You know how bad customer experience generally turns out to be, no matter the promises? Well, imagine our delight and sense of expectation when Gartner announced that they believe that “by 2020, 25% of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistant (VCA) or chatbot technology across engagement channels”.
2020 is now less than two years away. And yet companies seem to be doing this because they realize that their customers’ experience is less than perfect and are turning to technology as the panacea, particularly VCA, it seems.
According to Gartner vice president Gene Alvarez, “a great VCA offers more than just information. It should enrich the customer experience, help the customer throughout the interaction and process transactions on behalf of the customer.”
He is right. It should.
As well as implementing chatbots, customer service organizations are transforming the whole digital customer experience. Twenty percent of them are abandoning their mobile apps, largely because they are not producing significant ROI. Instead they are investing in ways of interacting via social media channels such as Facebook (you know, where you go to be sold at and bombarded with fake news and such).
In fact, says the report by Gartner, brands will be investing heavily in IT, striving to make the omni channel dream a reality.
They will be implementing everything from AI to VR to AR and probably back again. Many will be using AI in their primary sales processes. They will be using data analytics in, well, everything they possibly can.
So, what could possibly go wrong?
The summary might well read “invest in all the currently overhyped – and so far disappointing – technologies to improve your customer experience”.
What will almost certainly go wrong will be nectar to the ears of people such as us who enjoy writing about things going wrong. We look forward to the misplaced sales recommendations (“We see you like playing online war games, click here for 20% off a Colt AR-15”). We look forward to the chatbot that does not quite understand the problem and simply makes a customer less happy (mind you this happens whatever the technology, or lack of it).
We have been talking about omni channel customer service for several years now. We know it must come and that one day it could even be pretty good.
What we also know is that in the early days things will go wrong, and customers will take to Twitter or whatever their preferred channel is to complain. And the technology and the companies implementing it will get bad press.
So, while we are in favor of gradual implementation of technology and automation to improve processes, the findings of the Gartner report seem incredibly ambitious, bearing in the mind that the technologies they are discussing are still in their infancy (at least as far as the hype around them is concerned).
Our advice would be to keep a few human beings, preferably with a little common sense and authority, so that at least one channel will continue to work, while the technology catches up.
Even the Deutsche Telekom CEO agrees.