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Digital Engagement Blog

AI, Machine Learning, NLU, and You

I have a bold thought that’s gotten me into trouble on a few memorable occasions:

The best customer care is NO customer care.

I believe this deeply, but don’t get me wrong! I mean no ill will!

I don’t mean companies should prevent their customers from contacting them.

Rather, companies should strive to provide such high-quality service that customers never feel the need to reach out in the first place!

Think about it…

  • If your internet connection was always blazingly fast and never went down, you’d never feel the need to call your internet provider.
  • If that Cap’n Crunch hat you ordered online for Halloween fit perfectly (yes, Aunt Patricia, I’m talking to you), you wouldn’t feel the need to print out a return label and send it back for a refund.
  • If your flights were always on time, you wouldn’t be spending all your spare change on those giant bags of airport Sour Patch Kids and Peanut M&M’s while waiting on hold to rebook.

Pick Up The Phone and Call

The reality is that things don’t always go so smoothly when goods and services are provided. And in many industries, when something goes wrong, the customer picks up the phone and calls. Sure, plenty of customer care takes place through online channels like a website, live chat, or a mobile app, but for better or for worse, the face of your company becomes your call center and…in reality…the specific agent your customer ends up speaking with in the moment.

pick up phone and call customer service

As we all (painfully) know, a call center is typically fronted by an IVR (which stands for Interactive Voice Response) system. Rather than calling and speaking immediately with a real person, we first have to…

  • Enter our account number
  • Plug in the last four digits of our social security number
  • Answer two questions about our favorite ice cream flavor
  • Share our pet cat’s maiden name

And of course…

Listen to an over-tired voice actor—often a disgruntled project manager working on a Sunday—read out the company’s web address (slowly intoning H-T-T-P colon slash slash double-u double-u double-u dot…to our chagrin, as our blood pressure rises and rises and rises).

IVR menus

Of course, we called because we’ve already visited the web and could not find what we needed. So now we’re forced to select from a menu of nine vague and confusing choices, select from a sub-menu of six more choices, select from a sub-sub-menu of five more choices, provide a blood sample couriered by owl…

You get the picture.

Good Voice UI Design

Companies try to strike a balance between making sure they know who you are and who* you should be speaking to with getting you to a real, live person ASAP.

*Yes, I’m one of those modern-day rebels who refuses to use ‘whom’, mostly for fear I’m using it incorrectly. Actually, part of good voice user interface design is creating an experience that mimics how people really speak, rather than how a grammar book tells us we should.

Unfortunately, they typically err on the side of providing so much time-consuming, laborious overhead that it can take two full minutes just to wade through all those menus…not to mention being put on hold and told your call is very important, and that “the wait time is between 10 and 15 minutes” (if you’re lucky enough to be informed at all).

In some cases, you’ll actually be able to complete the task—the very reason you called in the first place—without ever talking to a call center agent.

  • You might be able to make a payment over the phone
  • Reschedule an appointment
  • Order that Pay-Per-View boxing event that will definitely be the fight of the century this time
  • And so on and so on and so on

Companies have figured out ways to automate those repetitive, straightforward tasks Complex Taskthat take up too much of a call center agent’s time…when it could be better spent helping you solve more complicated tasks, like making sure you get those custom-made mauve cowboy boots in extra-wide rush delivered by UPS, so they arrive before your upcoming dude-ranch trip.

Tech Buzzwords

Which brings us to the latest business and tech buzzwords. I’m sure you’ve heard a bunch of them, including AI (artificial intelligence), Machine Learning, NLU (natural language understanding), and so on (chatbot anyone?). In this series of blog posts, I’m going to walk you through what these mean in the real world and not in some academic research lab, as well as how these technologies can help you:

  • Solve concrete business problems
  • Optimize your customer care
  • Reduce costs across the board

In fact, do these things…take these recommendations, and you’ll find your Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Satisfaction Score (CSS), and most importantly, your Customer Effort Score (CES) rising off the charts; content and loyal customers tweeting about that great experience you provided; google reviews of your services maxing out at five stars; and even more.

5 star service

Well, okay…granted I can’t promise all that! What I can do? Equip you with the tools and know-how to move all your important metrics in the right direction.

We’ll start things off by talking a bit about speech recognition technology, what a conversational interface is, and what makes speech special.

Stay Tuned!

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Topics: NLU IVR conversational IVR