From Game Show Hero to Retail Innovator
Improved interactions between customers and brands are necessary, according to recent reports. Forrester Research's 2012 Customer Experience Index revealed only 37 percent of brands received "good" or "excellent" customer experience index scores from their customers, while 64 percent received a rating of "OK," "poor" or "very poor." As for what's in it for retailers, the American Consumer Satisfaction Index showed that a 1 percent increase in customer satisfaction translates into a 4.6 percent increase in market value.
"Consumers have said that they're willing to share more information for a better experience," said Stephen Gold, vice president of marketing and sales operations for IBM Watson Solutions, in an interview at the Smarter Commerce Global Summit. "Watson can pore through vast amounts of information, structured and unstructured, and then it can weight based on algorithms its confidence in particular responses. Watson is able to put a question into context and navigate the complexities of a situation with an individual to get them the right information."
While certainly an impressive system, I have my doubts about Watson being the answer to retailers' customer service issues. Here's why: I believe the computing system is more of a cost-saving tool for retailers than it is a customer engagement solution. Saving money is critical, especially in today's challenging economy, but the entire theme of IBM's Global Summit revolved around ways for brands to foster better, more personalized and relevant experiences with customers and prospects across every touchpoint they interact with them in.
To me, more automation — albeit with a system that can understand natural language — isn't a more personalized customer service experience. If I'm picking up the phone to call a retailer, it means I've already researched my question online and haven't been able to find the answer. I'm calling as a last resort. I'm banking that the live CSR on the other end of the phone will relate to my situation and be able to offer a resolution.