Chief Information Officer at TELUS International, a global customer experience provider powered by next-gen digital solutions.
The rapid evolution of consumer preferences and behaviors requires brands to be extremely agile in how they create (and continually recreate) more personalized and effortless customer experiences (CX). Digital CX providers have been key partners in helping many brands meet these ever-evolving customer needs with next-gen solutions such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation (RPA) and chatbots.
In order to keep pace, third-party providers must ensure they have the right technologies, processes and people to get the job done. Their ability to design, build and deliver next-gen solutions, their flexibility in considering different payment models — especially for digital services — and their capacity to develop a deep bench of knowledge and expertise in emerging technologies have never been more important to meet the end-to-end digital CX support needs of brands in the age of AI.
The Right Technology
With digital CX in mind, brands are making plans to invest strategically in next-gen technologies. According to a 2021 survey by Ryan Strategic Advisory of over 600 global enterprise executives, the next 12 to 18 months are likely to see a marked increase in strategic investment in chatbots and machine learning. Those surveyed also pointed to agent assist — software that supports human agents in real time, boosting performance and resolution times for customer service requests — as another important investment.
A recent survey we conducted shows technologies like chatbots, RPA and AI help improve efficiency, increase customer satisfaction and save costs, streamlining both brands and customer journeys. However, investing strategically also means making optimization a priority in order to capture the full benefits of automation technology. When done haphazardly, automation assets can grow into issues like bot sprawl, where chatbots are siloed in different departments across the organization instead of as part of one ecosystem and thus underused and poorly managed throughout their life cycle.
Today’s brands need a digital CX partner that can provide expertise and ongoing support to help optimize their automation investments as technologies and demands continue to evolve. For digital CX providers, the challenge lies in balancing that pace of evolution with the optimization necessary to scale strategically and cost-effectively. To do so, it’s critical for both parties to maintain trusted and open lines of communication to clearly understand priorities and leverage the right platforms that address individual business needs to deliver the best return on investment.
The Right Processes
In addition to getting technology management right, digital service providers have an opportunity to shift their perspectives surrounding payment models. Just as consumers are requesting flexibility, brands are changing their own expectations surrounding how they pay for CX services. For digital CX providers, that means moving toward an outcome-based model — a risk-sharing scenario where the service provider and the client agree on specific outcomes that are measurable and attainable and are designed to ensure customer success. It’s about creating a connection between business outcomes and expectations.
Consider the transaction-based model. It hinges on output — for example, price is tethered to the number of invoices processed or customer accounts reconciled. It doesn’t fully lend itself to mutual growth, a key pillar of a successful partnership. Outcome-based pricing, on the other hand, has the ability to align digital CX service providers with the business’s actual metrics. You can tie pricing structure to key performance indicators like customer satisfaction or cost savings and ROI. That sense of alignment around goals and targets can help build trust and can also increase the likelihood of additional revenue streams as business outcomes become more synergistic and expectations are met. Ultimately, that positive experience between the brand and CX service provider can translate into better CX for the end consumer.
The Right People
In today’s uncertain economic climate, digital CX providers must be agile if they are to succeed on a sustainable basis. That means having the IT infrastructure, payment models and — perhaps most importantly — the suite of skills and knowledge. Part of that is linked to the capabilities you have now, but the other part is being able to anticipate what’s next in terms of the future needs of your clients and the industry as a whole. That requires having the right people with the right skills.
The AI- and machine learning-empowered present and future feed off data, and that data needs to be collected and accurately labeled by human annotators and linguists supported by technology. Yet, according to a 2020 Forrester report, more than 50% of enterprises surveyed say they’re unsure of their data needs when it comes to AI. “Quality issues are the No. 1 data challenge for organizations,” the report states. “This is likely compounded by a lack of well-curated data to train AI systems.”
Digital CX hinges on high-quality, unbiased data, as it is the fuel for personalization and customer engagement. In addition to seeking CX providers that have the people with the right skill set who can help them make the most of their data, brands should also consider investing time and resources on upskilling their own team members by offering ongoing learning and development opportunities and training. Establishing a baseline understanding and keeping employees’ skills and knowledge up to date is crucial to driving innovation and disruption in their CX strategy as well as their products and services.
Incredibly, AI’s potential is still in its very early stages, and there’s no question that it will continue to push the boundaries of digital CX. In order to sustainably deliver differentiated customer experiences in future states, brands should consider looking for a digital CX partner for support — and this partner will need to embrace new technology, offer flexible and innovative processes, and hire and enable the right people with the right skills. This trifecta that was once a competitive differentiator has become a necessity in the age of AI.