Understanding the 5 Most Critical Features of a Customer Experience Platform and What They Mean
- Industry-Specific CX
- Ingesting Business Data Via APIs
- Natural Language Understanding
- Leveraging Digital Workers
- Adaptive Dialog Using AI
- First Things First: Understand Current CX Functions
In 2021 and beyond, a superior customer experience will be tantamount to businesses who want to survive and thrive, repeatedly winning and retaining customers.
As the pandemic unfolded in 2020, businesses in all industries demonstrated their ability (or lack thereof) to provide an awesome experience despite extreme challenges.
Customers have become accustomed to this change and are demanding it in large numbers. There’s no going back now.
Almost 90% of buyers report that they will spend more if they have an excellent customer experience. (Super Office)
Just because of a fantastic customer experience, customers will pay premiums of almost 20% for luxury and indulgence purchases. (PriceWaterhouse Coopers)
By the close of 2020, customer experience will outweigh both prices and products in the battle of brand differentiation. (Walker)
And what’s more: everyone is jumping on the bandwagon.
Out of an audience of nearly 2,000 business professionals, almost 50% said their top priority for the next 5 years is customer experience.
For those that aren’t prioritizing customer experience, it’s time to re-evaluate. The first thing you may consider are customer interactions today and how to improve them.
Adding in the powerful features of a customer experience (CX) platform can go a long way towards driving more sales and increasing long-term loyalty.
Before you get too far down the purchase path, it’s important to understand the most critical features of a CX platform. All platforms are not created equal.
Installing one that’s missing key functionality might actually harm rather than help your current customer experience.
When evaluating CX platforms, here are 5 must-have features to know.
1. Industry-Specific CX
When searching for a CX platform, look for one that understands the space you’re in. If you’re retail or ecommerce, for example, you’ll want a CX platform that serves similar customers.
That means the system will already understand preferences like;
- Attributes of individual products,
- Order timeframes,
- SKU numbers,
- and value associated with SKUs.
Having that institutional knowledge upfront will reduce your lead time required to get up-and-running, and get the right answers to customers more quickly.
2. Ingesting Business Data Via APIs
In order to create a superior customer experience, a CX platform has to be informed about all areas of your business. That means taking all data you have and ingesting in for the purposes of informing and customizing interactions.
To answer questions about specific products, it will need to connect with your full product catalog. The same goes for return policies, promotions, and any other business-specific rules.
And this is not just a one-time data transfer: data needs to be flowing constantly from your business to the CX platform. Anything that changes needs to be sent immediately, in case there’s a need for an updated interaction.
Maybe product details have changed so the answers to a customer’s questions would be different, or a promotion ends so the CX platform doesn’t support the promotion anymore.
Before choosing a CX platform, make sure you fully understand the data the platform will access, how it will access the data, and with what frequency. Any key details that are missing could leave gaps in the customer experience.
3. Natural Language Understanding
Having access to real-time data sources from your business is the first building block for an effective CX platform. Next up is the ability to understand inquiries from customers, or Natural Language Understanding (NLU).
Anyone who’s had a poor chatbot experience knows when there’s a computer on the other end that isn’t sophisticated enough to understand humans.
Sometimes you get the answer to a question you didn’t ask, or maybe you get rerouted multiple times. And there’s always the ubiquitous “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand your request.”
What is Natural Language Understanding (NLU)?
Natural Language Understanding (NLU) is the ability of AI tools to take a customer utterance and turn it into something actionable. It’s used frequently to perform activities like identifying a topic, detecting the appropriate language, and analyzing customer sentiment.
What is Natural Language Processing (NLP)?
Natural Language Processing (NLP) refers to the processing of language and the facilitation of conversations between humans and machines. A customer experience platform could have NLP and be able to communicate, but if it doesn’t understand what the customer is saying using NLU, the conversation is useless.
Hence the chatbot example from above – the chatbot can communicate with the user but can’t actually help them.
When evaluating CX platforms; it’s critical to understand if the platform uses both NLP and NLU.
If the platform only uses NLP, expect that live agents will have to be much more frequently engaged in customer interactions – both increasing your business’s cost and reducing efficiency.
4. Leveraging Digital Workers
With Natural Language Understanding, the CX platform can understand what the customer is trying to do. In order to act on that request efficiently and effectively, the CX platform will need to leverage one of a variety of digital workers.
What is a Digital Worker?
A digital worker is a piece of software specifically built to perform roles normally managed by people. Using both automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI), the digital worker can support finite tasks from start to finish. Use cases for retail digital workers are things like order tracking, return processing, promotion support, product recommendations, shipping address changes, and so on.
CX platforms should have a wide variety of digital workers to cover the myriad actions a customer may try to take.
Each digital worker should be able to handle multiple types of inquiries for their specific category. For example, a promotion support digital worker should be able to answer all questions related to promo codes, including:
- What’s the expiration date for the offer?
- Is this an in-store and online promotion?
- Can I combine this offer with other promotions?
- Can I use this coupon on sale items?
- Why won’t this offer work on this product?
With a robust set of digital workers, the CX platform will be able to handle the bulk of customer inquiries with very limited human interaction.
That means fulfilling customer requests quickly, effectively, and at a reduced cost to the business.
It’s important to know from the get-go whether a CX platform has digital workers, and if it does, does it have the right use cases for your business.
5. Adaptive Dialog Using AI
A diverse grouping of digital workers will support a CX platform’s ability to perform critical customer interactions minus the engagement of live agents.
However, it still needs to ingest information from the customer, understand and learn from that information, decide on a response, and repeat. Enter adaptive dialog,
What is Adaptive Dialog Using AI?
Adaptive Dialog us an AI-based chatbot framework that uses stored logic to model conversations. A CX platform using adaptive dialog will have all customer experiences driven by AI, using a series of conversation frameworks.
That means that in addition to processing and understanding language and managing roles related to specific tasks, the system knows how to have the conversation with the customer – and can change as it goes.
Without adaptive dialog, a business using a CX platform would have to create an entire framework of conversational rules.
For example, if a customer uses a specific word, perform this action. Adaptive dialog takes out the complexity by leveraging AI to have the conversation with the customer.
The digital worker solves the customer’s concern on the back end – making the conversation smooth and easy.
First Things First: Understand Current CX Functions
Before going in search of a new CX platform, it’s critical to understand what features and functions you have access to today. That way you’ll be prepared with information about what you already have AND what you need to add on for a superior customer experience.
Need Help Evaluating Your Current CX Platform?
We’ll walk through your existing CX features from start to finish and help you understand where the gaps are.