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Do your customers have one foot out the door? How to avoid abandonment and boost loyalty

by Catherine Forino

As children, we visit the pediatrician frequently, and in most visits receive vaccines to protect us against diseases. But the older we get, doctors often become the reactive care providers. While physicians are fantastic resources for reacting and solving medical issues as they arise, prevention is often a much more important item on their to-do list.

Think about the common cold or the flu. How many preventative measures exist to help you avoid these nuisances? From over-the-counter supplements to shots, proactive prevention is the name of the game. None of these proactive preventatives work when you have the illness. The medication and treatments change to solve the new problem best.

Proactive prevention is not just a medical goal.

Businesses constantly strive to solve issues before they arise to keep customers up-to-date, informed, and engaged with their brands. Take Amazon’s delivery notifications, for example. You are alerted when the package has been delivered so you can retrieve it before it is snatched from your porch.

Proactive prevention is so vital to success as customers have come to expect, nay, demand, that level of service. Customers remain loyal when their needs are met before they even need them. Unlike doctors, reactive customer service can result in frustration, regrettable words, and brand abandonment. Waiting for a problem to arise in your business would be like a doctor who fails to prescribe an asthmatic with an inhaler. Doesn’t make sense.

Here are a few tips to help you develop a proactive customer experience (CX) model to ensure your customers return for a long time.

Tip 1: Service doesn’t sleep, so make sure yours is always on The way we think about CX is transforming completely. Now, brands can harness the power of their customer data and insights garnered from a database of millions of similar interactions to automatically deliver service opportunities before they become needed.

From updating a patient’s status in the waiting queue to sending a satisfaction survey to customers who have purchased a product with reported issues, this kind of proactive care benefits the organization and can delight the customer.

Consumers today expect a seamless end-to-end resolution journey for their requests. If they don’t find it with your company, they’ll look for it elsewhere, and a loyal, potentially lifelong advocate for your brand slips through your fingers.

Self-service channels are the best way to proactively meet customers wherever their journey begins. Research indicates that 65% of customers prefer self-service for simple matters, and most attempt to take care of issues themselves before contacting a live agent.

Gartner reports that 56% of customers prefer to resolve their issues without contacting a customer service representative, but only 13% are wholly contained within self-service channels. This may be because most companies’ self-service options lack the intelligence and intuition to adequately assess and fulfill customer needs. Adapting the latest tools and channels is crucial as technology evolves to help your contact center remain competitive. This includes implementing intelligent self-service options that give customers the freedom and information to chart their courses.

Here’s how you can achieve the highest level of intelligent self-service:

  • “Always on” means precisely that. Providing self-service options around the clock, with interactions contained in one channel, increases the likelihood of first contact resolution.

  • Conversational AI and chatbots. Humanlike, empathetic virtual agents collect crucial data and sentiment, enabling more personalized interactions.

  • Data-driven solutions. AI-driven analysis of previous interactions provides a blueprint for more effective, frictionless resolution paths for future interactions.

  • Contextual understanding. Natural language processing (NLP) helps improve the customer journey by contextually comprehending how customers feel during interactions.

Assessing and shaping your contact center’s digital strategy to meet customers wherever and whenever their journey begins—and even before it begins—is the difference between simply meeting customer expectations and exceeding them.

Tip 2: Learn from every interaction and adapt To drive improvement in self-service, you must include the most valuable data source you have - human conversations. By leveraging AI and analytics, contact center leaders can use data from employee-assisted interactions to drive intelligent self-service.

Unique tools like Enlighten XO build smart self-service channels by automatically generating insights from human conversations on any channel. Those insights transform self-service channels with a data-driven, empirical approach that continuously updates with every interaction.

Enlighten XO discovers customer intents from human conversations, uncovering thousands of training phrases that pinpoint each customer’s needs at every touchpoint. The data-driven approach means more precision, new insights - and no more narrative guesswork.

A data-driven strategy fuels the move to smarter self-service and includes different types of data, for example:

  • SEMANTIC DATA sheds light on the nuances of conversation and the context of questions to make it rich and meaningful.

  • EPISODIC DATA enables brands to learn from past customer experiences intelligently to create more hyper-personalized connections and reshape customer conversations with self-service applications.

  • PROCEDURAL DATA, which provides insight into the following best action or series of actions to achieve effective automation for customers’ needs.

Together, this data can be leveraged by AI to consider all the different scenarios and outcomes of the past and identify the best next action to take. This empirical, automated approach takes the guesswork out of self-service, increasing resolution rates and customer satisfaction.

Enlighten XO continuously updates so you can adapt self-service to easily identify the newest customer intents, quickly update self-service for greater coverage, and improve resolution through digital channels.

Tip 3: Act, don’t just react Self-service can be divided into reactive AI-powered chatbots and proactive conversational AI. While both involve automated conversations with customers, they seek to achieve different goals.

Reactive chatbots automate interactions with customers who have already started to engage with you. They exist to satisfy increasing customer demand for smarter self-service and reduce agent escalations for simpler queries and needs. Proactive conversational AI is designed to reach customers before they engage with you—or, more often, reach customers seeking a resolution. Proactive conversations invite the customer to respond wherever they are—whether in a Google search, on YouTube, or even on your own website. And the issue resolution happens there, too. Imagine your washing machine has broken to paint a picture of what this might look like. You contact the manufacturer and receive an automated message designed to triage what is wrong. You may receive an automated phone call or a text message asking you to spin the machine’s drum around and describe what you hear. The message might also detail how to find the serial number on your machine.

Armed with this information in advance, the technician who arrives at your door to repair the machine is more likely to have the correct part. By reducing customer effort and ensuring that the issue is fixed the first time, we can reduce costs and improve the customer and employee experience. Context is a crucial enabler of proactive communication. With context, even if a customer is not expecting to hear from you, they’re not surprised by the communication they receive. You can proactively create micro-moments of delight and lifetime loyalty by meeting customers where they are on the touchpoints of their choice. Combining AI-driven self-service with agents who are prepared and empowered to resolve any customer need successfully will create a proactive, smart, connected customer experience that will differentiate your brand and strengthen your customer relationships—today and tomorrow. When proactive conversational AI becomes ubiquitous, every customer experience will be virtually frictionless. Smart self-service will only continue to play a vital role in delivering effortless customer journeys when deployed as part of a fully integrated digital-first, AI-infused CX strategy. Tip 4: Empathy from agents goes a long way As communication channels become less “human,” personalized customer interactions are even more valuable. Delivering a personal touch can help you stand out from competitors and build customer loyalty. And emphasizing empathy will also make work more rewarding for your agents by assisting them to feel like their work matters and is essential to your customers. According to the 2020 Salesforce State of the Connected Customer report, 68% of customers expect brands to demonstrate empathy during all interactions. It’s the biggest driver of customer trust, satisfaction, and brand loyalty.

Studies have found that 71% of customers agree that if they perceive a brand puts profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever. Most contact center resources focus on self-service, and that’s as it should be. Most customers prefer solving their issues rather than talking to an agent. However, some matters cannot be resolved through self-service. Studies show that half of the customers who start with self-service are transferred to a live agent. Therefore, contact centers must apply empathy holistically throughout all processes. It’s important to use empathy to examine the customer journey and find opportunities for improvement. Having empathetic AI is also important to provide a more human experience overall. Regardless of the markets you serve and the size of your contact center, your customers expect to have a personalized experience and to feel understood during interactions. Personalization is the strongest driver of customer loyalty in most markets. It increases trust, satisfaction, and brand loyalty. An agent must be able to interact empathetically for the customer to feel understood. Ensuring empathy is at the forefront of your contact center training and processes is the best way to give that human touch to set your brand apart. Many customers say empathy is the most valued characteristic of call center agents. Learn more about proactive service Becoming a proactive CX company is not a destination but a journey. Just like a doctor is never done learning and becoming more skilled, proactive tactics and strategies become more comprehensive and efficient. It’s time to deliver the CX that customers demand, and it starts with being proactive. For more ideas and information for proactive self-service, check out our new eBook, Are you always on?

About the Author Catherine Forino Catherine is a Senior Product Marketing Manager for NICE who has a passion for learning the ins and outs of products and understanding customer's needs. Catherine is responsible for developing product positioning, messaging, and other marketing and sales assets for the CXone portfolio, specifically for digital-first solutions.

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