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Guest Blogger

By Gavin Mee Senior Vice President, Enterprise Sales and Head of UK for Salesforce

Google customer service. Go on, I’ll wait. You’re probably seeing pages and pages of news stories about companies that either went above and beyond – and you’re also seeing stories about companies that totally lost the trust and loyalty of their customers in one fell swoop.

As a nation we’ve become  fixated on the type of service delivered by our best-loved brands. – even as we admit that getting it right (without being grating or intrusive) is often a fine balance.

In my opinion the brands that are succeeding – the companies I personally return to time and time again – are those that deliver a fast, proactive and personalised service – full stop. They seem to know what I want and need even before I do. It’s this “magical” experience – where all of my needs are met almost before I know what I actually want – that stands out as best type of customer service in the world today.

There’s plenty of research to back this up. Our Connected Customer research revealed that 72% of consumers and 89% of business buyers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations. And our study on UK attitudes to customer experience found that nearly three-quarters (73%) of respondents said poor customer service would put them off a company.

It’s clear to me that UK customers today expect a certain level of service and want an issue resolved immediately – often before they’re even aware of a problem.

Fortunately, with developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI), the future of customer service will likely rely on automated “alarms” rescuing a situation before it reaches a boiling point. But what sort of strategy should customer service teams look to implement now, in order to effectively take advantage of AI?

Start with intelligence and actionable data

They say knowledge is power, and this is certainly true when it comes to customer service. You can only “surprise and delight” your customers if you have a wealth of intelligence backing your outreach. To achieve this, companies need to create a 360-degree view of their customers now, which extends to every channel and device they use – mobile, social, phone, and in-store visits included. All customer information, from every channel, must be captured, combined and shared across departments quickly and efficiently.

In practice, this enables customer service teams to act more efficiently. Supervisors have real-time visibility into agent availability, queues and wait times; and customer service agents immediately have access to each customer’s history with that company.

We’ve all been there, on the phone or online, describing our issue to one agent after another – but when the background is captured in the system, this can save on both customer frustration and valuable agent resolution time. Working together, the team can resolve the issue as quickly as possible and deliver a more personalised experience.

Centrica Connected Home, for example, has integrated its different data sets and systems into one, which drives greater efficiency and richer customer engagements. The team can see if a homeowner has bought a Hive product but not yet activated their account; they can also proactively contact a customer if they notice a problem with their product set-up, or alert a customer with the Boiler IQ product to a potential breakdown before it occurs.

Use AI to innovate customer service

And if that sounds good, there’s even more – once a business has laid the groundwork by consolidating its data and broken down internal silos, artificial intelligence can really get to work in enhancing the customer service a business provides. I recently read a report from Accenture which found that nearly eight in ten IT and business executives think artificial intelligence will enable businesses to improve the outcomes of critical customer interactions.

For example, a manager at an appliance manufacturing firm might get an alert informing him of an increase in customer complaints regarding a dishwasher model. Using analytics tools, the manager can drill down into the data to find which particular batch of that dishwasher model is causing problems. Armed with this information, the manager can ensure his agents proactively reach out to other customers with this model and prevent the issue from multiplying into other customer homes.

It’s not future tech, either. KONE is the global leader in providing elevators and escalators around the world and it currently uses Salesforce every day to manage opportunities, tenders, and orders for both new equipment sales and service contracts. KONE has also embarked on a project to transform its field service operations. By integrating Service Cloud Lightning and Field Service Lightning with IoT (Internet of Things) capabilities, KONE will be able to provide its 20,000 field service engineers with real-time information on customer installations information and maintenance schedules.

Striking a balance

At the end of the day, all service organisations will need to properly embrace these emerging technologies in order to deliver exceptional service and maintain operational excellence. And I’m willing to predict that those companies that effectively harness all that AI has to offer will be the real winners – because these companies will be delivering better experiences for their customers, creating competitive advantage, and disrupting entire industries.

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