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Digital Engagement Blog

We’re at a Customer Engagement Tipping Point. Here’s What’s Next.

On an otherwise normal Friday, one thing happened that shifted the world as we know it.

Though we all knew this day was special, it passed more or less without fanfare. But, looking back, it was the catalyst for how today’s leaders engage with their customers. It changed us all.Verint acquires Conversational AI firm Next IT

It has shaped every day since, and its significance will be felt for decades to come.

On June 29, 2007, the Spice Girls announced their reunion tour.

More importantly? The first iPhone went on sale.

On June 29, 2007, technology started our digital transformation. In time, it made us all feel smarter…act faster…and become FAR less patient than at any time in history.

It opened up a world where continually increasing customer expectations would forever challenge companies to keep up:

  • Where technology would expand at a pace few could fathom.
  • Where old approaches struggled to address new challenges.
  • And where new leaders would rise, replacing the stalwarts who couldn’t…or wouldn’t…adapt.

Which brings us to today.

Customer Engagement has reached a tipping point.

We have the old—for example, IVR…CTI…multiple, individual channels.

We have the new—for example, Intelligent Virtual Assistants…AI…the path to true omni-channel.

Both have existed side-by-side for some time now; 2018 is where they truly merge. 2018 is when your approach to customer engagement can begin a monumental shift—in both process and technology—thanks to expanding innovation and the first waves of touted success using it.

The Tip of the Spear

Self-service has been around for a long, long time. Use of more primitive IVR technology can be traced back to the 1960s. It gained in popularity in the 80s, when the savings of deploying the technology began to outweigh the costs of implementing it. And, it truly exploded into the 90s where CTI helped integrate additional channels and provide contact center agents with additional information.

IVA and IVR are the tip of the intelligent self-service spear

The IVR has evolved significantly since its heyday, and that’s why it still exists largely as the self-service voice-channel. Integrating data and artificial intelligence, as well as natural language understanding (NLU), natural language generation (NLG), conversational AI, and even intelligent virtual assistants and enterprise chatbots will be key to the IVR’s future.

Frost and Sullivan has called all this technology innovation “…the tip of the spear for a whole new strategy where user self-help is a catalyst for stronger customer engagements, revenue generation, and share of wallet.”

And, it’s also why the firm has stated, “By 2020, customer experience will overtake product and price as the #1 way for companies to differentiate themselves.”

But most of all, it’s why Verint acquired NextIT.

Now, before you stop reading and set this post aside as another piece of vendor chest-beating, hear me out. Because the reasons behind this acquisition are exciting—and not only for the fine folks here at Verint and NextIT.

Expanding Capabilities…Simplifying Engagement: Enter Conversational AI

When you consider all the ways a customer engages with a brand, it’s easy to see—quickly—how complex an ecosystem is needed. It’s why true omni-channel engagement has been elusive for so long.

There are so many moving parts…so many silos of data and processes…so much legacy stuff (for lack of a better word) that it’s easy to get overwhelmed.

Intelligent Self-Service breaks down Contact Center Silos

We have to find a way to integrate the new excitement of AI and IVAs into the proven dullness of IVR and the voice channel. THIS is how we all get to the place Frost and Sullivan describes…where self-help is not the beginning and end of an interaction…it’s the beginning of a long-term customer relationship. It’s designed and optimized to promote not only fast resolution to customer inquiries, but better engagement, leading to added loyalty, resulting in more sales opportunities and greater market share.

In this world, self-service is the way in to customer hearts and minds. But, for this to happen, self-help needs its own transformation. That’s where conversational AI and all the other cool NextIT tech comes in.

Addressing Always-Evolving Expectations: Not for the Faint of Heart

Like the original release of the iPhone, virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa are changing consumer expectations. Just think about the homeowners who casually ask Alexa to play his favorite song or turn down her thermostat. They’re all becoming increasingly comfortable with natural, conversational interactions via speech and text. And with each one, they expect systems to be smarter…each transaction to be easier than the last.

And there’s the rub. Meeting perpetually evolving consumer expectations for natural, more intelligent interactions across any channel they may possibly use is today too costly and complex to implement effectively.

Evolving customer expectations change customer enagagement strategy

In today’s customer engagement paradigm, each channel is essentially an island of interaction. In other words, multi-channel can be the enemy of progress.

What’s worse, total interaction volume across all channels continues to grow, adding pressure to reduce cost per contact. This also creates unnecessary stress for agents and back office workers as they push themselves to their limits to meet productivity goals.

Finally, there’s the AI marketing hype. AI has tremendous potential, but some expectations have gotten... let's say….out-of-hand.   The combination of great expectations and confusion over what AI can really achieve... today... can complicate decision making and freeze otherwise can-do executives.

It’s become extremely difficult to separate the AI hype (deploying self-learning AI requires minimal work and could eliminate need for contact centers) from the results-oriented reality (We share our experiences in the blog posts and other links provided here.)

All these things compel action on the part of vendors. And so, Verint stepped forward.

Where We Go from Here

Way back on that Friday in June 2007, we couldn’t have envisioned our world today. But today, we see the seeds of what’s to come.

Think of true omni-channel engagement, where customers have control over where, when, and how they interact…and can achieve their goals—immediately—speaking with an agent…or not.

Think of the workforce enablement potential, where consumers initially interact with a virtual assistant, speaking naturally and describing the purpose of the call before getting routed quickly to the agent with the exact right skillset.

Caller Intent

Then consider the agent having caller intent and even a guided script provided—based on the IVA interaction and all previous contact…from across all previous activity…from the very first interaction all the way up to that very moment.

Think of the agents themselves, provided with added, intelligent guidance to be more effective in their roles…better equipped to do immediate research when necessary…and more empowered to be the ultimate brand steward in any—and every—interaction.

Think of all these scenarios, and you have a sense of the why behind the Verint/NextIT news story. At its core, this is about all that joy can bring.

No matter which vendors you work with, join us—and the Spice Girls, of courseand commit to bringing about customer joy.

Say you’ll be there. (You know you want to sing it.)

Stay tuned for more or contact us now to build your engagement playbook.

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Topics: intelligent assistants IVR Chatbots Customer Care