction, as well as companies' need to grow and thrive, appears poised to generate fundamental shifts in customer service in the near term.

As companies move ahead with investing in Conversational AI and creating experiences that are both efficient and extraordinary, the chasm between successful and struggling businesses will be shaped to large degree by whether they adopt the extraordinary approach. Creating extraordinary digital service experiences, where emotional connections build loyalty between customers and large "unemotional" corporations, is an attainable goal, with significant potential business gains, and the opportunity to build a more loyal and satisfied customer base. Building extraordinary experiences can surprise and delight not just consumers, but companies as well, as they watch how their investments drive future success.

Author: John Madden

Contact Us 08

Amelia is the world leader in Enterprise AI and the home of Amelia, the industry's most-human digital AI colleague. Amelia's ability to learn, interact and improve over time makes her the market's only AI that can fully understand user needs and intentions.

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