Businesses are increasing investment in digital channels and AI for better customer experiences—will it work?

by | Nov 11, 2020 | Public Relations

Customer service has emerged as the key differentiator for successful brands and businesses in 2020, and smart marketers are focusing intently on the seamlessness and ease of the full customer journey to deliver the best experiences. New research from cloud contact center NICE inContact details the growing role of digital-first omnichannel experiences in fostering customer loyalty and advocacy.

The newly released 2020 NICE inContact Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark reveals a trend among businesses moving towards self-service vs. agent-assisted channels—now 43 percent of businesses prefer to offer self-service channels, a 15 percentage point increase from 2019 with a corresponding decrease in those preferring agent-assisted channels for service.

“Digital is a fundamental part of customers’ lives,” said Paul Jarman, NICE inContact CEO, in a news release. “If you’re not available in those channels and offering effective and efficient service in them, customers will take notice. That said, creating differentiation and value requires more than checking the box, but rather using digital as a launchpad to build exceptionally memorable experiences. This year’s CX Transformation Benchmark shows that contact centers aren’t willing to be left behind, and they see new opportunities in improving acquisition, retention and growth.”

Businesses increasing investment in digital channels and AI for better customer experiences

According to the survey, 62 percent of contact centers reported an increase in digital interaction volumes during the global pandemic. In addition, 66 percent of survey respondents not using the cloud today indicated that they are planning to accelerate their move as a result of the pandemic. In the 2020 survey findings, there is significant growth in contact centers offering online chat (73 percent) and mobile apps (56 percent)—up 6 and 8 percentage points, respectively, since 2019. Text was up 11 percentage points to 49 percent, while chatbots remained flat year over year at 46 percent of contact centers using them.

Businesses increasing investment in digital channels and AI for better customer experiences

Key findings include:

Investment in key areas of CX are up in four key areas

When asked how they plan to improve their CX in the coming year, contact center leaders identified the website (58 percent), access to new channels (43 percent), new contact center technology (42 percent) and improving seamless communication (35 percent) as their primary focus areas.

Preference for self-service versus agent-assisted channels is shifting among contact centers

While contact centers may prefer the efficiency of self-service, there was no change in the overall percent of interactions that were handled with contact centers, estimating that 39 percent of all interactions are through self-service channels. In 2020, preference for self-service channels, such as website, IVR, chatbots, increased by 15 percentage points from 28 percent in 2019 to 43 percent in 2020. There was a corresponding decreased preference for agent-assisted channels, such as phone, email, and online chat, down from 72 percent to 57 percent.

Continued growth of social media in customer service

In both public channels and private messaging apps, social media usage has increased significantly between 2019 and 2020. Today, 72 percent of businesses report using social media for customer service—up from 59 percent in 2019. When asked which private messaging apps they most closely rely on, the top five were: Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter Messenger and WeChat.

Businesses increasing investment in digital channels and AI for better customer experiences

Contact centers see more room for opportunity to improve the seamless omnichannel experience

Compared to 2019, there was a slight increase of 3 percentage points (27 percent vs. 24 percent) in the number of contact centers which gave themselves an excellent rating in providing a seamless omnichannel experience. Furthermore, 35 percent plan to add new services to allow channels to work together seamlessly (up from 25 percent in 2019).

AI is up, as is skepticism in the state of chatbots

When asked about the role of AI in their channel mix, 66 percent of contact centers say they use at least one AI channel, up from 50 percent from 2019. More businesses agree that chatbots make it easier for customers to get issues resolved, 71 percent in 2020 vs. 63 percent previously. However, 90 percent believe that chatbots need to get smarter before customers will be willing to use them regularly (compared to 89 percent in 2019). As chatbots get smarter, first contact resolution (currently 23 percent of chatbot interactions) should also improve. In this year’s study, 40 percent of businesses say they will be investing in customer-facing AI for self-service, such as chatbots, voice bots, etc.

Businesses increasing investment in digital channels and AI for better customer experiences

Download the full report here.

NICE inContact surveyed more than 1000 contact center decision-makers across the globe on their priorities and plans for the 2020-2021 contact center. 

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Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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