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Guest Blogger

Christmas is over for another year, with British shoppers spending billions over the holiday season, from scooping deals over the Black Friday weekend, to purchasing last-minute gifts on Christmas Eve. With more and more of us are choosing internet retailers (as many as 9 out of 10 UK shoppers buy their Christmas gifts online) – service is key. Customers expect great prices, fast delivery, and abundant availability.

Yet this Christmas, consumer expectations were at its highest. Our analysis revealed that the UK’s top retailers saw a staggering 46 per cent increase in complaints and inbound customer queries over social media.

Compared to the preceding peak shopping period of Black Friday, which saw some of Britain’s most popular online retailers receive an influx of inbound queries — 74 per cent of which were directly related to customer issues. Notably, some of the most prevalent hashtags included ‘#badcustomerservice’ and ‘#disappointed’, with tweeted complaints frequently including words like ‘wait’, ‘call’, and ‘service’.

Despite being the most wonderful time of the year, bad customer service combined with holiday season stress can leave a bad impression with shoppers. Increasing expectations require smarter approaches to delighting customers. Bringing in busloads of extra contact centre agents, whilst a manageable approach for the largest brands, just isn’t feasible for others, particularly smaller independent businesses and start-ups.

The key is to work smarter by utilising existing resources and knowledge. Today’s technology is at the core of enabling this, and artificial intelligence (AI) can really play an important role.

Omnichannel customer interaction platforms are a great step towards supporting your customers’ needs across a variety of channels and touchpoints. However, the real magic lies in the innovations around deep learning and neural networks, a place where artificial intelligence can better learn how customer interactions occur—dealing with them faster and more effectively.

An example of this approach in action is Answer Bot. Zendesk built a smart AI that works hand-in-hand with contact centre agents, to better support customers at busy, high-stress periods. By identifying common customer queries and instantly providing suggested solutions, it can help take a load off already stretched agents. This means they can have more fulfilling roles that focus on resolving complex issues and building better customer relationships.

For example, for an organisation that encounters 1,000 inbound support requests over the course of a month, Answer Bot is typically able to save customer service agents/reps 12 hours of their time – and give back over 1,000 hours to customers too. Smart platforms like this can recognise (and learn from) patterns and trends to better serve customers resolutions that are relevant, helpful, and timely. That’s where brands with fewer resources can really stand out.

Looking ahead to the coming year, the convergence of humans and technology in the contact centre will continue to accelerate for brands that excel in exceptional customer service. We’re likely to see developments beyond bots, such as platforms that can actively learn from their interactions and mistakes to better help customers and agents alike—especially over Christmas, where that extra help is needed most.

Prelini Udayan-Chiechi is Zendesk’s VP of Marketing in EMEA

About Zendesk

Zendesk builds software for better customer relationships. It empowers organizations to improve customer engagement and better understand their customers. Approximately 114,000 paid customer accounts in over 160 countries and territories use Zendesk products. Based in San Francisco, Zendesk has operations in the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America. Learn more at www.zendesk.com.

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