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How to Blend Automated Service and Human Interaction for a Frictionless Customer Experience

A friend recently told me why he switched pharmacies after a decade of loyalty. COVID-19 prompted it: He needed to change his prescription preferences from in-store pickup to home delivery.

Doesn’t seem that difficult, right?

Well, after several frustrating attempts to make the change by phone and chat, he gave up. He decided to take his business to a competitor because they offered a simple digital experience and consistent customer service across communication channels (also known as omnichannel service).

When he shared his story, I wondered if it was the digital experience or the cross-channel consistency that pushed him to change pharmacies. It turns out it was both.

These days, it's not enough to adopt digital experiences for the sake of customer choice; they have to be unified. And to keep all customers happy and loyal, smart brands will provide frictionless customer service, which means blending digital service automation with human interaction.

The question is how.

Embracing digital assistants, fluid customer journeys, and AI-driven decision-making are just a few of the ways companies can support such blended services, while solving customer inquiries and delivering a seamless customer experience.

Two things you need for frictionless customer service Digital service channels

According to a 2021 Gartner survey, "76% of CIOs reported increased demand for new digital products and services as a result of COVID-19, and 65% saw an increase in the use of self-service by their customers."

It’s essential to meet customers wherever they are. And by offering automated, proactive, and personalized service, you’ll not only provide a seamless customer experience (CX), you’ll significantly cut costs.

With over 10 million customers, Exelon, the largest U.S. utility company, has stayed ahead of this trend and achieved incredible results. Leveraging chatbot automation through Oracle Digital Assistant has significantly driven their costs down and increased their velocity. With 24/7 automated chat, Exelon is providing a seamless experience by meeting their customers wherever they are, at any time.

  Customer service agents as experts

Contact centers can realize significant savings by using automated digital service to handle simple, routine inquiries. Juniper Research forecasts that chatbots and natural language processing (NLP) will save businesses $8 billion annually in customer support costs by 2022. They further stated that businesses in the healthcare and financial services could save up to 70 cents per customer interaction by using support automation to address common customer inquiries.

However, customer service agents are still critical for complex inquiries. Forrester noted the emergence of new "superagents" who serve as product or relationship experts with deep subject-matter expertise. With contact centers managing so many critical customer concerns, many leaders are now seeking agents with more specialized skills to meet the need, in addition to investing in automated service technology.

And with many agents working from home for the first time, omnichannel service software is essential in providing them with a guided experience, along with the infrastructure and support they were accustomed to when they worked in a physical office.

Successful service during stressful times

The right tools allow companies to thrive in the face of change. In 2020, the New York State Department of Health needed an immediate CX solution to accommodate the surge of calls from concerned and anxious citizens regarding the COVID-19 crisis. They also felt the internal effects of the crisis as their staff was mandated to work from home, yet most employees had no remote-working experience.  

For five days in March, Oracle collaborated with Speridian to implement knowledge articles and workflows, allowing agents to provide 24/7 support from the safety of their homes. The results were phenomenal: Service automation led to 90% first-call resolution despite an 11x increase in call volume.

Retain loyal customers with the right blend of customer service

Whether through a digital service assistant or a live superagent, delivering a personalized and seamless customer service experience can mean the difference between customer retention and customer churn.

Simply put, smart companies provide frictionless service that meets their customers wherever and whenever they need help. What was once a long-term plan to improve service is now an issue of immediacy, and the key is acting with urgency.

Learn how Oracle can help your organization navigate the new normal with our service cloud offerings.

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