Five Steps to Strategically Choose AI For Customer Service

AI and customer service; it’s a hot topic! But when I talk to customers, they say, “I get there’s something to AI and customer service, but how do I deliver business results and value with AI?” If you are wondering how AI can move the needle on the metrics you get measured on every day, below is a short guide on how to get the best business results when considering AI as part of your Customer Service strategy.

Step 1: Focus AI on Metrics that Matter
Implementing technology without strategy makes us do the wrong things faster! Or at the very least, spend a lot of money without getting business results. Studies show while 80% of executives want to use AI in their business, only 20% have an actual strategy. (1) First step? List the strategic metrics you are measured on every day and then think about how AI can help you to:

    • Reduce call volume (call deflection via satisfying self-service)
    • Increase First Contact Resolution (FCR)
    • Reduce Average Handle Time (AHT)
    • Increase agent productivity, morale, retention (reduce attrition costs)
    • Improve CSAT, NPS, customer lifetime value (CLV)…

With that information, you can begin to strategically decide how to use AI to transform your customer service operations and KPIs, positively impact customer and agent experiences and directly affect your bottom-line.

Step Two: Closely Compare AI Solutions
Artificial Intelligence isn’t new, so what is? Exponential advances in AI capabilities, as well as, integrated and packaged AI solutions. These new capabilities are allowing AI to become a real business asset, but not all AI solutions are created equal. A classical approach to AI requires specialized teams of:

    • Data Scientists (to sample data, build the models, tune them for accuracy)
    • App Developers (to build it into the customer service application)
    • UX Designers (to make the interface to the AI user-friendly)

These dedicated resources are expensive and difficult to find. And AI development is not the core business focus of a contact center. The result? Wasted time and money and longer time-to-value. When choosing an AI solution, look to see how much work is required on your end to implement a solution. To make AI intelligent, all systems require some work. The question to consider is how business/user-friendly is the application? Do you need to hire a team of AI and UX specialists to get benefits in customer service? Or can you deploy the AI quickly and get back to focusing your efforts on delivering amazing agent/customer engagement?

Step 3: Consider an Integrated Solution
Data. Data. Data. AI is all about the data. So, consider where the data in customer service resides. The customer record data lives inside the CRM platform. And the customer interaction history lives inside the customer service application. Since AI is only as good as the data it interacts with, look for an “AI-inside” solution; one where the AI is built into the CRM platform and the customer service application.

And it’s even better if the same AI solution is also integrated into other applications that Sales, Marketing, E-commerce and other parts of your business. The more contextual, historical information about that customer across all your departments, the more intelligent the AI is and the better business results it can provide. With an integrated AI solution that’s built for business users, there is no need for specialized implementation teams because the:

      • Data is already prepped
      • Models are automatically built and
      • AI is already integrated into the CRM platform and the customer service application.

What does this mean to you? Faster time-to-value. With an integrated solution, AI can easily learn from the customer data to deliver contextual customer/agent answers. So, whether you are delivering self-service or agent-assisted service, intelligent AI service is satisfying service.

Step 4: Select an Agile Solution
How many times have you wanted to change something in your customer service application, but don’t because it’s so difficult — even though it would transform the agent/customer experience? This is where using an agile platform and application leads to faster, better business results.

As you are considering adding AI, ask yourself, “How quickly/easy is it to make changes to the AI solution, as well as to the agent and self-service application?” Look for a drag and drop integration layer that allows for easy configuration of process flows to set up customer service AI. This way AI isn’t some futuristic “ideal” that sounds good when you say it fast but in reality, it takes forever to drive business results. Consider choosing an integrated AI customer service platform/application that is agile – so you can make changes on the fly to quickly deliver on the brand promise of great customer experiences.

Step 5: Use a Solution with a Pre-built UI/UX
And while this step is listed last, it may be one of the most important. Why? New technology often becomes “shelfware,” i.e., technology that is owned or licensed but not utilized because it’s difficult to implement, use or change.

A solution with a prebuilt UI/UX interface makes the customer-facing interaction intuitive, which builds trust, so customers use it. The last thing you want is a throwback to “bots of yesteryear” that didn’t have the advantage of AI or a poor user-interface. If customers can get their answers using a bot, call and email volume will be reduced, while delivering a great experience.

And for the agent? Key to great service is empowering agents with the best possible tools. AI integrated into the agent desktop and console classifies cases and identifies key information needed to serve the customer even before the agent gets the case. And then enables the agent with the best possible next actions. AI is not meant to replace agents, it’s meant to empower them to deliver exceptional customer service.

The most important thing to take away? When considering AI for customer service, focus on what you do best, delivering great experiences. Avoid choosing systems that require you to become or hire a bunch of rocket scientists. Choose a solution designed to allow customers to easily get the answers they need on their own, your agents to intelligently engage with customers and for you to deliver business results that matter.

Is Your Business Ready for Artificial Intelligence? MIT Sloan and BCG Study, 2017


Customer Self-Service Doesn’t Matter! That’s a False Paradigm!!!

It’s just not true. Customer self-service is one of the key capabilities of any company that actually cares about their customers. Companies contemplating a self-service customer care solution to support digital customer experiences should consider the following five steps:

1. Anticipate Requirements for a Digital Business Model. As organizations make
the shift to a post-sale, on-demand, attention economy, organizations must start supporting self-service for post-sale scenarios. Brands and organizations should plan to support customers frequently during and after the sale and direct them to the next self-service experiences whether they be answers, community, video, product, new offer or feedback.

2. Determine Your Company’s Willingness to Change. Suggestions for improving self-service cannot be realized unless the organization, from top to bottom, is ready for transformational change and has the structure and the budget to make and support change. Align incentives to support self-service and digital customer experience initiatives by the customer’s journey. Customer experience should not be governed by a department or fiefdom business model. It must be driven by being customer-focused regardless of which department “owns” the channel.

3. Determine Metrics for Reducing the Cost to Serve Customers, While Enhancing Revenue from Top-Notch Customer Experiences. Look at critical metrics like First Contact Resolution (FCR), Average Handle Time (AHT), reduction in call volume, increases in the opportunity to generate revenue, improved marketing, greater self- service employee engagement, increased digital customer engagement on any device, anywhere, anytime. Use the customer journey as the guide for overall success metrics.

4. Create and Use the Customer Journey Map to Maximize the Customer Experience. Evaluate your current customer journey from the customer’s point of view. How customer-focused are the ways in which customers can interact and engage with your company? Remember, customers don’t think about which department they are interfacing with. They just want you to give them what they need, regardless of channel or device. They expect you to understand their context when they seek you out and expect that your responses are relevant, transparent and authentic. Once you have created a set of current customer journey maps, ask customers how they could be even more customer-focused. Use that feedback to transform your customer journeys.

5. Deploy a Solution to Create Integrated, Personalized, Seamless Customer Experiences that Generate Customer Loyalty. When you serve the customer, you serve the business. As you interview vendors, make sure they answer all your questions and you understand how the software will solve your business issues. When you find a solution that can provide the answers to your business issues, you will be able to reduce operational and managerial costs as well as increase revenue through the excellent customer experiences your brand creates.

For more information about this paper, you can find it here.

@Drnatalie Petouhoff

VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research

Covering Customer Service, Self-Service and Customer Experience


Enterprise Connect 2016: Genesys Showcases Next Generation Omnichannel Customer Experience at Enterprise Connect

Enterprise Connect 2016 is a  leading conference and exhibition for enterprise communications and collaboration in North America. It is being held March 7-9th, 2016 in Orlando, Florida. Genesys, a market leader in omni-channel customer experience (CX) and contact center solutions, will be particpating in the event.
Genesys and Microsoft Working Together:  The event will feature Genesys leaders in key industry discussions on topics that include contact center technology trends and managing customer journeys, as well as how Genesys and Microsoft are working together to enable collaboration between contact center agents and employees across the enterprise. Attendees can visit booth #609 to learn more about omnichannel customer engagement, take the Omnichannel Challenge and tour the possibilities of the Genesys Omnichannel Engagement Center solution with live product demonstrations.

A Note from the Executives: 
Scott Kolman, Vice President of Portfolio Marketing at Genesys said, “As the digital transformation revolution continues, many companies are searching for how to best modernize and enhance their contact center and customer experience. At Enterprise Connect, Genesys will show why omnichannel will be the standard in customer experience excellence and how companies can move toward an Omnichannel Engagement Center solution.”

If You Want to Hear from Them, Here’s the Schedule:
Genesys CX experts will share insights. Genesys leaders will participate in the following Enterprise Connect panel sessions and a joint presentation at the Microsoft booth to share insights and best practices on managing omnichannel customer journeys, cloud contact centers and market updates for the enterprise.

Monday, March 7 :  9:00am – 10:45am Eastern Time  Location: Sun B —Contact Center Market Update & Executive Forum and the participants are:

  • Scott Kolman, Genesys
  • Sheila McGee-Smith, McGee-Smith Analytics
  • Paul Weber, Interactive Intelligence
  • Chris Botting, Cisco
  • Paul Jarman, inContact
  • Karen Hardy, Avaya

Tuesday, March 8 : 1:15pm ET Location: Microsoft booth #162 Genesys and MicrosoftDelivering a Best-in-Class Omnichannel Customer Experience and the speakers are:

  • James Skay, Microsoft
  • Kay Phelps, Genesys

Wednesday, March 9 : 8:00am – 8:45am ET o Location: Osceola B Managing the Customer Journey and the participants are:

  • Chris Connolly, Genesys
  • Brandon Knight, Corvisa
  • Sheila McGeeSmith, McGee-Smith Analytics
  • Laura Bassett, Avaya
  • Barry O’Sullivan, Altocloud
  • Richard Kenny, Plantronics

Is Your Company Omnichannel Ready? Omnichannel engagement center solutions allow companies to more effectively manage workloads, empower their agents, and gain valuable insights that help drive business objectives—including new customer acquisition, product sales, and customer support. For companies, this move forward will provide the immediate benefits of higher customer loyalty, increased revenue, and better business outcomes, while paving the path for continued success.

The time is now to make sure you can serve your customers. Or they will be somebody else’s customer soon enough. It’s now or never.

@DrNatalie Petouhoff, VP and Principal Analyst, Constellation Research, Covering Customer-facing Applications That Drive Better Business Results



Customer Experience Just Keeps Getting Better: Plantronics Announcement

Create a Better Customer Experience By Treating Customer Service Agents Better

Plantronics today announced a new family of contact center headset solutions designed for the future and built on experience. Most people who have worked in call / contact centers know how difficult the job of a customer service agent can be. And that there is direct correlation between how the agents feels and the service they provide a company. Part of how they feel is determined by the culture a company creates. It is determined by what types of behaviors get rewarded. And remembering that what gets rewarded, gets repeated.

The Plantronics EncorePro 500 Series is an all-new generation of headsets for customer service centers and offices that deliver greater comfort for all-day wearing, superior noise-canceling for clearer calls, and increased reliability to help manage costs. In addition, the company announced their next-generation DA Series USB digital audio processors for Plantronics headsets that deliver a more complete audio experience by providing context for every call. With these new Plantronics customer service solutions, organizations improve metrics, attract and retain Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) and create a better customer experience.

Smart Phones and Self-service Have Shifted the Balance of Power in the Customer Service Center

When a customer reaches a CSR, they have likely attempted self-service and have much more information than the agent. In these situations, customers want to reach someone immediately and have the issue resolved quickly. They consider their call an escalation putting extraordinary pressure on the agent to perform, even while the customer is likely in a mobile environment with questionable audio quality. Furthermore, businesses are using over-the-phone routes for complex, high-value transactions. In these situations, center managers need to ensure that every call sounds high-quality and customers don’t overhear other callers’ confidential information.

The combination of the Plantronics EncorePro 500 Series, Plantronics digital audio adapters, and Plantronics Hub means that events and metrics occurring during the interaction with the customer are actionable; they are exposed in real-time through the API and made available through an SDK to call routing systems and third party applications.

This makes possible new efficiencies in a range of areas, such as automation of agent status updates, screen-locking for security when a headset is disconnected, dashboard management of headset inventory and warranty status, tracking of agent use of physical call controls and supervisor alerts to conversational conflict between agent and caller. Alliance partner integrations with vendors such as Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, Aspect, Avaya, Cisco, Genesys, Interactive Intelligence and additional third-party software application vendors are expected to enter market during 2015

Comprehensive Solutions for Customer Service Superheroes Make Better Experiences for Both the Agent and the Customer

With customer expectations rising, the CSR needs to effectively communicate with the customer to solve their problems. The Plantronics EncorePro 500 Series was built with the CSR in mind. It features a forward-looking, professional grade industrial design that uses new materials and technologies that yield an ergonomic fit that is extraordinarily durable, lightweight, and comfortable for all-day wearing. With fewer reasons to remove the headset throughout the day, CSRs are ready for each call, with the boom being in the right place for a better customer conversation. The noise-canceling technology ensures more focused and private calls, so conversations will be heard clearly with fewer misunderstood words and with reduced background noise from keyboards and close talkers.

The series includes the following models: EncorePro 510/520 (dedicated over-the-head), EncorePro 530 (over-the-ear) and EncorePro 540 (convertible), the latter is unique in its simple design and high-performance audio no matter what the preferred wearing style. All models support wideband audio.

The new Plantronics digital audio processors are designed to connect Plantronics quick disconnect headsets to computers through a USB port. Some incorporate user controls like the ability to answer a call, mute the call and adjust volume. All support Noise @ Work, based on Plantronics SoundGuard® digital technology. Not only are CSRs protected from sounds above 118 dBA, but anti-startle protection detects and eliminates sudden increase in sound and Time Weighted Average (TWA) measurement which manages average daily sound exposure for CSRs.

Smart Headphones Make Smarter Customer Service Agents 

What’s more, these new devices are smart. All are support by Plantronics Hub, and each contains firmware that can generate notifications based on hardware state changes. Some models can also generate notifications based on acoustic events or other telemetry that is important to the service center, but has been previously unavailable. For example, the Plantronics DA-90 will offer acoustic event logging so that customers can be compliant with initiatives like Australia’s G.616 recommendation. These events are exposed through API’s within the Plantronics Spokes suite of software solutions.

We are building on the world’s most successful professional grade headset, the SupraPlus, and this is a challenge we did not take lightly. Our deep understanding of the new business needs and role of Customer Service, and the availability of new materials, design philosophies, manufacturing techniques and core technologies resulted in a new portfolio that is not only state-of-the-art by today’s standards, but also future-proofed to adapt as the landscape changes,” said Bill Loewenthal, vice president, Enterprise Communications Solutions, Plantronics. “It’s no longer just about a first-class audio experience. With our new portfolio, organizations will immediately see the value that we bring by providing equipment and intelligence which enable operations to be more effective, and create a positive experience for both the CSR and the customer.”

The all-new Plantronic’s Customer Service Solutions include:

Cutting-Edge Design

  • Brand new, stylish, and ergonomic design

 Custom Noise Canceling Microphones

  • Next-generation, noise-canceling microphone
  • Flexible boom with positioning guides 

Superb Audio

  • Wideband audio with SoundGuard® technology

 Comfort and Convenience

  • Adjustable fit with all-day comfort
  • Quick Disconnect™ feature provides walkaway convenience

Robust and Reliable

  • Proprietary material and construction for unparalleled robustness

Integration with Softphones

  • Plantronics technology that captures and reports on key call events

Call Control

  • Easy, at-your-fingertips access to call functions (Plantronics DA-80, DA-90 only)

Noise @ Work and antistartle, G616 Compliance

  • Help achieve compliance with legislated regulations to protect your CSRs 

Firmware Updates

  • Firmware updates that aid in inventory management through Plantronics Hub or in early 2015 through Plantronics Manager Pro

 Extraordinary Service

  • Industry-leading global service and support


VP and Principle Analyst, Covering Marketing, Sales and Customer Service to Create Great Customer Experience

Constellation Research


How Technology Affect an Agent’s Ability to Deliver Customer Experiences and The Affect on Increasing Revenue and Decreasing Costs

We conducted a study to determine the affect of technology on Customer Service Agent’s ability to deliver great customer experiences, increase revenue, decrease customer churn, agent attrition and contact center and call center costs, especially the cost of doing social media  Customer Service without a specific technology platform that allows all interactions- Facebook, Twitter, calls, chats, emails, etc.. to be delivered to the desktop and the context of the interaction to be maintained even if the customer uses another interaction action channel.

This study includes three case studies in which we measured the time it took the agents to deliver customer service through email, chat, phone, social media channels. We compared that to using a system that would provide a systematic way to pivot real-time between channels, reducing the cost to serve the customer and at the same time reducing the customer churn, especially where social media can drive negative word of mouth.

While not all customers post in social media and complain, many more customers are reading what customers are posting and not even bothering to buy from that company. The ratio for most customer bases for social media interaction follow the 1-9-90 rule. 1% of the customers post; 9% respond to those customers that post and 90% read the posts from the 10%. This ratio varies from vertical industry and whether its is a B2C or B2B company. However, the point is that the social customer service should not be underestimated just because all customers are not posting in social media. The important take-a-way is that word of mouth, whether its positive or negative, does influence large percentage of your customers.

Below is one of the two presentation I gave at the in Arizona –

How Technology Affects Agent Performance and the Bottom-Line by @DrNatalie Petouhoff_Contact Center

And the 3 white papers with the results of the study on how technology affects agent productivity and the bottom-line:

DrNatalie Study on Agent Productivity and Social Media and Traditional Customer Service_Case Study 1

The Affect of the Customer Service Agent on the Bottom-line Research #2

The Affect of the Customer Service Agent on the Bottom-line Research #3

Below is the 2nd of the two presentation I gave at the in Arizona –

7 Steps to Customer Experience And Contact Center Excellence @DrNatalie

If you would like to know more about how to add social media to your contact center, benchmark your current center and understand where you are with respect to best practices, please reach out to us!