The Future of Cognitive AI in Customer Experience

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The ability for companies to collect, store, and manage vast amounts of digital information has paved the way for big data to shape corporate strategy for a variety of departments. The big data push is particularly big within customer experience space, where countless customer touchpoints can be analyzed to improve interactions and increase loyalty. Today, Chief Customer Officers are able to harness data through the use of cognitive artificial intelligence programs that take their data capturing and analysis a step further. According to Consero Group’s 2017 Customer Experience Report of Chief CX Officers, 48% of CX executives are considering the implementation of cognitive artificial intelligence technology within their operation—all within the next several months. While in it’s infancy, the adaption of this relatively new technology will grow quickly and can have a significant impact on the evolution of the CX department.

The Opportunity Of AI Within CX:

Cognitive AI offers several noteworthy opportunities in CX for organizations that capture a variety of customer touchpoints, including the ability to gain a holistic view of their customers. Traditionally, organizations with large customer bases struggle to understand the needs of their individual customers—a gap that cognitive AI can fill as it allows for segmentation, identification, and scoring of customers using previously under-utilized data. Pairing artificial intelligence with such rich information allows for enhanced understanding of buying behavior, preferences, and loyalty—all of which can unlock actionable insights. Most importantly, it allows brands to anticipate customer needs and to go the extra mile, all while delivering the personalized experiences customers have come to expect.

Another positive characteristic of cognitive AI is its ability to constantly adapt and learn in real-time. Cognitive AI can leverage information from customer conversations, learn from previous interactions, and automate common responses to common requests. This can also take the shape of reframing responses based upon their context or even sifting through large knowledge bases in order to present the most relevant answer. Real-time learning paired with the instantaneous nature of AI permits for a more in-depth understanding of the customer, taking into account the channel or time of day. Ultimately, AI will be able to analyze customer interactions and adjust the customer’s journey based upon current sentiments. In an environment where customers are more demanding than ever, AI’s ability to respond quickly and dynamically regardless of platform can take customer service to a whole new level.

Finally, AI allows applicable cross-channel insights to be gathered in real-time and applied to make better business decisions. Data points like customer wait times or balk rates can all be utilized as actionable resources that bolster customer service. For example service delivery and agent availability can be optimized based upon historic workflows. Further, high-priority cases can be proactively addressed or escalated through the use of predictive analytics. While the technology continues to evolve, as time goes on organizations who refuse to use AI as a tool may miss out on capabilities make faster and better informed decisions.

Challenges Involved With Implementation:

Putting raw data to work through a cognitive AI program is not without it’s challenges. While cognitive AI technology programs—recently launched by 14% of companies, according to findings from the 2017 Customer Experience report—are beginning to emerge, none of the surveyed executives reported a fully mature program. Practitioners attribute this gap in maturity to a few problem areas, including lack of CX program maturity. I spoke to a director of Consumer Experience at a major California health insurer, who explains, “some companies are further along than others. The concept of Customer Experience is still early for most industries, and this idea of using AI is still not understood. There hasn’t been real proof of concept where everyone is jumping on the bandwagon.” From this practioners’ perspective, organizations that do not have a mature program may risk muddling their CX operation should they not have a clear understanding of what customer insights they hope to uncover.

Which leads to another challenge surrounding cognitive AI—knowing what data to collect. Often times, companies make the broad assumption that big data should be all encompassing. It is important to identify what questions you want your data to answer and what data is of no value to your organization. By doing this you can avoid unnecessary ‘noise’ from data that doesn’t align with your departmental objectives. The Consumer Experience director warns that “a lot of companies think about big data and they just want to go and get everything. Then figure out what to do later.” This can be compounded by the fact data is often siloed within separate areas of the same organization, leading to challenges in data analysis. Rather, CX executives should make efforts to understand which information is currently accessible, and what data gaps must be filled to fulfill certain objectives. They should work across functions to gain these insights to make the impact more powerful.

Finally, practitioners should be aware of how much consumer information is too much. As AI programs evolve and can anticipate customer leads, much like organizations like Amazon already do, executives must be conscious of avoiding a ‘creepiness factor.’ While some generations may be more tolerant to the use of their personal information, others may be less so. CX departments must understand not only how to properly leverage AI, but also when to properly leverage. Organizations that refuse risk alienating large portions of their customer base.

Jumpstarting Your Cognitive AI Program:

As cognitive AI programs become more common, opportunities for companies to leverage their data to deliver personalized customer experiences through the use of such technology will grow. So what does it take to jumpstart your organization’s foray into AI? Here are three tips gathered from speaking with practitioners in the space on how to jumpstart your cognitive AI program.

1. Reflect if your organization is ready for AI
Customer experience is relatively new, with few organizations that can consider their programs very mature. While it may be tempting to immediately jump on the AI bandwagon, make sure your current customer experience tactics reflects your present business objectives. AI is not a replacement but rather a supplement for a well-run CX program.

2. Understand what data you require
Avoid redundant data capture by auditing useful customer information already in-house. Remember that this data may be warehoused in separate areas and unable to interface together—you may be surprised to discover you have more data than previously thought. Avoid falling victim to data overload; while it may be tempting to capture as much information as possible, focus on collecting data that bridges current gaps.

3. Ensure your AI program focuses on 2-way communication
In the age of the chatbot and smart assistant, it’s easy to frame cognitive AI as a primarily outbound CX tool. Rather than just pushing information out to consumers, ensure your program focuses on two-way communication. Being a groundswell and listening to how your customers respond is one of the biggest benefits of implementing cognitive AI. It is what allows for your AI program to adapt, learn, and automate common requests.

Through careful considerations of how cognitive AI can be leveraged to improve the customer experience, CX executives will be in a better position to implement an AI program that will increase customer retention and have a positive impact on the financial performance of their organization.

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Focusing on Your Customer Experience Is Great for Business

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According to Elon Musk, “If you are not failing, you are not innovating enough.” But many organizational cultures still fear failure, so it creates a vicious cycle. Do you dare to fail or even admit failure? Do you take step-change risks or take a series of measured, small, safe bets and then risk being disrupted by a brave new competitor? How can you adopt a business culture that fosters an innovative and customer experience (CX)-focused environment?

The holy grail right now is CX. The “Digital Marketing Trends” report from Adobe and Econsultancy is a study of organizational attitudes to new marketing opportunities. For the last 3 years, the most exciting opportunity has been CX. And nowhere is this more important than on our most personal device—the mighty mobile. It’s a device we carry with us that contains our most precious memories (videos and photos) and important information. It is the key to productivity and entertainment when we are on the move. Mobile is the Swiss army knife for life, and when a brand fails here, it fails in the most epic way possible.

Think for a minute about the seismic shift technology has created in CX over the last few years. We are only really getting started on creating services that solve customer problems, rather than applying technology to brand opportunities. 

Uber: Leadership in Mobile CX

The rapid global adoption of the smartphone has generated many billion-dollar startups (such as AirBNB, Tinder, and Uber) that offer a better experience than previously existed in a way that is immediate, personal, and location-aware. Each of these brands has positioned the mobile CX at the center of its ecosystem. For each of them, customers return time and time again, because the experience is excellent and makes their life better, easier, cheaper, or more fun.

 

Each has broken down the steps from the desktop age and completely reinvented the process for the modern-day mobile age. The mobile age saw Uber, for example, create a simple two- or three-step process from a 10-stage desktop process. With a wearable experience, it is one step. The very act of paying for an Uber is to do nothing whatsoever. You just get out of the car, and the payment is automatic. You can give an optional review once you are out of the car. That’s it.

Defining CX

CX is defined in multiple ways online, but I like to think of it as the outcome of an interaction between an organization and a customer throughout the lifetime of the relationship. These CX interactions are similar to molecules—there is a multitude of them, almost microscopic at times, both good and bad—and they can last a microsecond or last a lifetime. Interaction can include larger behaviors (such as awareness, discovery, renewal, advocacy, purchases, subscriptions, and service), as well as micro-behaviors (such as sharing content or text-?message reminders).

In our mobile world, elevating the customer experience on mobile is key. Think of how mobile connects the user to your brand in a personal way. How can we help the user to save time and start to use mobile as the connecting tissue between your customer channels?

A word of warning: Customer behavior is the biggest driver of change. Technology in isolation is an enabler of new possibilities. It’s quite common for people to behave like birds attracted to a shiny new object. This is why companies need to look beyond technology to the value or opportunity in a relationship—or the goal or unmet need of your audience—unlocking new potential.

With CX being the hottest ticket in town, you should start by making it your top priority, building better service design experiences that make your customers’ lives easier. The ROIs in CX are self-evident. Fast Company’s list of the most innovative companies are all focused on CX. These companies put customer-centric solutions at the heart of the business. Their ability to create innovative CXs enables them to make better products. 

Getting Practical: Workshop Techniques

First, a simple way to improve CX is to workshop internally or with a partner. For example, customer persona creation can work well in defining a range of audience pen portraits and helps avoid creating services in your own image.

Second, another great workshop technique is to create a customer journey map that identifies all customer interactions with your business from the customer’s point of view. By understanding the specific devices, touchpoints, and pain points—both online and offline—this technique is a great way to determine if your initiatives will help improve CX.

Third, be sure to prioritize user research. “Digital Experience Technology and Delivery Priorities, 2016” outlines that “[t]o plan the technology investments necessary to transform to a digital business, you need a digital experience technology strategy that’s informed by the needs and digital behaviors of your customers.” Customer research and the resulting insights garnered are imperative. Ask your customers what they think, and secure budget for user research.

Structuring for CX Excellence

There has been another trend on the rise over the last few years, particularly in product companies such as Amazon or Apple: the chief experience officer (CXO). The CXO is responsible for enhancing the CX, operating at the board level to make customer centricity an organizational imperative. This helps differentiate brands and creates both business and shareholder value.

However, having the right board member is not enough. A culture that embraces the customer and pushes the way forward toward excellence is needed. Essentially, CX has to become part of everyone’s job description.

Mobile CX is so hard to get right because it cuts across so many organizational silos. An app may be owned by a product division, CTO, CMO, CIO, CXO, or CDO. A website accessed on a mobile device will reveal analytics showing mobile and non-mobile usage, and this may only be seen by IT or the data team. Creating a single picture of the experience across multiple departments and touchpoints is very hard. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.

Companies, such as Apple and Amazon, that are able to skillfully manage the entire CX across channels have reaped huge rewards—and so can you. Examples include improved customer satisfaction, heightened loyalty, reduced churn, and increased revenue and profits. To quote Jeff Bezos of Amazon, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job every day to make every important aspect of the customer experience a little bit better.” 

About the Author:

David Skerrett is a Managing Partner at NimbleTank. This article was orginally posted on EContent.com and was republished with permission from the author. 

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7 Ways to Deliver an Unbeatable Customer Experience

With the increasing integration of social media in our everyday lives, both people and businesses are becoming rapidly more connected to one another. It is because of this development that business models are now having to adapt to more personal spheres of communication, like marketing, social media engagement, and customer service. Engaging potential consumers has become much more involved as a process than plunking a few rotating advertisements in newspapers and television breaks.

Now, the producer-consumer dynamic has evolved to needing actual interaction, whether it be physical or digital. Although businesses may already have their hands full focusing on new product ideation and content curation, there are only a few considerations needed to succeed in the game of consumer interaction. Here are 7 ways to create a stellar customer engagement strategy.

 

1. Understand Your Customers

The number one concern when curating customer service is defining the needs of your specific consumer base. Understanding their characteristics and interests can go a long way when deciding what kind of experience they may respond well to. For example, while younger followers may want snappy dissemination of information, older consumers may need more of a helping hand with newer, more complex products and services.

In addition, being cognizant of those features unique to your consumer base can help in several other areas, like marketing, content curation, and even product design. Overall, taking a little time to list out the characteristics specific to your customers carries numerous benefits that go far beyond customer service.

2. Availability Trumps All

Once you have an ample understanding of your consumers, the most important habit you can form is being available at all times. Whether your service is online or in person, this rule still applies and can have a significant impact on the public perception of the customer experience you’re providing. To customers, having delayed or nonexistent service is not only a major annoyance, but it is also damning for your brand’s reputation.

Plus, availability means physical and mental engagement; being present but disinterested in the customer’s concerns defeats the whole purpose of having customer service at all. Brands who encourage and enforce availability and involvement on the part of its employees should have no problems in the eyes of their consumers.

3. Identify Chief Concerns

With certain products and services, there are certain concerns that rank above the rest, either in importance or frequency. For example, selling cars comes with concerns like fuel economy, tire durability, smoothness of the drive, and so on.

On the other hand, a company selling fitness equipment will have completely different queries from its main customers. Understanding that these differences exist and taking the time to distinguish which questions concern your product or service is pivotal in providing a killer customer experience. Having these considerations figured out ahead of time, just ensures speedy responses and optimal interactions.

4. Consistent Feedback

Despite following all of these bits of advice, from time to time, your customer service experience may occasionally come under fire from dissatisfied consumers. This is to be expected, as pleasing everyone at all times is an unrealistic and detrimental goal to set.

However, it’s important to be able to tell the difference between warranted and unfounded complaints. The customer may not always be right, but companies should be able to identify which criticisms are constructive and build upon those comments.

5. Adapt Your Strategy

After identifying serious complaints, improving a customer service experience is largely trial-and-error. Adapting your strategy is not guaranteed to shield against the same complaints in the future, but it’s the right first step. Taking consumer suggestions or frustrations and changing your service structure may take several iterations to eliminate an issue, and, in that time, more issues might pop up or fade away; there’s not an easy solution.

However, changing your strategy, however much time it takes, is much more likely to result in success than ignoring the complaints of your consumers, so why not take that extra time to adapt customer service? After all, it’s part of the business too.

6. Invest in Training

A business is only as good as the people supporting it, so it makes sense that a customer service experience is only made better by the people managing, running, and upholding it. Investing in the training of employees who interact directly with consumers is obvious, but what about the COO at the head of the operations chain?

This is why COO training is crucial. Actively investing in the growth and experience of your COO can have numerous benefits for day-to-day operations, management, and departments like customer service. COO alliance in particular allows COOs to network with one another, learn proactively about executive leadership, and collaborate together on a number of projects. Investing in the knowledge and experience of employees and COOs alike ensures a more productive, efficient, and enjoyable customer experience.

7. Be Willing to Care

The final tip for delivering an impressive customer experience is simply being somewhat knowledgeable or interested in the service you are providing. Customers may approach your customer service employees with confusing, unrelated, or obvious queries; as irksome as this is, the best course of action is to point them in the right direction, and this is much easier to accomplish when your employees actually care about the service being provided or the overall brand.

In addition, having that interest will ultimately mean any customer service is more stimulating for the employee and more productive for the consumer and business as a whole. Overall, businesses who actually care about the quality of the customer service department will deliver a far better experience than businesses who don’t.

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Still Using Search on Your Website? You’re Missing the Power of AI Point-and-Click

In 1998, Google - the world’s most ubiquitous search engine - was born, and with it the idea of type-to-search. The idea was simple: type what you want to know and find the information that you’re looking for. That model has taken over ever since. In fact, today, 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine.

However, just because search engines work that way, doesn’t mean your website should rely on search as well. The world of the internet and technology has changed, and, especially for the website model, type-to-search has become under-effective, overused and overrated. This is especially true given the emerging advancements of AI and in scenarios where you can capture user “context” on your website.

The point? If you’re using the search engine model for your website, you’re approaching it all wrong.

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Let’s start by discuss the breakdown of the type-to-search model and explain why point-and-click interfaces are more effective when building a frictionless online experience on your website.

The Drawbacks of Type-to-Search: Why The Model No Longer Works

Traditional type-to-search is a time-consuming, multi-step process: users have to formulate a text query, press “Enter” or “Search,” sift through the results and eventually select an option that may provide the answers that they’re looking for. It’s a lot of footwork and it doesn’t work effectively on a business’ website. Why?

The Internet of Oversaturation

One glaring issue is that most websites have become oversaturated with information and words, giving users poor search results and too many search results every time they have a query.

Unfortunately, this usually happens because of good intentions: every business owner wants their site to have the best content, the best products and the most up-to-date material - and they’ve been told that they need all of this to survive. As a result, they release consistent blogs, product updates and site content to increase their ranking, address users’ needs and make their site stand out.

This would be great if the average user could get to it all, but they just can’t. To give you an idea, every 60 seconds there are 500 hours of video uploaded on Youtube, 3.3 million Facebook posts, 149,513 emails and 1,440 WordPress posts sent out. On top of that, Google gets over 100 billion searches a month, and over 75% of users don’t even make it past the first page of results when they have a question. While, in some cases, this is because they’ve found the answers they’re looking for, it can also be because they are simply tired of looking through results.  In this staggeringly overwhelming context, chances are that your website content is simply not being seen if it’s presented in a type-to-search format - no matter how compelling it is.

User Fatigue

Type-to-search places excessive cognitive load on users by requiring them to both craft a search and sift through search results. On one hand, requiring users to verbalize their search brings up issues of semantics and vocabulary - where one person may type “best jacket for winter,” for example, another could search for “good jackets,” and a third could ask for the “best parkas to wear.” They’re all looking for the same thing, but they’re using different words, which means that they’re likely to get slightly different results or have difficulty finding the most relevant answers on your site. Even further, if you have listed all jackets as “overcoats,” they’re unlikely to find any relevant results at all.

 

SEE ALSO: THE POWER OF POINTING & ONLINE SELF-SERVICE CUSTOMER SUPPORT

On top of that, there is typically the added issue of website organization. On most company sites, users usually have to go to multiple pages - through a search bar, product page, FAQ page, etc. - to conduct their search and find content that’s relevant to them, and most users have no patience for this process anymore.

The Changing Internet User

Overall, the average online customer is changing. Today’s users have higher expectations than ever before and they want their online experience to be responsive, aesthetically pleasing, intuitive and fast. More often than not, this means that they don’t want to type and they don’t want to wait.

In fact, studies show that 67% of mobile users will leave a website if they become frustrated with the site’s navigation, and less than 1% of these users will actually search through knowledge bases attached to a site. And these statistics will only get worse - as technologies become more advanced, users will have even less patience for this traditional search and they will simply refuse to deal with it.

SEE ALSO: DOES YOUR SITE MEET THE ULTRA-HIGH EXPECTATIONS OF MILLENNIALS?

How This Will Affect Your Business Model: The Rise of Point-and-Click

In this modernized landscape, the path of least resistance is point-and-click. It’s everything that today’s users want - responsive, aesthetically pleasing, intuitive and fast - especially when it’s combined with artificial intelligence. In these cases, it can not only provide highly-relevant, on-page answers but also predict what users will need and when they’ll need it.

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More specifically, point-and-click can lead to:

  • Improved UX and decreased cognitive load on end users
  • Increased long-term efficiency for businesses
  • Highly relevant, on-page answers
  • Increase in sales for businesses
  • Lower support costs
  • Happier, more successful customers

As we mentioned, AI makes all the difference here, helping to facilitate the point-and-click model and make it more effective. How?

Artificial intelligence has the power to capture the context of a user’s journey on a website - things like what page they are on, what they’re doing, what products they are interested in, etc. - and provide powerful personalization to each of those users based on that context. This changes the game completely: where point-and-click gives users easy-to-access choices, AI makes sure that those choices are much smarter and highly contextualized.

This changes the game and provides a highly effective alternative to the type-to-search model.

SEE ALSO: ANNOUNCING ANSWERDASH’S NEW AND IMPROVED OBJECT SEARCH FOR DELIVERING CONTEXTUAL Q&A

And more and more businesses are catching on. Thumbtack, for example - a site that can be used to find home contractors and other services - is not search-based at all. With Thumbtack, users never have to search or browse to find the services that they’re looking for. In fact, there is no option to do so. Instead, users simply submit their requested job by clicking “request” on the service that they need and filling out one prompted bubble at a time.

 

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Once they submit their request, Thumbtack comes back with 3-5 options that are pre-screened via their AI algorithms for skillset, experience, location and availability.  The user simply clicks on their choice and hires someone for the job.

The platform does all the work and the user doesn’t have to conduct a single search. Not only does this provide more effective, precise help, but it also improves user experience and considerably speeds up the search process.

Overall, point-and-click solutions are on the rise - and it’s easy to see why. In an oversaturated, impatient online world, type-to-search is no longer getting the job done. Make sure that your company doesn’t fall behind in the AI-powered point-and-click revolution.

Are Your Customers Missing the Power of AI Point-and-Click?

AnswerDash brings smart, AI powered self-service in a point-and-click interface. AnswerDash can predict the most likely inquiries that users will have on any given web page by using AI. By dynamically offering up smart Q&A, users don't have to leave the page or type to search for what they need. AnswerDash's proven technology will reduce support costs, increase revenue and provide you with valuable data to help ensure the best experience for your customers.

2017 - Shaping the Future of Customer Experience

Delivering a positive experience is the route to increasing customer satisfaction, loyalty, trust and advocacy. VoiceSage’s John Duffy looks at how organisations are using technology to push the customer experience bar higher.

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Customer experience is now a CEO-level initiative, with 89 per cent of marketers expecting the customer experience (CX) to be a primary differentiator this year, according to research firm Gartner. 

Turn the clock back to 2012 and only 30 per cent of companies surveyed by Gartner said they expected to compete for business principally on delivering superior customer experience. Roll forward. In 2016, Gartner carried out a similar survey and found the number had sky rocketed to 90 per cent. An increasingly competitive market place and consumer power, propelled by social media, have put CX at the top of the corporate agenda. But how are organisations harnessing technology to deliver on their CX promises in the UK today?

An extensive market analysis survey we conducted in partnership with the UK Contact Centre Forum throws some light on the subject. The big take-away is brands have actually become far more proactive in their CX initiatives. Surprisingly, the landline is still the biggest customer outreach tool, despite the rise in email, Internet and social media usage. However, SMS is fast surfacing as a compelling communications channel. In addition, the much talked about ‘omnichannel’ has become a reality, with organisations looking to connect with customers across different communications channels. As technology rapidly advances, a significant number of organisations have already deployed integrated information and contact routing systems.

Taking a broad survey base, we believe this survey shows a clear and true picture of the UK CX market right now. Respondents included accountancy service providers, building management systems and the leisure industry. In addition we also scoped the public sector, with responses from adult social care, environmental / neighbourhood services and council tax and housing teams at local government level.

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A very high 71% believe SMS technology would mean less in-bound calls for their teams'

The Omnichannel Highway is Gaining Recognition

The biggest challenge for some respondents revolves around actually following the customer’s entire journey from start to finish – especially through the various communications channels available. However, that doesn’t mean to say that ominichannel tracking isn’t on the radar, and in many cases being utilised successfully. 

Customers increasingly want to engage with brands on social media, via the Internet, a mobile app, SMS, a bricks and mortar store or on the phone. They expect a seamless experience whichever channel they choose. 

Moving beyond channel integration, omnichannel enables agents to draw on past interactions and customer data to deliver a seamless experience across all an organisation’s CX channels. Omnichannel in the UK is undoubtedly moving towards this ideal scenario. Nearly 56 per cent of respondents said they can provide a team member with immediate access to previous conversations with customers about the same issue, across all channels. 

On the technology front, a large percentage of organisations have already invested in and deployed integrated information and contact routing systems. A further 18 per cent said they are working on setting up these capabilities, which shows organisations are currently working towards a seamless, integrated and consistent customer service experience across their channels. 

 

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The growing role of SMS: those yet to embrace proactive, show a strong preference for SMS

The Proactive Approach to CX

The survey also spotlighted the fact that organisations are becoming more proactive in their outreach, identifying and responding to customer problems way before they become an issue. 

In fact, a hefty 75 per cent of organisations said they are now taking a proactive approach to CX, which can increase customer loyalty, decrease support calls and allow engagement with the customer’s conversation, particularly on social media. In addition, 87 per cent said the move will also enable them to make major savings on in-bound contacts to their organisations. Technology has enabled organisations to hit the ground running with a proactive strategy. Automation, for example, has enabled companies to send out email and text reminders of renewal of services or follow up on CX voice calls. 

Despite technological advancement, the phone still remains central to CX. In our survey it was the most popular communication channel used by 60 per cent of respondents. It was followed by email (26 per cent), post/letter (7.5 per cent) and SMS (6 per cent). In non-proactive customer outreach, the phone rated even higher at 75 per cent, and email 18 per cent.

SMS & Automated Voice Emerge

 

The survey also examined two new emerging proactive service channels – SMS and Automated Voice. 

 

Over half of respondents (51 per cent) said they actively use SMS, while 72 per cent said they thought the use of text for proactive contact to be either ‘Effective’ or ‘Very Effective’. Of the organisations who had used SMS for customer outreach, 30 per cent said that they had seen improved response rates overall. 

 

The survey also shows that SMS is expanding its role in CX, in particular with organisations who have yet to take up a proactive approach – 37 per cent compared with 31 per cent for phone and 17 per cent for email. In addition, a staggering 71 per cent said they believe SMS technology could result in less in-bound calls for their teams, while greater use of SMS coupled with social media would mean staff could manage more interactions. 

On the automated voice front, 19 per cent said they had used the technology, with 58 per cent reporting it to be ‘Effective’ in achieving their goals. 75 per cent said that response rates following its deployment are improving. 

CX and IT Working Hand in Hand

Today companies must do far more than merely respond. They must do so quickly, and with the relevant information to ensure the customer goes away feeling satisfied with the communication. 

The 2017 UKCCF Proactive Customer Service survey underscores the fact that organisations are taking CX very seriously, with better support systems to improve and enhance customer experiences. At the same time they are also willing to adopt new channels to make omnichannel part of their overall digital transformation strategy moving forward.

 

SNS, voice and social media are all being taken up by organisations as a reliable and consistent way of allowing brands to answer queries faster, more efficiently and cost effectively. 

CX has become one area where organisations can truly differentiate themselves as businesses and realise the value it can create for their bottom line. Technology is helping to create a positive experience for the organisation and customer alike. 

Download the full 2017 UKCCF Proactive Customer Service survey report here.

John Duffy, Enterprise Sales Consultant, VoiceSage
Image Credit: Georgejmclittle / Shutterstock

Ready to Take a Proactive Approach to Customer Experience

Let AnswerDash help. AnswerDash uses contextual self-service technology to provide relevant and targeted questions and answers exactly when and where you customers have them. AnswerDash provides you with essential data to better understand how your customers interact with your website and provides insight into customers behaviors and monitor their reactions to your content. AnswerDash is a crucial first step in enriching your customers' experience at all levels.

5 Tips To Make Digital Payments Easier For Ecommerce

The payment is the painful part. Don’t make it any harder than it already is.

Retailers call it the moment of truth.

It’s that moment when a customer, finally, takes out their card and pays for an item. For many retailers, getting to this moment has been a long, arduous process filled with marketing, advertising, omnichannel touch points and several return visits from the potential customer.

For ecommerce sites, the payment—that oh so critical moment—is often non-intuitive and frustrating for the customer. Payment can feel like Hunter S. Thompson in Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas when on the depths of an ether binge; “You approach the turnstiles and know that when you get there, you have to give the man two dollars or he won’t let you inside. But when you get there, everything goes wrong.”

Payments are all about trust, security, privacy, speed and flow. Especially on websites where the customer is not physically holding a product they are going to walk out of the store with, the payment needs to provide the assurance that customer is getting exactly what they want and that their information is secure. Payment gateways that are slow or non-intuitive greatly increase the likelihood that the customer will ditch the product and never come back to the website.

I experienced an example of this kind of behavior recently. I was looking for a very specific piece for a gadget I was trying to fix. I went to an online store that specializes in such things, found what (I think) was the right item and put it into my shopping cart. When I went to check out, I entered all of my shipping information and went to pay… and was transferred to a third-party, bare bones site. No branding, no certification, no product information for what I was ordering. Just a few fields for my credit card number.

I backed out of the page, abandoned the purchase and never went back.

To develop trust with the customer, improve conversions and make the moment of truth as seamless for the customer as possible, here are five best practices for accepting payments on ecommerce sites.

Keep It Simple, Functional And Seamless

When people are buying things, they don’t want to feel like they are taking an online quiz or providing every last detail of their lives. To customers, payments are a necessary evil and they don’t want to be reminded that all of their information is getting put into your omnichannel marketing and retargeting strategies.

According to Internet Retailer, shopping cart abandonment happens at checkout stage (46.1%) with 37.4% abandoning a cart at the checkout login stage. More than a fifth of abandoned carts are when people fill out their billing address (20.9%) or shipping/delivery address (20%).

In terms of design, remember that the payments page is literally the final stage of the customer journey. Despite the temptation to upsell a customer or point them towards other products, marketing and advertising have no spot in the payments place. Payment pages should ask only for essential information and have the company logo prominently displayed within the normal website framework.

Customer flow should be unambiguous. The process from adding an item to a cart to checkout should be clearly labeled and bring customers to a payments page that is clear in its purpose. Do not redirect customers to another site that handles purchasing information (as was the case with PayPal in earlier years of ecommerce), but rather have the full, integrated payments portal as part of the ecommerce site itself.

Provide Plenty Of Digital Payment Options

Online payments have evolved over the years.

Most ecommerce sites and payment providers have taken a queue from Amazon in this regard. Amazon’s “one click” payment process opened the eyes of other ecommerce sites by proving it can be simple and easy to get from shopping cart to purchase decision.

Payment portal providers have taken note of this and have attempted to take all of the frustration out of the process by bundling payment information with customer billing and shipping data. This is the inevitable mix of Oauth-like online identity systems and payments. Today, digital payment options like Android Pay, Apple Pay, PayPal and Mastercard’s Masterpass make it easy to integrate customer details into the payment process with one click. If you want to have an Amazon-like purchase experience, Amazon will actually help you with that through its Amazon Pay service.

 

In addition to the adoption of the new digital payment methods from the large technology companies, ecommerce sites should also have a “standard” payment option for customers that have not opted in to digital payment methods from the likes of Google, Apple, Amazon, PayPal, Mastercard or Visa. Standard payment fields that ask for card details, shipping and billing information are available through a variety of payment providers including PayPal’s Braintree, Stripe and Authorize.net.

Assure Payments Are Secure And Private

When you use some of the standard payment portals from trusted resources, security and privacy of customer data is baked into the product.

 

The trick is to make sure your customers can see that their information is being protected and trust that data is secure and private. According to eConsultancy, 58% of people will abandon a cart based on security concerns.

Table stakes in ecommerce security on websites is to make sure data coming in and out of your site is encrypted through HTTPS, which adds Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption to websites. Google uses HTTPS integration into account for site rankings in search results, so it is an important function to just about any site on the Web. In addition, payments need to be PCI Security Standards Council compliant. Payment gateway providers should be PCI compliant by default, but it doesn’t hurt to have both SSL and PCI badges on a payments page to ensure customers of their data security.

In terms of privacy, the best practice is to not sell your customers’ data to third parties. And those rules should be spelled out very clearly in a company’s terms of service and reiterated in a note on the payments page itself. Companies should be as transparent as possible with customers on how data is being used (whether for marketing, loyalty or promotional campaigns etc.). Transparency builds trust, which is the greatest cache that a brand has with its customers.

Allow Guests To Checkout

On the Web, discovery is a sideways affair. People will start looking for a product through a search or from social media or an email from a friend. Most customers are not loyal members… they just want what they want and they want it now. Your brand is but the vessel.

A good way to make these customers abandon their cart and never come back is to force them to sign up for your site with user account, password and profile details. The law of averages will tell you (if you have good data insights) which customers are repeat buyers and are open for deals, loyalty and marketing programs.

The lesson: don’t be data greedy. Take what you can get by allowing a customer to check out as guests, supplying the bare bones of information to get them from product discovery to checkout.

Calls To Action: Before And After

As mentioned above, the payments process needs to be the easy and frictionless. In an interview with ARC at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year, Mastercard’s chief marketing officer Raja Rajamannar described the customer journey and payments role in it:

"Now, look at the entire consumer experience of the purchase cycle. Say you decide to buy a phone. Your excitement level is high, your emotional level is high. You are searching models, your emotion is high. You are selecting models, your emotion is high. You come to pay for the model … your emotion drops. You see the package, your emotion is high. You open the package, your emotion is high."

As a brand, there is almost nothing you can do to make the experience of paying something the high point of the customer experience. The best goal is to make it as simple, fast and easy as possible. This means that all of the other objectives of ecommerce should be left for periods before or after the point of purchase in the customer journey. Upsells and offers should come right before the payment screen. Reengagement activity and “see more” types of offers should come after the payment. These activities are what turn casual customers into loyal, repeat buyers and are necessary for retailers to build strong brands. Just leave them till a different point other than the purchase screen.

Did you know? Applause works with nearly all of the major payment providers and helps integrate payments with the top retailers and ecommerce sites to ensure top quality payment experiences. See how Applause’s global community of 300,000 testers can help improve your payments experience here.

See How AnswerDash Can Improve Your Ecommerce Experience and Cut Shopping Cart Abandonment by 30%

Are your customers abandoning their cart on your Ecommerce store? AnswerDash can help! AnswerDash uses predictive Q&A software to provide instant, personalized and specific self-service answers without customers having to leave the page or the cart, with our convenient Q&A tab. AnswerDash will reduce bounce rates, increase conversions and improve customer outcomes. Contact us to learn more about how AnswserDash AI powered self-service support can improve your Ecommerce business without changing your site.

How Can Thinking Small Propel You To Greatness?

It was a major meeting for my friends at Volkswagen Australia. This was their Customer Experience Summit, and the theme for the meeting was “Think Small: Big Differences Come from SMALL Details.”

Jason Bradshaw, the Director of Customer Experience, shared his vision about Volkswagen Australia being recognized and known for their amazing customer service. His goal is for VW to be one of the best in the industry. His bold move was to tell the audience, which consisted of the ownership and management of the Volkswagen dealerships throughout the country, that everyone should think small. Really? How can thinking small propel you to greatness? Well, it turns out Jason was onto something… BIG!

 

 

It doesn’t matter what type of business you are in, the bar for typical – or average – customer service is set low. Very low. That is a shame because virtually any business that doesn’t yet have a stellar reputation can be more competitive and successful if they would pay more attention to how they deliver customer service. All they have to do is be better than average – higher than the bar. And, how much better do they have to be? Just a little better. A small improvement. A minor tweak. That’s what makes big differences. And when that “just a little above average” interaction is something that happens again and again, as in it being consistent, then the customer says, “You are amazing!”

There are two parts to this concept you must pay close attention to. First, you have to find the places to be above average. Break down every interaction, or touch point, that you and your organization have with the customer. Then look for a way to make it better – even just a tiny bit better. Yes, it’s okay – even encouraged – to think small.

Second, you have to bake it into the process or system. It must be consistent. All the time. Not great one day and just okay the next. Anything less erodes the customer’s confidence.

Some of you might have been told to be bold and to think big! I love the idea of thinking big. Anything can be considered. The craziest ideas can and should always be shared. And, when you get an idea that works, then you have the opportunity to improve. But, sometimes those opportunities are few and far between. And, big could also mean expensive. Yet, I don’t think anyone would disagree that it is easier to think small – and it’s much easier to implement small ideas. Lots of small things can become a big deal.

All Jason Bradshaw of VW wants his dealerships in Australia to do is to embrace the concept of improving customer experience by just one percent. That’s it. Just one small percentage point. Make it one percent better than average. And, doing that across the board can mean huge improvement. It’s noticeable because it’s consistent. Thinking small the right way can be huge!

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright © MMXVII, Shep Hyken)

Looking for an Easy Way to Improve Your Customer Experience? AnswerDash can Help! 

AnswerDash uses contextual self-service technology to provide relevant and targeted questions and answers exactly when and where you customers have them. AnswerDash provides you with essential data to better understand how your customers interact with your website and provides insight into customers behaviors and monitor their reactions to your content. Contact AnswerDash and begin to enrich your customers' experience at all levels. 

Why Visitors to your Site Rarely become Customers

Like me, you probably acquire an increasing amount of your goods and services online. Whether it’s Amazon for physical goods, or TurboTax for your tax bill, we’re spending a lot less time in brick and mortar stores, and a lot more time in front of screens entering our credit card numbers. But think back to your first Amazon purchase or the first time you submitted your taxes online. These were not low stress moments. Here you are, sitting in front of a screen, about to give your credit card to a faceless business you’ve never transacted with. You’re wondering:

  • Should you trust them?
  • Will your product arrive on time?
  • Will they do what they promised?
  • Is it worth the money?
  • What will they do with your personal data?
  • Will they still be around the next time you need to use them?
  • What’s their refund policy?
  • Does anyone I trust use this?

These questions are not only natural, but they’re universal. For a visitor to become a customer requires a lot of trust, and as business owners, it’s our job to establish that trust.

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Now, if you’re in the business of sales conversion at web scale, this issue of trust is a fundamental one. How do you convince someone to give you their money with just pixels on a screen?

You’ve probably tried all of the conventional things:

  • Clean and coherent visual branding
  • Expertly crafted marketing materials to teach about your goods or services
  • Being available through chat, email, phone
  • Providing “deep content” in the form of reviews, case studies, or knowledge base articles, for customers who need to really understand your goods and services before buying or subscribing
  • Having an online social presence on social media and blogs to demonstrate your thought leadership and reputation

These efforts are absolutely necessary for building trust, and they convince a lot of visitors to buy. But I don’t believe they’re enough.

Here’s why. Remember that list of questions I posed above? It turns out that most visitors never get answers to those questions. That’s because the answers to most of these questions are buried in your site, never to be found.

Let’s take TurboTax, for example. Imagine you’re a new visitor, following the recommendation of a friend, but you’re particularly worried about what happens to your personal data, such as your social security number, your address, and your salary. You land on the first page:

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The question in your head is “What do you do with my social security number?” You scan the page and see nothing about social security numbers. You scroll to the bottom and get overwhelmed by the sixty links the might have the answer:

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You see the “Security” link at the top and click it, but the page is about how TurboTax prevents others from getting your info, not about what TurboTax does with it:

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At this point, you’re getting desperate, so you click on “Help” and select the “Frequently Asked Questions” link, then search for “social security number,” but none of the articles look relevant:

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At this point, it just seems easier to keep using H&R Block; you don’t know what they do with your social security number, but you do trust Gary, the representative who’s been filing your taxes for years.

Every day, there are probably hundreds of thousands of new visitors who have similar experiences to this and abandon TurboTax.com. But they’re not all asking about social security numbers, they’re asking about a hundred other idiosyncratic topics that you haven’t yet thought to include on your website, that you haven’t yet written about in your knowledge base. And TurboTax loses every single one of them.

This is Why You’re Losing Potential Customers too

What can you do about this? Fundamentally, the problem is that your potential customers have a “long tail” of questions, but your one web site design can only answer perhaps the five or so most frequently asked few questions in straightforward way. Every other question a visitor has requires work—searching, browsing, emailing, calling—and this is work your visitors don’t want to do. Even worse, they know that there’s a good chance the answer isn’t even on your site, which means all that work will be for nothing.

What you need is to be able to answer any customer’s question without them doing much work. That’s where services like AnswerDash come in. AnswerDash provides instant answers to questions everywhere on a site, so that regardless of where a visitor is when a question pops into their head, they can click on the AnswerDash tab and instantly get an answer with very little work.

How does AnswerDash make it instant? It tracks what pages a customer visits, the page on which they’ve clicked the tab, and what questions other customers with similar histories have looked at. Think of it like Amazon’s “People also bought” feature, but for Q&A.

If AnswerDash were on TurboTax, our visitor’s experience would have been a lot easier. In the best case, many other customers would have had the same question, and clicking the tab would have shown a question such as “What does TurboTax do with my sensitive information?” in the popular questions, requiring only a single click to get an answer. In the worst case, the visitor would have searched for “social security number,” which would have surfaced the same question. Either way, one or two clicks later and the visitor would have had their answer.

AnswerDash works. The companies that have adopted it have stayed 100% invested in it. Why? Not only does it increase engagement, deflects ticket, and lift sales conversion, but it also provides deep insight about what your customers are wondering, empowering you to improve your conversion rates even further than AnswerDash can alone.

In our humble view, contextual FAQs are the future of customer success. Don’t let that future pass you buy.

Why Automation is the Future of Personalisation

Automation will be Customer Service 2.0

If there’s one thing most customer service experts agree these days it’s that the future lies with more personal, empathetic service. Nobody wants another automate “Your call is very important to us” email. The shift to basic automation and outsourcing in the early 2000s allowed big brands to scale customer service quickly but it cost them on quality of service. The industry got so bad that even now you can stand out from the competition by just not treating customers who have a problem as an annoyance.

The recent breed of startups like Transferwise, Moo and Hello Fresh have learnt from these mistakes and taken inspiration from the big players, Apple and Amazon, to turn customer experience into a significant comeptitive advantage. It’s not going to be long until you simply cannot compete in any industry if you have the level of customer service commonplace 5 years ago.

So, how can companies scale their support functions to millions of customers while preserving and even growing the degree of personalisation and empathy? Ironically, the answer lies with more automation, a lot more automation.

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The future of customer service will be more automation through AI

Let me be absolutely clear that this is not to suggest more canned responses, speaking to annoying robot voices or knowledge bases full of irrelevant information.

This no longer needs to be the case, with the new iteration of AI. Companies can now build automated solutions which are actually as good as humans. Of course, we are nowhere close to being able to replace humans altogether, but if used carefully AI can dramatically boost the productivity of customer service teams.

SELF SERVICE ON STEROIDS

Self service is the holy grail of customer support. Most customers actually prefer to be able to find the solution without talking to anyone. And for a service team, intelligent self service could eliminate a lot of grunt work answering very basic, repetitive queries.

FAQs and knowledge bases have been around for awhile and have definitely helped but do not go far enough. Modern AI’s can blend in the query, written in natural language, as well as any other customer attributes like number of log ins, products purchased etc, to find a better solution.

Instead of using a very rough set of keywords, it can analyse data to to find the most appropriate solution faster. It can also combine a lot more data sources under one roof, looking through official knowledge bases, customer support forums, Q & A websites and even social media.

Where keyword search would just provide the customer with a barrage of mostly irrelevant information, AI can find only an applicable solution in real time.

GIVING YOUR AGENTS SUPERPOWERS

Finding the relevant context is not just important for self service. Your agents will need it too. No matter how well your agent knows your product, they will not necessarily have come across all possible issues. Of course some problems will be brand new, but others could be solved by just helping agents find an answer faster among the internal knowledge base. And at huge scale with rapid growth in the team, a new agent might not even know the product that well to begin with.

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You can train the AI on all of the past support queries and after a few hundred thousand, you will have an AI that can suggest a solution from the archive more often than not. Your agents can reply to queries faster and with higher quality answers without harming the experience. They can then spend the extra time they saved on the really tricky problems. Once those are solved, the AI can become even better for the next time a problem like this comes along.

PERSONALISATION AT SCALE

If there is one thing customers universally hate, it is when they perceive the solution is a generic reply, not tailored to their specific problem. Faceless generic replies such as “Your call is very important to us” are rightly ridiculed by the modern customer service teams. If my call is important, then why am I on hold?

With modern AI you can personalise automated responses on the fly. This can be as simple as using the right language or as difficult as enriching the generic solution with specific data relevant to the support query. If done correctly, the customer will come away happy that you spent time understanding their specific problem.

ATTITUDE AT SCALE

It is a huge challenge to maintain consistent support culture across a team of 10 agents. It is a nearly impossible task when your team grows to a 100. What about 1,000 agents? Our analysis shows that perceived attitude problem from a customer service agent almost always kills customer’s overall experience even if the query was dealt with efficiently. This can cost you real money very quickly.

Modern AI can help agents moderate their tone and language in real time, allowing your customers to get consistent service 24/7.

A lot of the innovations described above are still beyond the reach of most companies today but an exciting new breed of startups including Chattermill are gradually making this possible. If you are building a best in class customer support function, you should already be using AI.

THINKING OF AI? THINK ANSWERDASH

Looking for a way to incorporate AI into your customer support? Think AnswerDash. AnswerDash uses predictive Q&A software to provide instant, personalized, and frictionless self-service answers to support your customers and personalize their experience. AnswerDash's proven technology will reduce support costs, increase revenue and provide you with valuable data to help ensure the best experience for your customers. Ready to learn more about how you can provide self-service support with AnswerDash? 

Fill In Your Content Gaps With Trending Topics

Discover the Unknown...

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The great unknown. Sure, it can be exhilarating - just not when it comes to your online business and your customers. Especially in today’s technologically advanced, data-driven culture, the unknown has become unacceptable. Businesses have to know and understand their customers if they hope to find long-term success, and today’s customers won’t accept anything less.

SEE ALSO: Does Your Site Meet the Ultra-High Expectations of Millennials?

At AnswerDash, we’ve been helping our customers solve these great customer unknowns, using our AI-powered contextual self-service to predict, understand and answer users questions without a support agent. And we’ve done well, deflecting 30-50% of our customers’ support tickets and improving user “help content” engagement by over 10x.

That said, we noticed that there was still a gap - literally - when it came to unstructured customer queries, or those questions that customers manually type into the AnswerDash search bar when they can’t find the exact information that they’re looking for. The fact that these questions even existed showed us that there was something missing either in the AnswerDash Q&A, in their knowledge base, or on the site itself. At times, users were simply not finding the information that they were looking for and they ended up abandoning a site or submitting a support ticket because of it.  

These unstructured queries represent the unknown unknowns - the questions that businesses don’t even know that their customers might have and the information that they don’t even know is missing. These are the hardest unknowns to find and understanding them could lead to the most game-changing insights.

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That’s why AnswerDash has launched the Trending Topics feature.

Trending Topics: An Overview

The Trending Topics feature utilizes proprietary machine learning algorithms and NLP to analyze users’ unstructured customer queries and identify common attributes, or common threads among those questions. The tool then clusters similar queries into categories, enabling easy identification of those questions which occur most frequently.

The results are displayed in an easy-to-read visualization that provides data, analytics and actionable insights into what AnswerDash customers can do with this data. The interface is point-and-click and very interactive and intuitive.

In the big picture, this provides AnswerDash customers with insights into users’ questions, empowering them to avoid ticket overload and remedy content gaps on their websites, in their mobile apps and in their knowledge bases. This kind of information will effectively reduce support tickets and cost for all AnswerDash customers.

  Trending Topics reveals categories and volume of searches, how they interrelate, where your users are finding answers and where there are gaps

SEE ALSO: Why Your eCommerce Store Needs Artificial Intelligence to Survive

Digging Deeper: The Details

Let’s dive into the specifics. The tool analyzes two types of queries: searches in the AnswerDash pop-out Q&A search bar that don’t find answers and submitted tickets. The ability to gain insights into these two types of queries leads to two interesting possibilities for AnswerDash customers.

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First, it gives businesses the chance to update their answers and knowledge base. Clearly, if the customers are manually typing into the AnswerDash search bar, it likely means that the information is missing from the AnswerDash pop-up Q&A list. In this case, additional Q&A may be needed. Once added, the knowledge base is automatically updated as well.

Secondly - and perhaps more impactfully - it can also show that there’s a content problem on your website page or that your customer is interacting with your site in an unexpected way.

A great example is an AnswerDash e-commerce customer realized via Trending Topics that they were getting a number of user inquiries in the categories of “next day delivery”, “delivery date” and “delivery options”. The Trending Topics feature was able to identify and cluster hundreds of these queries where users were simply not finding answers or submitting tickets and was able to suggest Q&A content to fill in this gap. As a result, the e-retailer added the question “What are my delivery options?” and watched their unanswered questions on this topic immediately drop.  

In the big picture, AnswerDash users can use the Trending Topics insights to not only improve their Q&A but also to tweak their website or even change their product or service to address customer concerns and interests.

Using the Information: Analytics

To help users make the most out of this information, the Trending Topics tool will not only provide data and analytics but also suggest content and Q&A that you may want to publish. You can edit it, of course, but you will have a sense of what the most representative question might look like.

Finally, when you do create new content or update your site, the tool will track your changes and your new customer questions so that you can see the impact and benefits of your updates in real time. Overall, the Trending Topics tool provides a more efficient, effective way to understand customer inquiries and make large scale improvements to your website - no extra footwork and no more unknown unknowns.

Let AnswerDash's Trending Topics help you Discover Game-Changing Customer Insights

AnswerDash’s Trending Topics feature utilizes proprietary machine learning algorithms to identify common attributes from unstructured customer queries. AnswerDash's predictive Q&A engine enables companies to empower their users with the right information in the right place at the right time, whether on websites, in native mobile apps or via chatbots. With AnswerDash, businesses can transform their digital user experience, while cutting support costs by 30 to 50 percent, increasing sales conversions by 10 to 30 percent and dramatically improving customer satisfaction. Learn more at www.answerdash.com.

Great Expectations: Why Self-Service Is the Future of Customer Service

The UK is a nation of smartphone addicts. Deloitte's sixth annual Mobile Consumer Survey reveals that four out of five adults now own a smartphone, with one in three admitting to checking their phone in the middle of the night.

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In this hyperconnected world, the face of customer service has changed. In the not-so-distant past, a friendly smile and a courteous manner formed the bedrock of customer care. Today, tech innovations have catapulted choice and convenience to the top of the list of what people care about.

At the same time, service-related customer expectations continue to grow. Normal business hours are no longer a thing, and customers demand 24/7 support. In this context, your business can’t afford not to offer a self-service solution.

Profit-Boosting Reasons Why Your Business Should Embrace Self-Service Support

It’s clear that consumers love self-service – but there’s also several very good profit-boosting reasons why this affection should be reciprocated by your business:

Self-Service Increases Revenue

Many customers will pay more for convenience. The Harvard Business Review reported that for the privilege of skipping the queue, American fast food chain Taco Bell charges a 20% premium for orders made via its digital app. Self-service also reduces the number of frustrated customers, in turn increasing satisfaction rates, repeat orders and long-term revenue.

Self-Service Equals Lower Support Costs

Customers who use online systems to help themselves don’t cost as much for businesses to support. Websites, mobile apps, and support portals are cheaper than brick-and-mortar storefronts and one-to-one assistance. As a result, your business’s overheads reduce at the same time as your customers’ satisfaction goes up.

Self-Service Allows For More Efficient Use of Resources

Self-service helps to create efficiencies in your business’ customer support workload. By helping customers to help themselves, you don’t always need to provide one-on-one support for simple tasks. The upshot of this is that your sales and service reps can concentrate on providing support for complex inquiries that are likely to have a bigger impact on business’ bottom line.

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How Can Your Business Offer Better Self-Service Support?

With the multiple and mutual benefits of self-service established, it’s logical to start thinking about how your business could do things better. Luckily, there are several assets and processes you can start implementing right now that will have an immediate effect.

Create a Support Portal

It’s crucial to take the time to understand your customer's pain points before creating content that solves their problems. Appropriate resources for support portals include FAQs, a knowledge base with detailed product information and step-by-step solutions for common problems. Creating a search bar, tagging articles and adding links from your website and social media channels to your support portal makes it easier for your customers to find the information they need.

Keep Your Support Content Up-to-Date

Like the greatest masterpieces, a fully functioning support portal is never truly finished. Business and customer experiences are fluid, which means you need to keep a constant eye on how your customers’ needs change; run reports, review content and ask your customers how you can service them better. Reviewing your support offering regularly ensures you keep your ideas fresh and in line what your audience expects.

Take a Video-First Approach

Video is currently one of the hottest customer service trends. Generally, customers struggle reading through old-fashioned manuals when trying to fix a problem. Video tutorials, on the other hand, can condense complex ideas into simple show-and-tell explanations. Approximately 90% of the information our brains process is visual, so next time you’re updating your support portal, taking a video-first approach is recommended.

Optimize Your Support Content For All Devices

This article opened by outlining how mobile has guided consumer preference towards self-service. It stands to reason, then, that optimizing your support content for all devices is essential. As an absolute minimum, you need to make sure your site and complimentary support resources use responsive design, which adjusts content to the screen size it’s viewed on.

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Is One-to-One Support Still Needed?

Customers love using self-service for basic needs and information. However, for more complex problems, we discovered that 45% of people still believe calling a company in person is the fastest way to solve an issue. Although self-service has changed the role of customer support, a contact center and well-trained sales and service reps remain as important to success as ever.

To learn more about how NewVoiceMedia can help you provide a good customer experience across multiple channels, head to our ContactWorld for Service and ContactWorld for Sales pages. Or, to discover even more about taking your customer support strategy to the next level, take a look at our whitepapers.

Looking to Optimize Self-Service?

Today, customers expect self-service support options to meet their needs. AnswerDash uses self-service software to provide contextual Q&A to conveniently answer customer inquiries before a support ticket is needed. Help your customers help themselves, and you will see the benefits. AnswerDash reduces support costs, increases revenue, and provides you with contextual data to optimize your content. Contact one of our experts today to learn more about how you can provide self-service support with AnswerDash. 

Nicola Brookes is the Communications Director at New Voice Media. This article was originally posted on the SalesForce Blog and reproduced with permission.

Breakthrough Ways to Cut Customer Support Costs

When the smartphone came out, it completely changed the game for digital technology and communications. Suddenly, users no longer needed separate devices for music, the internet, phone calls, photos, GPS, etc. Instead, they had access to all of it in one hand with the push of a button - and the world never looked back.

When it comes right down to it, why would we? Smartphones completely revolutionized the way that we do things and interact with the digital world today, giving us the most effective, efficient, user-friendly solution in history. And now, decades later, most people can barely remember their lives before smartphones - and the thought of using technology the old way seems like a step backwards and a waste of time.

This same kind of digital revolution is happening in the world of customer support and trying to do things the old way is simply not an option. The only choice that we have is to get on board and catch up.

The History of Customer Support

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Traditionally, customer support has always grown linearly. Think about it: when a company doubles their business, they have always had to double their support staff and costs as well. Why? Because they’ve used customer support representatives to answer all of their customers’ questions and queries, which means that when their business has grown they’ve needed more reps - which means more customer support time, resources and money.

Big Changes

Today, this system of linear customer support growth has become costly, ineffective and downright archaic. With the rise of digital alternatives like AI, chatbots, machine-learning software and self-service, the majority of customer queries can now be answered by other, less expensive means. In this new increasingly digital context, there is simply no reason to continue with the old-school, purely assisted service model and companies that continue to rely on representatives are ultimately going to fall behind, spending more money and working less effectively.

In short, if you are still doubling your support staff every time you double your business, you are making a costly mistake and your business will suffer.

Still not convinced? Think about the bigger technological context that we live in today. With today's tech, you should never have to ask a logged in customer who they are or what page they are at on the site, and you shouldn’t make them work to find the product or information that they are searching for. The technology to overcome these middle steps is here now, and you are flushing money down the drain if you are doing it the old way. On top of that, customers are much happier if they don’t have to go through these steps on your site. It’s a total win-win.

SEE ALSO: 11 Changes that are Revolutionizing the Customer Support World

Customer Support Costs Should No Longer Grow Linearly With The Business

The good news is that support costs will drop dramatically as this model begins to shift on a broader scale and more businesses begin adopting digital customer service alternatives. As this happens, all companies with an online or electronic presence will have to invest in customer service and customer experience technologies in order to stay profitable and relevant. The key to doing this successfully, as McKinsey notes, will be to balance costs against scalability and implementation speed, choosing the technology that will give the greatest ROI and the simplest format.

Some of the most popular, effective options available today include customer support automation systems like FreshDesk or a user-facing self-service component on company websites. Most of these new technologies are able to improve the quality of customer user experience (UX) at a radically lower cost. This means that they will be able to cut support tickets and support costs by up to 50% while increasing customer satisfaction - because, let’s face it, today’s customers want to solve their online problems without interacting with a representative.

For growing businesses, it’s a no-brainer.

With this shift, customer support will no longer grow linear to business growth and the entire customer support system will change.

The Best Way to Use Your Customer Support Team

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In the big picture, this means huge changesfor customer service and customer experience teams: roles will shift, teams will change, and CEOs and investors will make the high-return, low effort switch to self-service, chatbots and automation their #1 investment priority.

SEE ALSO: The Power of Proactive Customer Service Solutions

That said, the customer support representative will still have an important role in this new context. Businesses will need highly trained, highly skilled representatives to answer the complex customer questions and concerns that self-service software will simply not be able to address. As a rule of thumb, 80% of customer support tickets are repetitive, low-level questions that self-service softwares can easily address. That means that the other 20% are complex, idiosyncratic, high-value questions that require a representative.

As self-service and machine-learning software take center stage for the low-hanging fruit, this 20% will become the focus for customer service representatives, which means that customer care executives will have to develop smaller teams of highly skilled agents and that representatives will really have to know their stuff.

On a larger scale, this implies a huge shift in the amount of training and the efficiency that each customer support rep has. Since they won’t be spending the majority of their time answering repetitive questions, representatives are expected to have more specialized skills and higher levels of job satisfaction, which makes each representative a more valuable, efficient team member all-around.  

Companies That Are Getting It Right

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Overall, this shift is good news for both companies and representatives and many businesses have already made the switch and noted great improvements.

PipelineDeals, a growing SaaS CRM provider, used AnswerDash’s contextual self-service software to better expose their customer service and support content to their customers and to self-serve the common, repetitive questions that flooded their existing ticketing and live chat channels. This had a huge positive impact on their business and saw nearly instant results:

  • Just three weeks after launching AnswerDash, PipelineDeals saw a 51% reduction in repetitive customer support tickets and an 87% decrease in live chats.   
  • The switch to self-service also freed up their live chat agents for more personalized, high-value conversations and increased their live chat conversions.
  • Finally, PipelineDeals was able to use AnswerDash’s analytic tools to gain valuable insights into the big questions that their customers were having on the site, identifying the main sources of ambiguity or confusion.

If you want your business to have continued success, you have to make the switch to digital customer support solutions. It’s more effective, more user-friendly and, sooner rather than later, the old way will simply no longer be an option. Make sure that your business is ahead of the curve today.

Contextual Self-Service Support With AnswerDash

Not sure where to get started? Step away from traditional linear growth models and revolutionize your customer support with AnswerDash. Our self-service software will reduce low-level and repetitive support tickets and your customer service representative will be challenged, rewarded, and more satisfied as a result. Contact one of our experts to learn how you can incorporate self-service solutions into your business today.

Why Your eCommerce Store Needs Artificial Intelligence To Survive

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has finally emerged from the shadowy realm of university labs and science fiction to splash down right in the heart of mainstream society. This seemingly rapid ascent has been bolstered by an unlikely (even pedestrian) bedfellow:online shopping.

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Artificial Intelligence (AI) has finally emerged from the shadowy realm of university labs and science fiction to splash down right in the heart of mainstream society. This seemingly rapid ascent has been bolstered by an unlikely (even pedestrian) bedfellow:online shopping.

In this article, we’ll explore the symbiotic relationship between AI and online shopping. We’ll look at why your eCommerce store needs AI to survive, and how the eCommerce environment has proven to be a perfect petri dish to incubate and refine machine learning technology.

Artificial Intelligence can go deep. Like, really deep. Its networks of software and hardware essentially mimic the neurons in our brains, analyzing huge swathes of digital data and drawing insights from the patterns they recognize. They adopt tasks, such as identifying pictures and recognizing voice commands, and then they leverage their biggest advantages—speed and volume—to quickly master these tasks, even outperforming humans in some cases.

As complex as AI can be, it can also be applied in service of simpler, more focused goals, such as making it easier for your customers find relevant products in your online store.

If you’re an eCommerce provider, your business depends on your ability to connect users to the products they want. This is a big challenge in a world where product offerings and consumer behaviors are both moving targets. But it turns out, hitting those moving targets is something AI excels at. There has never been a better time to embrace your new robot overlords and make them your partners in creating a more user-friendly and more profitable venture.

Here are four reasons why your eCommerce store needs AI right now:

1. Refined Search Capabilities

When Artificial Intelligence learns and masters a skill quickly, it’s called deep learning. Deep learning is largely responsible for the huge strides that Facebook, Google and their ilk are making towards developing a true understanding of their individual users, even as their networks approach monumental scale.

One business area that is ripe for refinement and reinvention is your website’s search capabilities. Previously, websites have relied on static (human-guided) algorithms that did a poor job of adapting to new content and shifting user behaviors, and as a result, they did a mediocre job of narrowing down the user’s search queries.

AI can smooth out the search glitch and ensure that your results don’t lose relevance over time. One way that it improves search queries is through natural language processing. This allows the system to better understand and “infer” what a user is looking for based on the language they use to search. By better understanding what the user really means, the search engine can interpret more complex queries and respond with better, more individual shopper-specific results.

In addition to improving search functions, AI can also create some that are entirely new, such as visual search. Visual search enables the user to upload an image to a website—say, a dress or a chair—and have the site identify that item and items like it from the site’s catalog.

What makes this possible is that the AI itself is writing (and rewriting, and rewriting) the search algorithms itself, without human intervention. As you add products and users add more behavioral data points, it continually refines its approach to making recommendations. As more and more people use search tools to explore product catalogs (rather than manual filters), having a more intelligent search engine can mean the difference between finding exactly what they want and getting overwhelmed with less relevant results (and moving on to another site).

2. Analyzing Big Data

The problem humans have when it comes to analyzing big data is that it’s just too big… there are simply too many data points coming in too fast to see all the patterns. Because Artificial Intelligence mimics the neurons in our brains to analyze large volumes of unstructured data, it can do what we do, only at tremendous scale.

Why is this crucial to the survival of your eCommerce store? Big data gives you an insight into consumer trends, helping you to provide a solution to a problem that your customers may not even know they have. You will also be able to determine product attributes in real-time and then determine which ones need to be discounted or replenished and which ones are likely to be relevant to a specific search query.

AI’s ability to read, understand, analyze and break-down big data for you allows you to start trends and marketing styles before your competitors, and this kind of foresight can be the key to success in a highly competitive and crowded shopping environment.

3. Personalized Online Experiences

It might sound odd to suggest that a robot can make your customers online shopping experience more personalized than a human being, but look at it like this: AI can’t replace a physical salesperson who greets your users with a friendly “Hi! Can I help you?” But it can provide intelligent engagement at every single customer touch point, something that would require way too much time for a human workforce.

It can do this by identifying clusters and patterns in information, such as similarities between customers, past purchasing behavior, browsing history and other common threads. With this information, your eCommerce store will be able to offer proactive guidance, such as providing your customers with a personal shopping assistant and customized the sales experience based on their behavior in real-time, while they are on your site.

Soon, AIs will even be able to handle more complex questions that typically require a human salesperson, but even if it can’t find the answer itself, the AI will be able to identify and “triage” these complex questions, directing them to the appropriate human salesperson and ensuring your customers stay in your store until they get what they want.

A good example is Viv, an AI-based interface developed by the creators of Siri. Viv enables any site to use AI to triage their customer inquiries, and it can even perform a multitude of services without human intervention. The result is increased sales success with less customer service overhead.

4. Product Cataloging

There are many ways that you can improve your customer’s experience. Utilizing themes, such as those from Shopify, can make your eCommerce site more visually appealing and user-friendly. But if you can pair a beautiful website with highly efficient product cataloging, then you will really make some happy customers.AI can play a vitally important role in product cataloging. Customers today expect more insightful and accurate product information from their retailers, and if you don’t meet their expectations, you could find yourself losing out to a competitor. 30% of American adults say they would purchase goods from an online retailer they’ve never even heard of before if they display detailed and accurate product info.

Your product data needs to be consistent and high-quality across your sales channels. Sounds simple, but it isn’t, especially if you sell across multiple channels that require different formats for the product data. An AI can actually recognize what product data means instead of just populating fields. It can see the difference between a description and a specification and populate the appropriate and relevant data in the right place, and update that data automatically across all channels.

Conclusion

Data and using analytics will be key to the survival of all eCommerce stores in the years to come. We can expect more competition, more products, and more varied consumer behavior. AI can help ensure that, as a retailer, you are anticipating and even setting trends, rather than constantly playing catch-up.

Thinking of AI? Think AnswerDash

Looking for a way to incorporate AI into your eCommerce store? Think AnswerDash. AnswerDash uses predictive Q&A software to provide instant, personalized, and frictionless self-service answers to support your customers throughout their buying journey and personalize their experience. AnswerDash's proven technology will decrease shopping cart abandonment and provide you with valuable data to help you provide the best experience for your customers. Don't let yourself fall behind. Contact AnswerDash now.  

This article was originally posted on boomtrain.com and reproduced with permission.

E-commerce: What it Can Learn From Customer Experience

They say every once in a while, there comes along a new technology that disrupts the entire industry and changes the way we see things. Almost a decade after its arrival, digital technology has transformed the retail industry in how customers purchase, evaluate, receive, return, or use products. We hear stories such as‘Shoppers fleeing physical stores’, ‘Great mall exodus’ and so on. Indeed, Marc Andreessen’s prediction that e-commerce will overtake retail businesses seems to become truer every day.

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Sadly, that’s hardly the real story. E-commerce growth has slowed since its inception and is expected to go on the same way. Research suggests that at best, e-commerce will take up not more than 18 percent share of the entire industry. Part of the slow growth rate can also be attributed to the failure of e-commerce companies to correctly gauge and learn from the customer experience. While there is no denial of the fact that e-commerce has facilitated more interaction with customers, it is necessary to measure the overall picture of customers’ experience with the company rather than a distorted view of measuring their satisfaction level right after purchases. It is necessary to realize that what people really desire is not products but satisfying experiences.

Customer Experience: Top Priority for Executives

According to a recent study by Accenture (in cooperation with Forrester, 2015), improving the customer experience received the highest rankings when asking executives about their top priorities for the next 12 months. Multiple firms such as KPMG, Amazon, and Google, now have chief customer experience officers, customer experience vice presidents, or customer experience managers responsible for creating and managing the experience of their customers.

This increasing focus arises because customers now interact with firms through myriad touchpoints in multiple channels and media, and customer experiences are more social in nature. These changes require firms to integrate multiple business functions, and even external partners, in creating and delivering positive customer experiences.

Customer Satisfaction and Loyalty

One key element of understanding and managing customer experience is the ability to measure and monitor reactions to firm offerings, especially assessing and evaluating customer attitudes and perceptions. Satisfaction has primarily been conceptualised as resulting from a comparison of the actual delivered performance with customer expectations. Hence, givingfalse hopes may really be detrimental to the overall success of the firm.

There are three focal points at which customer experience can be enhanced: pre-purchase (customers’ interaction with the brand, category, and environment before a purchase transaction); purchase (customers’ interactions with the brand and its environment during the purchase event itself) and post-purchase (customers’ interactions with the brand and its environment following the actual purchase). Analysing the customer journey through these stages helps in considering myriad possibilities of enriched customer experiences at each level.

Engaging customers

In the current decade, the major movement in customer managementhas been on customer and brand engagement. Customer engagement attempts to distinguish customer attitudes and behaviors that go beyond purchase. For instance, providing quality after-sales services and an established customer grievance redressal mechanism strengthens the relationship of the company with its customers and can be a driver of co-creation, social influence through word of mouth, and customer referrals.

There is no denying the fact that customer experiences matter, and if e-commerce companies plan to stay around for a while, they should consider creating superlative experiences in favor of their customers. Although human experience has been studied for hundreds of years, customer experiences can still be researched upon to provide a delightful customer journey throughout.

Are you ready to revolutionize customer experience?

Where do you begin analyzing and understanding your customers' experiences? Start with AnswerDash. AnswerDash uses contextual self-service technology to provide relevant and targeted questions and answers exactly when and where you customers have them. AnswerDash provides you with essential data to better understand how your customers interact with your website and provides insight into customers behaviors and monitor their reactions to your content. AnswerDash is a crucial first step in enriching your customers' experience at all levels.

 Bhavik Sarkhedi is the Founder of ‘Write Right‘, Featured in Forbes and Writes for 25+ magazines.

This article is originally produced by (c) http://www.yourstory.com, reproduced with permission.

Original post can be found here.

6 Companies Are Revolutionizing the User Experience Through Chatbots

Each month, more than one billion people use Facebook Messenger to call, video chat, or text with friends. But increasingly, Messenger is emerging as a viable platform for direct customer service and engagement.

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Code.org using AnswerBot, AnswerDash's chatbot that provides 24/7 customer service.

Many companies, including Zulily, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, and Hyatt respond to customer inquires through Facebook Messenger. Unfortunately, the process often has a long turnaround time. Send a message to one of these companies, and you may not hear back for hours or even days. AAA Washington responds to its members through Facebook Messenger, but only during the week, between the hours of 9:30am and 5pm. When we messaged AAA it took seven days for AAA to respond - Seven days! - Not so good if you are stranded on the road.

Other companies are embracing a more tech savvy method of communication, one that allows them to respond to customer instantly, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. During Facebook’s F8 conference in April 2016, Mark Zuckerberg introduced bots on Facebook Messenger, giving businesses the ability to offer automated customer service, support, and sales through the platform.

Since then, many companies have taken the social network up on its offering. In fact, there are more than 33,000 bots on Facebook Messenger today.

Here are six different companies using Facebook Messenger bots to provide instant self-service for their customers.

Burberry

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The British luxury fashion retailer uses Facebook Messenger to facilitate a guided e-commerce experience. Shoppers can ask for recommendations, check prices, and get information about individual items. If a customer wants a more personalized experience, they can ask to speak to a human representative, but it may not be necessary. Burberry’s Facebook Messenger bot can handle the vast majority of a customer’s journey. And when it comes time to checkout, Burberry’s bot provides a direct link to its website for payment and shipping information.

Code.org

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The non-profit focuses on encouraging K-12 students to learn computer science in the classroom. It doesn’t have customers in the traditional sense, but still fields inquiries from educators and students regularly. Using AnswerDash’s AnswerBot for Facebook Messenger, Code.org automatically and instantly responds to common user questions. The non-profit was able to implement AnswerBot in only a day, as AnswerDash’s technology leveraged Code.org’s existing database. AnswerBot frees Code.org’s staff to work on more crucial tasks, but if a user submits a question the bot doesn’t know the answer to, they’re prompted to start chatting with a member of Code.org’s support team.

Kayak

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The popular travel aggregator offers its services through a Facebook Messenger bot. Travelers can check the price of flights, look for rental cars and hotels, and even get vacation recommendations. Kayak’s bot isn’t offering anything that its website can’t already do, but on a mobile device with limited screen real estate, many may find it to be a superior interface for booking their next vacation.

PeoplePerHour

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The freelancer marketplace platform expert uses AnswerDash's AnswerBot Solution for its Facebook Messenger bot. Send PeoplePerHour a message, and you'll be prompted to inquire about its business. PeoplePerHour's bot gives users a carrousel of common questions they can pick from, rather than simply entering a question and waiting for a response from an agent. PeoplePerHour's bot can respond to many common questions, such as "How do I know my money is secure?" and "What is Escrow and how does it work?", as well as give helpful answers regarding matters of support -- all without contacting a support rep. 

PipelineDeals

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PipelineDeals makes easy-to-use CRM software, with an emphasis on providing reliable customer support. Customers can contact them through their website and over the phone, but the quickest way to reach them may be through their Facebook Messenger bot. Using AnswerDash’s AnswerBot solution, PipeLineDeals’ Facebook Messenger bot can tell you all about its product, how to implement it, and what it can do.

Through their use of bots, these companies are delivering superior customer service over an increasingly popular line of communication. As Facebook Messenger continues to emerge as a popular way for businesses to connect with their customers, companies should consider implementing Facebook Messenger bots to improve their support and level of customer service.

Looking Forward with AnswerBot

With AnswerBot, businesses can easily and quickly launch a responsive and reliable chatbot for Facebook Messenger. Unlike other chatbots, AnswerBot delivers visible and accessible content in its contextual answers. Therefore, customers can get their frequent and common questions answered easily and instantly, while businesses can focus on serving their customers with higher value inquiries across other channels.

AnswerBot is simple and affordable to implement. You can launch in less than a day. To start a free chatbot trial on your Facebook Messenger channel, check out answerdash.com/freebot.  

High Traffic Does Not Equal Good Customer Experience

Just because a web page is popular doesn’t mean that it’s useful. In fact, it could be getting in the way of a more useful page. 

“We’ve recently decided to remove Basic rights at work, the most visited advice page on our website,” Hannah Horton from the UK’s Citizen Advice recently wrote. “It gets 70,000 visits a month and is in the top results for lots of queries about work problems on Google.”

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If an organization was judging web success based on volume of traffic they would certainly not remove their most popular page. However, Citizen’s Advice does not measure success that way. It measures success based on how successful people are at solving problems.

The page wasn’t working. Firstly, the data told them that people were not searching for this page but were rather searching for much more specific things such as "boss doesn’t give me breaks at work" or "how much a week do I get if I go on the sick at work." 

The Basic rights page is an overview. It doesn’t answer specific questions like the ones above. There are other more detailed pages that answer these kinds of questions. It had become a search dirty magnet: drawing people in the wrong direction, away from the specialized pages that were better able to answer the questions.

Web traffic statistics can often be quite misleading, particularly on mature websites. Pages can become popular for all sorts of reasons. Lots of overlap can occur. There is a very specific feature in Microsoft SharePoint called Excel Services. It used to offer training and lots of people used to go there to sign up for training thinking that they would be getting training in how to use Microsoft Excel.

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Digital must be measured based on customer outcomes. Traffic, visits, time spent, page views: these are not outcomes. In the offline world, when you say you visited the dentist it implies you got something done with your teeth. Would a dentist measure success based on the number of visitors they had asking for directions to the tourist office, or who had mistaken the dentist with the butcher next door?

Another reason the Basic’s page was seen to not be working was because of the very high bounce rate, which was around 70 percent. According to Google, a bounce rate is “the percentage of visitors to a particular website who navigate away from the site after viewing only one page.” 

A bounce rate can be a good thing if the page you visit contains the answer you need, but the Basic’s page did not contain specific answers. Added to this, analysis showed that when people arrived at the page, they rarely scrolled down, instead leaving quickly.

The feedback from visitors also indicated problems:

  • “There appears to be no information about giving notice to your employer”
  • “The paragraph doesn’t tell the client much about what action they can take over bullying”

Suppose you were responsible forGOV.UKand you started seeing a decline in visitor statistics. For example, the Passport fees page numbers had dropped significantly. That’s bad, isn’t it? 

Well, no. If you search for “UK passport fees” on Google you now get the answer in the search results. So, things are actually getting better because now you are answering people’s questions even faster. 

Measure success based on the outcome for the customer. 

About the Author

Gerry McGovern is the founder and CEO of Customer Carewords. He is widely regarded as the worldwide authority on increasing web satisfaction by managing customer tasks.

Solve Your Customer’s Problems with AnswerDash

Do you understand exactly what your customers are thinking as they navigate through your webpage? If not, you need AnswerDash. AnswerDash uses predictive Q&A software to provide instant, personalized, and specific self-service answers to customers directly on the web page they are navigating with our easy to use Q&A tab. AnswerDash provides you with data necessary to analyze the specific questions customers have at the exact moment they occur, allowing you to target content to meet your customer's needs. Reduce bounce rate, increase conversion and improve customer outcomes with AnswerDash.

This article is originally produced by (c) http://www.cmswire.com, reproduced with permission.

Original post can be found here.

The Mobile App: A Critical Part of Your Omnichannel Strategy

Chances are that most people turn to a mobile app on their smartphone every morning while starting their day, even before enjoying that first cup of coffee. Whether they are checking the weather, logging in their fitness routine, or adding the cost of their Starbucks latte to their weekly budget, it is clear that ‘mobile moments’ spent on apps have become an integral part of our daily routine.

A study released by Deloitte found that Americans collectively check their smartphones upwards of 8 billion times per day. Mobile usage over the past decade has skyrocketed, and is likely to continue rising, as mobile technology continues to advance in functionality and sophistication, and the value that this can provide to users.

Before the iPhone was introduced to the world, most people turned to their personal computers for digital interactions and browsing the Internet. Thanks to the progress that smartphones and apps have enabled, consumers now go straight to their cellular device to carry out tasks, both mundane, creative and advanced.

According to a Gartner report, global sales of smartphones to end users totaled 349 million units in the first quarter of 2016, indicating a 3.9% increase over the same period in 2015.

The report highlights that smartphone sales represented 78% of mobile phone sales in the first quarter of 2016, with predictions that smartphone sales will continue to increase in the coming years.

The increasing use of mobile has forced marketers to develop highly innovative mobile marketing strategies, or be left behind. Mobile has forever changed what consumers expect of brands, and it is a critical component in the customer journey.

Marketers across industries must leverage mobile apps to connect with their customers on their most personal and trusted device. A mobile app marketing strategy can complement a brand’s offline experience, drive e-commerce, or simply help connect a brand with its loyal customers.

However, mobile marketing tactics should be integrated with the brand’s overall omnichannel marketing strategy, as that will allow customers to move seamlessly from the online website to their mobile app without skipping a beat, thereby ensuring a frictionless and engaging customer experience. Below are three tips for marketers to integrate the mobile app with their brand’s holistic omnichannel strategy and deliver a more personalized and engaging consumer experience.

Personalizing The Mobile App Experience

Many people turn to mobile apps to ease their daily routine, and they’re more likely to use those apps if they are tailored specifically to their needs. Marketers must prioritize this when building content for their mobile app, by ensuring that they provide highly personalized and engaging content that delivers the right message, at the right time and to the right consumer. Research from Google suggests that people will return to an app frequently when it simplifies their lives. For instance, Walgreens’ mobile app sends sales items and coupons to the consumer while they are shopping in the store, making the customer purchase journey helpful and efficient.

With specific product recommendations, in-app messaging, and links, marketers can significantly increase the level of personalization offered to the customer. Marketers can also automatically trigger personalized responses as the app is being used, boosting conversion rates and increasing overall customer engagement. And it doesn’t have to stop there. It is highly recommended that marketers integrate this personalized mobile experience with other channels. A brand truly excels in generating a personalized omnichannel experience if a customer is able to look at a product on the website, then move to the brand’s mobile app, and then receive recommendations on the mobile app based on the product they viewed on the website.

 Tracking Mobile Behavior

There are always ways to improve engagement with consumers on on a more personalized level. Today, the majority of the population in the United States uses three or more connected devices. In this day and age, people often complete tasks by going from one screen to another to increase productivity. This includes online shopping. Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® highlights that retail behaviors among consumers are most fragmented across devices, where consumers will switch back and forth from tablet to smartphone.

Marketers can get to truly understand and engage with their audiences by capturing valuable data directly from their customers’ mobile device. Tracking the way consumers interact and behave while using a brand’s mobile app provides marketers with insight into the customers’ behavious on their hand held devices.

Tracking mobile app behavior not only provides unparalleled insight and knowledge about specific target groups, but also allows marketers to measure the performance of their customer engagement strategy and the impact it has on their business. Tracking the various app events, from installs to key interactions, is critical to provide detailed reporting, segmentation and campaign triggering across channels. For example, tracking a mobile app install can be the trigger event for a new SMS targeted message or a highly targeted social media ad. The data gathered from these behaviors contributes directly to omnichannel decision-making which improves the customer experience, as well as the marketing effectiveness and ROI.

Leveraging Data – From Every Channel

While marketers should make decisions on mobile app marketing based on the data received by understanding the consumer’s mobile behavior, they must keep in mind that it doesn’t stop there.  Once a marketer has analyzed their customers’ mobile app behavior, as a second step, they must apply the actionable insight gleaned from each of their channels to make the best strategic marketing decisions. By combining data from the mobile app and other proliferating channels, the need to optimize and refine certain strategies becomes clearer.

Using data capture and analytic technologies, marketers can leverage omnichannel marketing to take control of the customer journey. This fundamental approach provides the customer with an integrated shopping experience, while enjoying all the benefits a brand has to offer, such as promotions on quality products or services.

Marketers must keep consumers engaged with their brand across proliferating channels, or they will lose them to rivals that are better at managing engagement. Today, billions of consumers are changing their shopping behaviors faster than most brands can adapt. In this day and age, understanding how digital channels are transforming and growing, while simultaneously consumer expectations are also increasing, and acting on this knowledge can be an important differentiator. Leveraging data from all channels combined with your brand’s mobile app will help marketers execute personalized, tailored content and offers that appeal specifically to their customers.

Tomorrow’s customer will shop online; from a desktop or mobile device and the experience would be seamless and frictionless. Today’s marketers need solutions that allow them to deliver exceptional experiences regardless of channel. A smart integration of mobile app marketing strategies into an omnichannel experience will empower progressive marketers to deliver critical increases in traffic, leads, engagement, and revenue. From the consumer’s desktop to their favorite hand-held device, a company’s customer gets to experience all the benefits a brand has to offer once their mobile app is integrated with their omnichannel strategy.

Integration is Hard - Let AnswerDash Help

The importance of integrating the mobile app experience with your brand’s omnichannel strategy can be difficult. Let us help. AnswerDash uses predictive Q&A software to provide instant, personalized, and frictionless self-service answers while customers are using your app. The data acquired through our easy to use mobile SDK can help you better understand your customer’s behavior while increasing sales and conversion rates. Contact AnswerDash today to learn more.

 David Galante is Vice President of Mobile Products for Emarsys

This article is originally produced by (c) multichannelmerchant.com, reproduced with permission.

Original post can be found here.

 

 

Harness The Power of Predictive Self-Service

Ah, the future…

I marvel at how “the future” occupies so much of our focus, and yet it always looms just out of reach, never really “here” and always “out there.” It’s never quite real, the future; at least, not real like the present is perpetually real. In fact, the present is the only real thing we consistently have.From the dawn of human thinking, we have worried about the future. The ancients walked miles to see the Oracle at Delphi. Seers and prophets were some of the most revered figures in antiquity. Even today, people pay good money to have fortune-tellers describe their tomorrows.

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It seems almost everyone wants to know their future. And the same is true for businesses. Knowing the future means being able to plan, change course, and get ahead of the competition.

But unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), predicting the future is not something reliably achievable by oracles, seers, prophets, and fortune-tellers. It is also notoriously hard for CEOs, CFOs, investors and consumers. When it comes to knowing the future, we are all at the same disadvantage.

Fortunately, However, by Utilizing Lots of Data, Computers Can do Better

“Data” is fashionable these days, especially “big data” (which just means mountains of it), but it is not magic. Data can be thought of as “traces” or “records” of what came before. When the data reflect your customers’ past needs and behaviors, computers can discover patterns and predict likely future needs and behaviors. In fact, data science, and machine learning in particular, are largely devoted to extracting patterns in data so that those patterns can predict the future.

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Here is a simple fictitious example. Let’s say you have a scatter plot of (x, y) points on a graph where “x” represents “time on site” (in minutes) and “y” represents “dollars spent.” A computer can recognize a pattern in this data. (For simplicity, let’s say it’s a line, but it could be a curve or other shape.) Then, having this pattern, or “model,” in the form of our equation for a line (y = 16.706x – 6.5922), we can predict the future dollars spent based on how long a new visitor has remained on our website. Let’s say that a new visitor has been on the website for 12 minutes. Our model predicts that they will spend about (16.706)(12)-(6.5922) = $193.88. We can then use this prediction, perhaps by offering a shipping discount, related items, or flash sale. We can also update our model based on this new data point after this customer completes his or her purchase.

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This simple example used two continuous variables, “x” and “y”, which stood for “time” and “dollars,” respectively. But more sophisticated predictive methods can handle data of almost any type, including unordered categories, ordered categories, counts, proportions, and ratios. Also, beyond just “x”, we can have numerous inputs to inform our predicted outcome, or even predict multiple outcomes simultaneously.

So where can modeling your past customer needs and behaviors make a big difference to your bottom line? A fantastic application is for website and mobile self-service help.

Here’s Why

If your business is growing, you already know that you cannot scale your customer support team to manually handle every inquiry that your website or mobile users may have. And why would you want to? Forrester reports that self-service has increased from 67% in 2012 to 76% in 2014. A 2013 report entitled “The Real Self-Service Economy,” which surveyed 2750 consumers, found that 70% of consumers expect a company to include self-service on their website. These numbers have undoubtedly only grown. High-touch personalized help is appropriate if all else fails, but as a first line of defense, your customers must be empowered to help themselves—saving both you and them time, frustration, and expense.

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Unfortunately, many of today’s self-service help solutions are not predictive at all. They exist as stand-alone knowledge bases where less than 1% of your customers will bother entering a search. Every customer starts in the same place—at the topmost-level of the knowledge base, entering search terms, hoping that they can adequately describe their help need. The search results returned often badly miss the mark, and require more effort to wade through. Even if customers get lucky and find their answer, this is a dissatisfying experience.

Now Consider the Power of Predictive Self-Service

With a context-aware predictive help solution like AnswerDash that resides on-page or in-app, both customers’ past help needs and answer-seeking behaviors and their current context can be leveraged to predict which questions they are most likely to have in that place and time. AnswerDash serves up the most common questions—along with their answers—so that customers can access them in just a few clicks, without typing a single character to describe their help need. AnswerDash constantly observes your customers’ on-site or in-app behaviors, updating its predictions based on what questions and answers are used, and what behaviors take place before and after.

The result of all this observation, modeling, and prediction is an incredibly fast, user-friendly, context-aware system for getting your customers the answers they need, right when and where they need them. Customers get their answers without ever leaving the page they’re on—at their point of action—becoming far more likely to complete successful purchases. This is why AnswerDash has been able to lift revenues from 5%-20% on websites that have deployed it. (For example, see our Tire Buyer case study.)

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Although no person or machine can be the Oracle at Delphi, predicting your customers’ self-service needs can make your customers feel like they have met their personal fortune-teller, showing them that their online future is indeed happy and bright.

Let AnswerDash Help You Harness The Power Of Predictive Self-Service

AnswerDash predictive self-service support is proven to create a frictionless way for customers to help themselves on the web and in mobile Apps. With AnswerDash, your customers get smart self-service that is relevant and personalized right at the point of action, without having to leave the page or type to search. By improving the “Help UX,” AnswerDash customers are reducing  customer friction and achieving a 30% - 50% reduction in support tickets and cost. Learn more at www.answerdash.com.

Does Your Site Meet the Ultra-High Expectations of Millennials?

The Average Internet User Has Changed

The face of the average internet user is changing every day, with more millennials - most of whom are “digital natives,” or people that grew up using and understanding digital technology - online than practically any other demographic. Think about it: when the internet first exploded, its users were learning how to use it for the very first time. It was a completely new way of operating and, essentially, a new language for everyone involved.

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Now, however, a growing number of online users have spent their entire lives using the internet and receiving digital care and customer support. These “digital native” users have completely different standards and expectations. They want immediate, exceptional, personalized service experiences, and “when they don’t receive it, substantial numbers defect, often after just one bad customer experience.”

That should be a huge call-to-action for all online businesses and websites. The message? Catch up or get out of the way. With customer expectations being so high, there is simply no room for error or falling behind the times. On top of that, there are many digital native companies - companies that are up-to-date with millennials’ expectations and the most cutting-edge best practices - that are already meeting these customer expectations and setting the bar with scalable, fast and easy-to-use technology. In short, what you did last year (or last decade) just won’t work next year - and if you wait to make the switches that are necessary to meet millennial expectations, you’ll lose big business.

Understanding the Millennial: Who They Are and Why They Matter

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Today, millennials have an amazing presence and a huge amount of buying power and influence, representing approximately 25% of the American population and possessing approximately $200 billion in annual buying power. What’s more, it’s estimated that, by 2017, Baby Boomers willno longer be the generation with the most buying power and millennials will take over. In short, this generation is in its prime and rapidly changing the new model, which means that companies that want long-term success must have a firm understanding of this demographic’s online behavior and expectations.

What These “Digital Native” Millennials Expect

First thing’s first: this demographic wants their online experience to be aesthetically pleasing, responsive, intuitive and fast. This generation never had a dial-up modem. They don’t even think about what Apple was like before there was the iPod. That means that they are used to experiencing the latest and greatest. As a result, they have much higher expectations when it comes to new technologies and websites than previous generations had - which means that your old-school site is not getting any sympathy or patience from this crowd. Let’s look at some specifics:

  • This generation has, “grown up with digital devices that bundle communication, entertainment, shopping, mapping and education all in one,” meaning that responsive, multi-device features aren’t cool to them, they’re the norm.
  • Up to 87% of millennials use between two and three tech devices at least once on a daily basis, meaning that full optimization and mobile-responsiveness is an absolute must for them.
  • These millennials are used to “Googling things” themselves and utilizing self-service technologies. In fact, a full 84% of millennials have used a self-service portal for customer care. This means that, to them, self-service is the norm and having to deal with a human representative can often be off-putting, inaccurate or annoying.
  • When it comes to the world of customer service and customer experience, a whopping 68% of millennial consumershave higher expectations for customer service today than they had just one year ago. And when they do talk to a representative, you better believe they want a personalized experience with someone knowledgeable and quick to respond.
  • 72% of customers want companies to value their time, which means they don’t want the customer service experience to be dragged out by waiting for a response to their email inquiry or waiting on hold. Instead, they want to be empowered to help themselves and they want this experience to be instant.
  • According to Forrester, self-service is on the rise across all channels. For example, for US online adults,online forum/community use jumped from 31% in 2012 to 56% in 2015.
  • On the flip side, phone/voice are considered to be the most frustrating customer service channel, and many millennials will bounce if they have to deal with it.

In short, millennials understand and accept new technology without batting an eyelash, and they expect to interact with companies that have interesting, intuitive, easy-to-use apps and websites.

The Rise of the Digital-Native Company

Digital-native companies already exist aplenty, and they are expertly using all of the tools and tech that are necessary to attract and keep the millennial customer. Specifically, these companies utilize tools like:

  • Smart self-service solutions and advanced digital care technology like web chat, social media, email and chatbots
  • Social media integrations, influencers and email campaigns
  • Fully integrated sites, with blog links, social media pages and more available from the homepage
  • Streamlined, fully responsive backends

In addition, they have important UX and customer experience features like:

  • Intuitive design
  • Mobile optimized design
  • Smart/predictive technology
  • Instant response times

The biggest examples? Millennial favorites like Facebook and BuzzFeed, both of which have all of the above features and constantly update their sites to fit the ever-evolving expectations of their consumers.

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In the big picture, these companies understand that millennials are using lots of platforms, that they expect their tech to work and, most importantly, that they want to research and do things themselves - no hiccups, no UX issues and no customer service setbacks. Companies that expect future success must take this into account and change their customer service models accordingly, putting self-service options first and eliminating things like unresponsive design, difficult-to-navigate static FAQ pages and excessive dependency on assisted service.

Changes You Should Make Today

Now that you understand millennials’ expectations and how some companies are responding, you might be asking, How do I catch up and ensure that I’m ready to be a part of this millennial-run world?

One of the biggest places where websites and mobile apps are falling behind and losing customers is with customer support and the customer experience. Why?

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Well, for starters, many websites still list their phone number at the top of their homepage and invite their users to call or email if they need help. With 84% of millennials being used to self-service and 72% of them saying that the most important thing is for companies to value their time, this may not be the best way to go. Similarly, even some of the most cutting-edge websites out there are still using traditional knowledge bases, static FAQ pages and “help islands” to house the content and information that their customers are looking for - and their users just aren’t having it. In fact, these pages have less than a 1% engagement rate, and this number is sure to drop as more millennials take over the online space. That means that all of this content is going to waste and that the user is simply not getting the customer experience that they want.

If you’re still in old school mode, you can start by fixing the small things and monitoring your metrics to see how your consumer is responding. Here are some good places to start:

  • Don’t force your customers to call or email you for help
  • Find the right level of assisted service interaction
  • Optimize your site for user experience on web and mobile
  • Add predictive self-service to optimize your customer help experience
  • Open up a Facebook Messenger support channel and add a chatbot for instant response time
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Ultimately, if you don’t have a digital native strategy, you are already behind. With this demographic estimated to spend over $200 billion in 2017, it’s clear that the online world of tomorrow will be all millennials. The good news? If you can meet their ultra-high expectations, you can certainly please the rest of your audience and ensure that your site is ready to support - and impress - the largest consumer demographics out there.

Let AnswerDash Help You Connect With Millennials

AnswerDash predictive self-service support is proven to create a frictionless way for customers to help themselves on the web and in mobile Apps. Research has proven that old school, static FAQs and KBs cause site abandonment, drive up support calls and frustrate customers. With AnswerDash, your customers get smart self-service that is relevant and personalized right at the point of action, without having to leave the page or type to search. By improving the “Help UX,” AnswerDash customers are reducing  customer friction and achieving a 30% - 50% reduction in support tickets and cost. What is good for your customers is great for your business. Learn more at www.answerdash.com.

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Don’t Make Me Wait: The New Era of Customer Experience

As both a professor and chief scientist at AnswerDash, I spend time around two groups of people that couldn’t be more different:

  1. Enterprise marketing, sales, and customer experience executives
  2. Nineteen year-old college students

The first group loses sleep over rising costs, whereas the second just loses sleep.

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But these two groups have more in common than you think:

This last point is key: the moment your customer gets stuck and frustrated, there’s bound to be a newer more polished competitor they’re itching to switch to. Millennials or executives alike, both are screaming at your business “don’t make me wait!

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How Can You Stop A Customer From Bailing?

First, recognize that answers have to be instant. The moment a customer has a question, they need an answer. And if they don’t see a way to get an answer right where they are, they’re going to search the web and either fail to find their answer or, worse yet, end up on a competitor’s site. In fact, 57% of users abandon a site if they can’t find an answer.

When I Say Instant, I Mean Instant

Don’t be fooled by the promise of traditional self-service solutions like knowledge bases and static FAQs. Both are “help islands” and they don’t work.They require your customers to interrupt their task, find the tiny help link on your site, know exactly the right words to search for, and—if they’ve made it this far—read an article completely out of context for their task and somehow find their way back to where they were. If you look closely at your knowledge base traffic, don’t be surprised to find out that fewer than 1% of your customers ever reach your knowledge base, let alone find content it in. All of that hard work at creating content is moot if no one finds it.

There Are Better Ways

Contextual self-service — the idea of placing knowledge base content directly on every screen of your application—is the future. Many customer self-service companies are offering this basic functionality now, basically placing a search box behind a floating tab or help button. These can work better, but only if you use the right words in your content: if you title your help article “How to update your security credentials” and your customer is searching for “password change”, they’re not going to find your answer. The problem is, finding the right words for every article can be extremely costly and training your customers to know the right words is downright impossible.

At AnswerDash, we’ve overcome these terminology problems in multiple ways:

  • We use predictive analytics to determine the most likely relevant questions. As soon as a customer accesses AnswerDash, one of the top popular questions is probably the question they have.
  • We allow customers to browse Q&A in-context. This allows them to just recognize the relevant questions, rather than having to choose words to represent their question.
  • We allow customers to click or tap the content they have a question about using our patented object-search. This allows them to just point to express their question.
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Because these features are so good at instantly finding the content a customer needs, we find that most customers never need to search.

Don’t make your customers wait! Adopt a contextual self-service solution today and watch your support tickets drop and your sales increase.

Give Your Customer Instant Answers with AnswerDash

AnswerDash contextual self-service support is proven to create a frictionless way for customers to help themselves on the web and in mobile Apps. Research has proven that old school, static FAQs and KBs cause site abandonment, drive up support calls and frustrate customers. With AnswerDash, your customers get smart self-service that is relevant and personalized right at the point of action, without having to leave the page or type to search. By improving the “Help UX,” AnswerDash customers are reducing  customer friction and achieving a 30% - 50% reduction in support tickets and cost. What is good for your customers is great for your business. Learn more at www.answerdash.com.