COVID-19 has made fast, hyper-personalized, omnichannel customer service all the more essential. Companies now have a range of powerful AI-assisted solutions to help make it a reality.

Looking back on the events of this year, it seems as though so much has changed, so quickly. And yet, in customer service, much is still the same. The need for fast, responsive, personalized customer service delivered across multiple channels was challenging companies to up their game long before the global pandemic struck.

Digital is driving up standards

Customer service has been on a journey over the past few years. The biggest shift has been the elevation in the level of service people expect. The “Amazon experience” has gone from being the ideal to the de facto standard—and customers have gone from being impressed by it to disappointed and/or frustrated if they don’t get it.

We know, for example, that the vast majority of customers get exasperated if they have to contact a company more than once for the same reason. Similarly, they hate having to wait in line to speak with a representative or repeat the same information over and over.

The way customers want to interact is also changing, and most consumers now think it’s important that a company offers customer service across a range of different channels. Accenture research has shown these shifts in expectations, with an astounding 93 percent of consumers agreeing it’s important that every interaction they have with a brand is excellent, whenever or wherever they happen.

Enter COVID-19

Those of us working in customer service were already under a lot of pressure to meet these higher customer expectations before COVID-19 happened, and the effect of the pandemic has been to amplify and accelerate these trends massively—while simultaneously putting intense downward pressure on costs.

For example, we’re now seeing a hyper-accelerated move to digital interactions from customers. We’re also witnessing a huge shift to digital operations from businesses, with more than half of C-suite executives planning to accelerate their digital transformations according to Accenture research.

At the same time, remote working has become standard, even for customer care agents. And there’s every chance this change will stick. Accenture’s research shows 53 percent of people who never worked from home previously now plan to do so more often in future.

Time to get smart about customer service

The combined effect of all this is that customer service needs to get more agile, more personalized, and more digital—as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. This is where new cloud-enabled technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) are critical.

It used to be said that customer service should aim to “know before hello”. That is, if an agent had enough relevant information about a customer, they’d be able to provide a hyper-personalized experience over the phone and resolve any problems with as little friction as possible.

That’s still true of course, but things have moved on. Organizations can now use AI-powered solutions to automate those personalized interactions via chat and other digital channels to create that hyper-personalization, and ideally preempt the customer's need to contact the business at all.

Many of today’s customer service solutions have embedded intelligent technologies that allow you to better understand customer needs, predict future demand and behavior and take action proactively, before the customer even knows there’s an issue.

AI joins the workforce

Pega’s Customer Decision HubTM is a great example of how AI can transform customer experience. It gives organizations a digital “brain” capable of recognizing customer service problems, anticipating customer requests and intervening automatically—and it can do so on a massive scale. The result is not only a more satisfied customer, but also a reduced burden on customer care agents.

AI-powered virtual agents, chatbots and email bots are another key plank of modern digital customer service. Here too, Pega has a leading solution in its Unified Messaging service. It lets organizations quickly develop and train intelligent bots to do things like distribute marketing material, support customer agents, or engage with customers directly in live chat.

This technology is maturing fast and is capable of conducting increasingly complex conversations. That means virtual agents can now meet a large proportion of customer needs without any human intervention—and across the channels that most customers prefer.

Customer service that’s stronger than ever

The good news is you don’t have to make a huge investment to start acquiring these capabilities. There’s a lot you can do right away by working with companies like Accenture and Pega to help improve customer experience while also taking cost out of operations—essential in managing the economic uncertainty created by the pandemic.

In Accenture’s Pega practice, for example, we’ve been using the Pega Express methodology to implement “microjourneys” that quickly deliver value. This has been critical in driving successful customer service outcomes for our clients—all while they continue to outmaneuver uncertainty.

By combining AI-powered solutions and agile practices in this way, companies can quickly and cost-effectively take their customer service to the next level. In the post-pandemic world, that’s going to be an essential capability for any customer-facing organization. Ask us how AI can transform your customer service now and in the next normal to delight your customers.

Disclaimer: This document is intended for general informational purposes only and does not take into account the reader’s specific circumstances and may not reflect the most current developments. Accenture disclaims, to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, any and all liability for the accuracy and completeness of the information in this presentation and for any acts or omissions made based on such information. Accenture does not provide legal, regulatory, audit, or tax advice. Readers are responsible for obtaining such advice from their own legal counsel or other licensed professionals. This document may contain descriptive references to trademarks that may be owned by others. The use of such trademarks herein is not an assertion of ownership of such trademarks by Accenture and is not intended to represent or imply the existence of an association between Accenture and the lawful owners of such trademarks.

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Michelle Sobin

​Managing Director, Pega Customer Service Lead

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