Online success comes when we create experiences that work well for people. If you design online interactions well, people stay engaged online and do more with you. So, when you look at messaging, chat or ChatBots, think of them not as new channels, but as an integral part of making your website, app or social media more engaging. They are powerful tools, especially when we use AI, analytics & automation in a data-driven way, to make online interactions more personal, relevant and successful. As planners, analysts or improvement teams we can do much to spot opportunities, share examples and build the strategy. See also how rapidly you can pilot new approaches; this is not just for those with big budgets.
Automation & ChatBots
Let start with some examples. At AA Ireland (pg 34), web sales have been transformed by ChatBots. A single manager first built up a small team to pioneer webchat sales and then (in just 8 weeks) delivered the first ChatBot. It’s the first point of contact off the website. It completes many questions automatically, but hands others to a live chat sales advisor. With a test & learn approach, advisors were fully involved, integrating their expert knowledge of objection handling so the Bot itself can now make valued suggestions to customers. At Clarks (pg 36), CAI (Conversational AI) became the third most popular way to contact within four months, with more than half the queries ‘out of hours’, making Clarks instantly accessible in a global, multi-generation world. At The Very Group (pg 46), the in-app ChatBot helps customers self-serve. Advisors in the model office identify opportunities for chat interactions, mapping out the end-to-end process and how the Bot could fulfil this. They also spot where human intervention may be needed and test the viability of the Bot live in their model office environment.
Omni-channel not every channel
When you start out, as a team, to support or plan for any digital channel, we advise you to use the Strategy Pyramid (pg 52) to create a shared view of what matters most and how you will drive commercial, customer or colleague benefits. Link your digital transformation plans to performance indicators that show the impact of each delivery strategy, use clear outcomes such as fewer dropouts from the online journey or rising sales or self-service.
It’s good to unpick jargon that is flung around, so you can advocate an integrated omni-channel approach. The Oxford Dictionary defines this as ‘a type of retail which integrates the different methods of shopping available to consumers’. Wikipedia speaks of a strategy to improve user experience, driving better relationships with an audience (eg customers, for an end-to-end journey). So, do NOT just set up new channel choices (‘multichannel’), but connect touchpoints together to make a better, joined-up experience for customers. Think of iconic digital brands, like Amazon. It’s mostly very easy to ‘do what you need to do’; you soon learn the Amazon Way. Crucially, omnichannel is NOT ‘every channel’. Far better to pilot a few things well, to create an approach that can be rolled out later, from web to app to social media.
Planning for digital
Make time to plan how you roll out each tool or channel. How will you resource? Manage the data? Improve customer experience? At the start, most people run small, stand-alone teams at a fixed size, managing demand to fit the resource. Yet, how often do we just jump into a trial, without being clear what we want to test? Use pilots as a structured learning period, applying the scientific method (pg 65) to set up and test hypothesis. Once you scale up, it becomes critical to manage resource drivers, so you need to model the impact of concurrency, skill level, handling time etc. Focus on resolution vs deflection rates; a new channel or tool can create more contact and you need to forecast the contact drivers. Plan the right level of automation to make this affordable and deliverable. Crucially, understand these dynamics in the pilot phase, so that you can build robust and fast-to-use capacity models before you scale up.
Analysis is vital
Consider the timing of when you interact and the choices you offer, setting expectations clearly. Use predictive metrics, with the capacity to trigger a playbook of options, with triggers for action. Build an integrated capacity plan, for your overall resource across all channels, to analyse scenarios and deflection, and plan the necessary changes or contingency. An omni-channel strategy should make end-to-end journeys better for customers, where pathways you can realistically support are a compelling choice.
Think big but implement in small steps. When automating, consider how you can access and use information about the customer, their reason for contact and their journey. Integrate this into your website or app, as at Capita (2019), where a start-up technology partner captures questions the customer is asking and sources the answers from the website. Jet2 (pg 24) are pioneering asynchronous messaging, piloted for Apple iMessage in a 4-week sprint, which is resonating strongly with a younger demographic. They’re extending to other platforms and building their own platform for in-app messaging. ‘Asynchronous’ is messaging when it’s convenient for you, with benefits both for customers and how we resource. Like WhatsApp or Facebook, you can be on it all the time, but you don’t have to. You can ask a question and go back later. You can hold a one-to-one or group conversation. It’s flexible, in contrast to live chat where you wait for a response, like in phone conversations, and setting the right concurrency level is key. Both are useful and both can use Bots. Webchat retains you on the website; this may matter less if customers are using apps or social media. Find out!
This article was first published in the 2020 Best Practice Guide - 2020 Vision: Crystallising your knowledge
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