From the 1950s to now, machine learning has significantly developed. Below is a brief history of machine learning, and how Interactions, AT&T, and Digital Roots played a strong role in the process.
To learn more about machine learning, its techniques, and the role it will play in the future, download our new whitepaper.
In today’s customer-obsessed marketplace, customer service interactions are now some of the most critical touch points an organization has with its customers. Which means measurements like Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) scores are increasingly important — all while high scores are ever harder to come by.
Past research has shown that customers are frustrated with long hold times, confusing phone menu options, and difficulty reaching a live agent when needed. And in order to meet the needs of the always-connected consumer, companies are adding customer service channels.
Unfortunately, research shows that this fragmentation of customer service channels is only leading to decreased CSAT scores.
Customer effort is a fairly straightforward concept. It’s the amount of effort your customer has to put in to resolve a customer service issue. Companies take different approaches to how they measure customer effort, including:
But regardless of how it’s measured, companies agree that reducing effort helps to improve the customer experience. Why? Interactions conducted a consumer study to uncover some of the reasons. Here’s a preview of what we found.
It’s probably not a surprise that many customers reach out to your organization because they have a problem. But did you realize that as many 40% of them say they are frustrated before they even pick up a phone or open a chat window? What’s worse is that nearly half of the customers who were frustrated before the interaction remain that way even after the issue is resolved.
Why is this? Part of the reason may be that customers are increasingly well informed. In our research, 64% of respondents regularly use at least one method to research an issue before contacting a company (and the number rises to 80% for 18-34 year olds). Which means they’ve already invested time trying to fix their problem — and are expecting you to provide a speedy resolution to what they couldn’t correct on their own.
Customer frustration with long hold times is nothing new. Their definition of what constitutes a ‘long wait’, however, may surprise you. The majority of consumers in our study were only willing to spend up to 10 minutes resolving an issue — including hold time. This included both simple (resetting a password) and moderate (making a return) issues. For more complex issues, an equal number of participants would also spend up to 20 minutes.
That being said, 10 minutes is not a lot of time if you have long hold queues or channels that don’t function efficiently.
Understandably, consumers who felt they spent too much time or effort resolving a customer service issue were frustrated after the interaction was complete. More importantly, however, is the positive impact on customer satisfaction that occurs when customer effort is low. Nearly 90% of respondents who spent less time or effort than expected while resolving an issue were satisfied after the interaction.
Download our full report to learn more about Customer Effort and its impact on your customers’ satisfaction levels.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tara is a content marketing professional with experience in digital and social marketing. As the Manager of Content Marketing at Interactions, she is responsible for the overall content development and social media strategy at Interactions. Tara holds a BA in International Relations from the University of San Diego and an MBA from Northeastern University.
There are millions of social conversations happening about brands every day across social media sites — and more and more of these conversations are from customers with questions and concerns. In fact, Gartner estimates that by 2020, 90% of brands will be utilizing social media for customer service.
And while voice is still the preferred channel for consumers (regardless of age), social media is becoming an important customer care channel for two major reasons:
So whether a customer is reaching out through social as a method of last resort or simply because it is their preferred method of contact, the fact is that this channel represents an important opportunity for your brand. For customers who are reaching out via social in frustration, then the ability of your brand to quickly reach out and solve their issue is an opportunity to retain a potentially lost customer. And for everyone else, social is an opportunity to gain new customers and delight existing ones.
The challenge for most companies when it comes to social customer care is that consumer expectations are high. 60% of customers who use Twitter as a service channel expect a response within one hour, meaning that your brand is not only expected to find and categorize social complaints, but to do so quickly and efficiently. And when you’re juggling multiple service channels — like voice, web, and chat — this starts to seem like an impossible feat.
It’s clear that implementing best practices for social customer care is a difficult task for many brands. There is a significant amount of social data that goes completely untapped — primarily because conversations that are happening on social about your brand are not always directed at your brand.
So where should your brand start? Social listening is one of the most popular ways for brands to get involved in social. This involves establishing a team that actively listens to social media conversations related to your brand and engaging when you find a question or complaint related to your products and services. While this might once have been enough, customer expectations continue to rise, and the real standouts in social customer care will need to go above and beyond just listening.
In order to be successful in social customer care, brands need to go beyond just active listening and instead aim for proactive engagement. Proactive engagement is the most active form of social media participation, and involves discovering and engaging with:
Proactive engagement, therefore, enables your brand to engage with both existing and prospective customers. It also allows you to not only solve existing service issues but also to engage with customers looking to compare brands or products before making a purchase decision. Engaging in these conversations early and often can help your brand seize the opportunity to win new customers.
Processing all of these conversations and interactions is a bigger task than can be handled by humans alone. Which is why social customer care tools are so useful — but it’s important to invest in the right one.
Unlike traditional social customer engagement platforms, AI-based platforms are powered by Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning, and utilize algorithms to make the tool smarter over time. This results in less manual searching and more time engaging customers.
Learn more about how Interactions can connect you with the right opportunities.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jay Wolcott, VP of Social Media Engagement Product, is the Founder of Digital Roots – Interactons AI-enabled Social Media Engagement Platform. Wolcott launched Digital Roots in 2009 with a clear vision to provide the most advanced social media engagement and insights platform and has since grown the platform to support some of the world’s largest brands and most progressive social media operations.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an important and evolving concept that is having significant impact within the Customer Experience industry — and it’s a topic that is being talked about on a seemingly daily basis at this point. But is AI really ready for primetime in customer care?
Here are eight questions that we are frequently asked about AI and Machine Learning as they apply to customer care.
1: How do you define Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning?
Artificial Intelligence refers to the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior. Put another way, AI technologies are algorithms that attempt to mimic things that humans do. Machine Learning, on the other hand, is the science and engineering of giving computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed — algorithms that learn from data.
AI and Machine Learning are often discussed in conjunction with one another, but it is important to note that not all AI techniques use Machine Learning, and Machine Learning is also used for other things besides AI, such as decoding genetic sequences.
2: What are some specific examples of AI technologies?
Some examples of AI technologies that are commonly used today include:
3: What is the potential use case for AI in customer service?
One of the key applications of AI is to combine these technologies — speech recognition, natural language understanding, dialogue management and so on — to create Intelligent Assistants. Intelligent Assistants are interactive systems that can communicate naturally with humans and assist them in accessing information and completing tasks.
Most of the Intelligent Assistants that people are familiar with today are consumer facing and somewhat general in purpose. Siri, Cortana, and Google Now, for example, are Intelligent Assistants that make it easier for a consumer using a phone, tablet, or other device to get things done. The majority of what you can do through these assistants was already possible through the graphical interface of the device, but the Intelligent Assistant enables a single point of entry to perform a broad range of different tasks.
Much the same argument applies to enterprise care. Customers need to interact with a business to fulfill numerous different types of requests such as account access, billing, sales, troubleshooting, and so on. An enterprise Intelligent Assistant powered by AI technologies can provide a simple and consistent point of entry to access numerous different services that get lost in a complex graphical interface or the structured voice menus that are typical of interactive voice response systems (IVRs).
An enterprise Intelligent Assistant could be something you deploy in the voice/telephony channel, or through web chat, text, mobile applications, or to support social media customer care. The ideal is to have all of these channels supported by the same underlying Conversational AI in order to offer the customer a seamless omnichannel experience. For example, when a customer reaches out through the mobile channel, the Conversational AI should be aware of any recent customer service calls in the telephony channel: “So sorry you were having trouble with your internet service yesterday, what can I help you with today?”.
4: Are Intelligent Assistants the only application of AI for customer care, or are there other ways that AI technologies can impact the contact center?
Front-end use of AI technologies to enable Intelligent Assistants for customer care is certainly key, but there are many other applications. One that I think is particularly interesting is the application of AI to directly support — rather than replace — contact center agents. Technologies such as natural language understanding and speech recognition can be used live during a customer service interaction with a human agent to look up relevant information and make suggestions about how to respond. AI technologies also have an important role in analytics. They can be used to provide an overview of activities within a call center, in addition to providing valuable business insights from customer activity.
5: What are the considerations for these different applications of AI in customer care?
For one thing, it is possible to be considerably more aggressive in the application of some newer technologies specifically in the case of agent support, since there is still a human agent who can choose whether or not to use the supporting information. For example, there are new techniques applying deep learning technologies (including sequence-to-sequence learning) that can learn how to respond to a customer question from large sets of example dialogues.
The danger of applying this kind of technology to a fully automated Intelligent Assistant is that risk remains that the automated interface will provide a suboptimal or uninterpretable response that could negatively impact the individual customer experience or even the brand as a whole.
In the case of AI for agent support though, critically, you have a human in the loop alongside the AI solution. That way, the human agent can choose to approve or disapprove automated or partially automated responses. By doing so, human agents also help to continuously train and teach the Conversational AI over time.
6: What types of customer service interactions represent the best opportunities for automated interactions?
As we currently see with most traditional IVRs, automation is often used to route a customer to the right agent or queue. Moving beyond that, automation can also be used to handle self-service transactions. Here, the best place to start is with high volume transactions that already have the appropriate back office APIs that can be easily integrated with the AI solution. From there, companies should move into areas such as technical support, interactive troubleshooting, and interactive sales.
7: What recommendations do you have for contact center leaders looking to implement AI?
One piece of advice that I would give is: even though none of these solutions are yet perfect, don’t worry about the performance of an AI solution impacting your customer experience. Even if an automated solution cannot handle everything your customers throw at it, there are human-assisted AI solutions within the marketplace that can ensure that the quality of experience for the customer is maintained by applying live human assist in a variety of ways. This can take the form of either an analyst who provides support to a AI-based speech and language solution as it learns, or AI that is used to directly support customer service agents. Ultimately, humans can support AI, and AI can support humans.
8: Do you think we will see a tipping point where call centers won’t be necessary anymore?
In the foreseeable future, no. But, I do expect that what agents are doing will continue to shift. More and more, the simpler tasks will be handled through digital channels with various levels of automation, and more complex issues will still require human intervention or supervision. Increasingly, the workload of human agents will be restricted to complex issues and these agents will rely on AI-enabled agent support systems to optimize their performance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Michael Johnston has over 25 years of experience in speech and language technology. His research lies at the intersection of Natural Language Processing, human-computer interaction, and spoken and multimodal dialog. More specifically, his work focuses on the development of language and dialog processing techniques that support spoken and multimodal interaction and the application of these to the creation of novel systems and services. Dr. Johnston has over 50 technical papers and 32 patents in speech and language processing. Before joining Interactions, he held positions at AT&T Labs Research, Oregon Graduate Institute and Brandeis University. He is member of the board of AVIOS and editor and chair for the W3C EMMA multimodal standard.
How are you approaching your social channels? Are you hoping to make a sale by bombarding your audience with advertisements and measuring success by engagement rates? As ad-blocking rates increase, marketers must embrace the social media channel for what it is meant to be, a gateway to build a relationship with your followers and potential customers.
Social Selling: The sum of connected experiences shared online and how they influence transactions
Let’s take the automotive industry as an example. Purchasing a vehicle has become a lot simpler over the years. With more information readily available at our fingertips, consumers are able to research their purchases more in depth prior to making the decision to buy. In fact, 70% of the buying process in a complex sale is already complete before prospects are willing to engage with a live sales person. This trend in recent years has influenced automakers to change the way they interact with customers.
The truth is, car buyers are visiting far fewer dealerships than they previously have. According to the McKinsey report, the average buyers visits just 1.6 auto dealerships opposed to the trend 10 years ago when buyers visited 5-6 dealerships before purchasing. Dealerships in particular are affected by the decrease in traffic. By being active on social media, these dealerships are able to reach those who may have neglected to pay them a visit.
The internet has changed the way we purchase; it has also changed the way we sell. Businesses have utilized Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even LinkedIn to reach potential customers. Engaging with these potential customers via social media platforms allows businesses to become more personable. Customers can now communicate directly with the brand in the purchasing process.
Auto industries have taken note of the trend. Realizing that they can reach a larger audience through social media has drove auto companies and dealerships to immerse themselves in social selling. Reaching out to potential customers through social media platforms allows businesses to establish a relationship and ultimately sell without stepping outside their office. Customers are looking for guidance in their purchase decisions and they encourage feedback from their peers and brands.
Lack of customer service is a main contributor for consumers not to purchase a specific vehicle brand or choose to visit a particular dealership. Through social selling, relationships can be made to strengthen or persuade a customer’s decision and lead to positive reviews and an increase in sales. Addressing these concerns will allow the company to sell not only their vehicles but their service as well.
With continued interactions with consumers through social media platforms, businesses are able to gain a reputation. This reputation gained through via social media will contribute to the company’s success in the long run. Social selling is here and will most likely be a staple in the buying process. Enacting an effective social media strategy can go a long way in raising sales.
Digital Roots Engage system automatically scours the web for actionable sales leads and makes them available in real-time for automotive brands to quickly engage with prospective customers.
Throwback Thursday: History Lesson on Our Home Sweet Home
Digital Roots is located in the timeless town of Northville, Michigan. We hang our thinking caps each evening in what is now a contemporary office space, the Water Wheel Centre in downtown Northville. Today we reflect upon the history of this building, and the revolutionary ideas that harnessed the development of this building.
In the early 1900s, Henry Ford had a vision of decentralizing manufacturing into rural areas to help stabilize farm workers incomes during the winter months. Ford would provide leave of absence to the workers in the summer so that they could tend to their farms. The Northville Water Wheel Centre, which at the time was referred to as the Northville Mill, is approximately 30 miles from the Ford Headquarters and was purchased by Henry Ford as part of this project.
The building was designed by the renowned industrial architect, Albert Kahn. Kahn was well known in Detroit and also designed a number of architectural landmarks in Detroit including the Fisher building, the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House in Grosse Pointe, and the Belle Isle Aquarium and Conservatory, to name a few.
This building became a Ford valve plant was used to manufacture tractor valves and components for the Model T. The beautiful landscape surrounding the building became known as Ford Field. The lush gardens and the serenity were enjoyed by the Ford plant employees in the 1900s and later became a popular destination for tourist.
Our innovative spirit and work ethic is deeply rooted in the beautiful state of Michigan. We like to think that our ancestors would be proud of the peerless innovations we are continuing to pursue here in Northville today.
Learn more about this historic building at: http://waterwheelcentre.com/
The rumors are true, Twitter is giving you more space to tweet. While some of the changes may seem confusing, the goal is to allow Twitter users more room to express themselves. The changes should be coming into play in the upcoming months. Here’s what to look out for:
What are the changes?
What does this mean to your company?
Why is Twitter doing this?
To give users more room to express themselves. Links, long names, videos, and gifs take up a lot of space. Now users can control the message while still providing rich content.
We’re excited to see the changes rollout. What are your thoughts?
Government Social Media Conference 2016 Recap – Bringing government and private sector professionals together to improve citizen services through social media
Last week, April 5-8, 2016, government social media professionals from across the country, including some attendees from Canada, Finland, and beyond, gathered at the second annual Government Social Media Conference (GSMCON) in Reno, Nevada. GSMCON is the only major social media conference for U.S. city, county and state government but was also open to other public sector agencies, including federal government, education, military and quasi-governments as well as private sector entities.
Over 386 attendees traveled to GSMCON to collaborate with a network of state and local social media managers, learn strategy and technique from experts and peers, and to bring back knowledge and experience from the conference to maximize our social media programs to bring value to citizens.
Michigan was well represented with five delegates spanning from State, Local and Private Sector entities. Making great regional connections across the state that have opened the doors to further collaborations in the future! Pictured L-R: Kaitlin Keeler, Digital Editorial Manager at Oakland County Government, Jay Wolcott, Founder and CEO of Digital Roots, Kristin Allen, Digital Media Strategist at the Michigan State Police Office of Highway Safety Planning, Camara Lewis, Social Media Coordinator at Michigan Department of Corrections. Not Pictured, Shannon Felgner, Communications Manager for County.
One of the highlights of the conference was the keynote speakers from the major social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yelp, and Hootsuite. All of which brought innovative insight into how we as government agencies could leverage their networks to connect with our citizens to deliver services in meaningful way over social media. Perhaps most importantly, they put a face behind each platform, and gave us direct resources to help with the specific needs of government agencies at each network.
Additionally, GSMCON offered many breakout sessions and roundtables for additional learning opportunities for attendees. Topics ranged from social media strategies, to advanced tactics for social media in emergencies and law enforcement, to how to create and leverage video content. From Michigan, Kaitlin Keeler led a break out session on, “How to Handle Negative Viral Social Media,” and Camara Lewis hosted a PowerTalk session on “Improving Department Image on Social Media.”
The biggest value of the conference was all the connections that the attendees were able to make with their peers, social media experts, and vendors from across the country. Plenty of networking time was built into the conference and attendees were encouraged to explore the surrounding Reno area with each other after hours. We were all able to develop meaningful connections with each other that will allow us to stay connected throughout the year, where we are able to reach out for help, guidance and inspiration until the next GSMCON in 2017.
Stay connected with the Government Social Media community year round on their website, Facebook, and Twitter channels. Stay tuned for bi-weekly Twitter chats using #GSMchat as well as regional events to debut later in 2016.
Text and photos, by Kaitlin Keeler, Digital Editorial Manager, Oakland County Government.
Hello! My name is Kristin Allen. I am the digital media strategist for the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP). OHSP works to save lives and reduce injuries on Michigan roads through behavior based traffic safety campaigns like Click It or Ticket, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, Ride Safe to Ride Again, etc. As digital media strategist, my main roles are to manage the website and social media channels to best serve the public.
When my division director suggested I find a conference dedicated to social media, GSMCON kept popping up in my searches. I have attended a webinar put on by Kristy Dalton and found it informational but most of all, applicable to what I do in government social media. We don’t have unlimited budgets, most of us work on multiple projects, and your pages get stale quickly when year after year, you’re sending out the same messaging. So when I finally submitted my list of possible conferences, GSMCON was at the top.
GSMCON did not disappoint. Every session I attended I could apply back to my job and my organization’s social media pages. Not only did I come back with these great ideas, but they were all ideas I could use on a government budget!
One of my biggest takeaways: VIDEO. My notes literally said “video, video, video”…. twice. Katie Harbath from Facebook said the “the most engaging videos are ones taken with a phone because it makes people feel like an active participant, not a direct observer.” Hey, I have a phone, I can take video, I want people to feel like an active participant in my government organization.
Later, there was a breakout session dedicated to video, Video Platforms for Community Outreach. I learned so many tips from Erin Cochran and Maureen DeNieva of Marin County Health Services, CA, on how to shoot a video with my smart phone (for free!) and still make it high quality, engaging, and give a real, genuine voice for my organization.
Engagement Bootcamp: Tips to Increase Dialogue was one of my favorite sessions. Captain Chris Hsiung, Mountain View Police Dept., CA and Lieutenant Zach Perron, Palo Alto Police Dept., CA were fantastic! How many of us put out a press release using the lead? How boring! Captain Hsiung and Lieutenant Perron use three consistent images for News Release, Traffic Alert, and Happening Now. So simple but much more effective than the typical “Breaking:…” or “Press Release:…” Another simple suggestion: tag agencies in your photo instead of in the tweet. You waste precious characters on that mention when you could simply add them to the photo instead. Yesterday, another agency mentioned my agency in a tweet that included a photo, they could have provided so much more information if they had just tagged us in the photo. My favorite tip to increase dialogue: Keep your content fresh and engaging. As they stated in the session, “It’s not about more content, it’s about having better content. Your content has no value unless it’s acted upon.”
On my social media wish list is event coverage. Sure enough, there’s a session at GSMCON for that. Social Media Event Coverage speakers Kirstin Kline and Colin Steiner from CalPERS, CA gave me some unique new insights. Some things I was already doing, other areas I can definitely improve on. The speaker’s even tweeted out their social media event checklist, which was incredibly helpful for me as I plan social posts for an event 3 weeks away.
The typical routes of government communication like press releases, flyers, posters, press conference, just don’t work like they used to. They are stale. People live in a world where everything is at their fingertips. Why not turn that flyer into an infographic? Why not turn that poster into a visual story, Why not turn that press conference into a live stream Q&A? With a constantly evolving world, we have to evolve with it, and the partnership between social media and government is no exception.
Even though 2016 is off and running, there is still time to make a resolution. While most resolutions focus on health, a new year is also a chance for social media professionals to refocus and make some resolutions as well. Below are the top 5 resolutions we came up with to inspire your list.
Resolution: 2016 is about aligning your social teams goals to your brand’s goals. It may sound like a no brainer, but take a look at what platforms you’re focusing on, what users you are targeting/tracking and what metrics you are reporting. Do the platforms you’re focusing on have a meaningful population of users and engagement that matches your brand’s target consumers? Are the users you’re tracking and engaging going to convert and provide a significant contribution to the brand’s sales goal? Are the metrics you are reporting actually giving measurable feedback to your brand’s goals?
Resolution: 2016 is about focusing on engagement and competitive metrics such as sentiment volume, conversation topics, customer conversation opportunities and customer demographics.
Resolution: 2016 is about prioritizing your monitoring based on channels, content types and influential users.
Resolution: 2016 is about focusing on the common goals for your brand not just your social team. Find ways to share your expertise with these groups and help them meet their goals.
Resolution: 2016 is about focusing on the quality of your content. While you may not have a big budget to do a crazy interactive video, you do have the ability to compare your content creation against your goals, diversify and target your content with dark posts and ultimately ask the question…why would anyone engage with this.