Parity and the Customer Experience: How Conversational AI Can Help
The interactive voice response (IVR) system has been with us for the better part of a century, with its origins dating back to the 1930s. Today’s IVRs do more than let consumers complete a range of routine tasks like checking product availability or store hours. Where brands have embraced conversational artificial intelligence (AI), they’ve found new ways to create personalized, automated, natural voice experiences that delight customers, improve security and empower employees.
But because digital and messaging channels are newer, fewer retailers have had the same levels of success in replicating those same delightful customer experiences. Think of how often you’ve logged on to a website only to find the live chat offline, received a nonsensical response from a chatbot or smart speaker, or sent a message that simply never gets returned.
That’s why brands have grown increasingly concerned about achieving parity for omnichannel shopper experiences — ensuring that they can orchestrate a consistent experience whether the customer engages online, on the phone or in-store.
An AI-First Approach for Every Channel
Delivering these omnichannel experiences may mean depending on AI as your first line of defense. That is, by deploying integrated, conversational AI technology, brands can automate many customer engagements, from IVR to live chat to messaging platforms. Furthermore, a virtual assistant can effectively predict what shoppers want, even before they ask, giving them an effortless, conversational and personalized experience.
For example, with an AI-first approach, retailers can intercept calls about order status in the IVR by asking customers if they’re calling about their most recent purchase. If the customer recently placed an order, they can be automatically and proactively presented with a status update, a tactic which has been shown to significantly increase the IVR containment rate.
Not only does this level of automation help customers get the answers and/or service they need quickly, but it also alleviates some of the pressures on call-center agents. But not every interaction can be automated. And that's where brands can further depend on this AI-first approach, which serves as a bridge between those engagements where virtual assistance or automation isn't appropriate and connecting customers to live agents and support when needed.
Even when customers are working with a live agent, either on the phone or through your website’s live chat, an AI-first approach bolsters these interactions with real-time coaching and engagement analytics. With the former, employees will have instant access to a wealth of information and best practice dialog to answer customers’ questions or recommend actions, which can dramatically improve call handling times, first contact resolutions, CSAT scores, and even upsell and cross-sell opportunities. As for the latter, engagement analytics provide transparency into every customer interaction, which helps retailers evaluate customer interaction data to further improve engagements, NPS, and operational efficiency.
Trust is Essential
Even still, none of this matters if you aren’t protecting your shoppers and your business. In fact, fraud costs retailers and merchants $3.60 for every $1 in losses — a figure that’s risen 15 percent since the pandemic began. Brands are not just keen on protecting their reputations; their financial resilience depends on it.
Intelligent fraud prevention is part of what makes an AI-first approach special. Voice, behavioral and conversational biometrics are designed to authenticate customers and secure interactions quickly and easily. Not only does this reduce friction for customers and agents alike, but it also opens up more opportunities to identify suspicious behaviors, spoofing, and other tactics fraudsters use to gain access to customer accounts.
In the end, an AI-first approach elevates shopper engagements across mobile, desktop and IVR platforms, helping brands to deliver consistent, integrated interactions that achieve parity across every channel.
Seb Reeve is the director of intelligent engagement business development at Nuance Communications, an American multinational computer software technology corporation.
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