Future Customer Experience & Service: A Strategic Priority & Collective Responsiblity

December 15, 2022

In October, Reuters Events Customer Service & Experience brought together industry-shaping brands – including Macy’s, T-Mobile, Verizon, Walmart, UPS, Nationwide, M&T Bank, Footlocker and more – to reset priorities, refocus organizational strategy, and retool the workforce for the year ahead.

Their expertise is now available to in Reuters Events end-of-year customer service & experience report. Distilled into 8 critical takeaways, the 11-page report provides business-critical insight into the latest trends and how service & experience leaders can set up for success in 2023.

Here are two of the key takeaways from their discussions:

1. Humanize digital and digitize humans with agility and empathy

As PwC research shows, a high percentage of people – 82% of U.S. and 74% of non-U.S. consumers – want more human interaction. Regardless, the technology supporting human interaction must be seamless and unobtrusive across platforms. In support of this view, Bala Maddali, Head of Conversational AI, Verizon, argued that by the time a customer reaches out for human contact, they have done the groundwork and they want to speak to an expert.

Conversational AI that humanizes digital and digitizes humans can drive positive outcomes for customers, employees, and the overall business. But before embarking on this journey, understanding the reality of an overstretched workforce was essential. Verizon’s guiding set of principles for conversational AI is to “make it easy, make it work, make it mine and make it human”. In addition, its agile operating model and group-wide strategy works in three ways to:

  • Empower the core team through co-creation. Focus groups and voice of employee forums help to gather feedback and establish what works for users and what doesn’t.
  • Augment the workforce across every channel and recognize the tools they are already using. Any AI must blend in and work on behalf of the customer representative, so that they have all the information they need.
  • Inspire AI evangelists by showing empathy and creating win-win scenarios for employees, customers and the business.

At TIAA, which has been on a rapid digital transformation journey since COVID-19, Hocking shared one initiative that has delivered “tremendous results” for a company that records approximately four million calls a year. Using Google AI and natural language processing (NLP), customers now feel that they are “truly like talking to somebody”. Rather than having a multiple-choice list to select from, now customers are asked: “What can I help you with?” Further iterations, depending on the product, ensure that once the customer is transferred, the human rep has all the relevant information, thus avoiding unnecessary repetition.

After running 200,000 calls through AI, TIAA received neatly categorized data such as tax forms, account balances, distributions, or even customer sentiment. Awkward silences, highlighting that more information was needed, flagged gaps that could be immediately rectified.

2. Breaking boundaries, busting silos and being open

In the U.S., 63% of consumers are willing to share information with companies that offer a great experience. Recognizing this, in product-centric and data-rich financial services, TIAA is “using the stick and carrot, but mostly the carrot” to create win-win scenarios. For example, although a self-service solution for interactions between consultants and the frontline was first resisted, now “they love it,” Hocking said.

At Citizens Bank, Johnson said the group is committed to “taking the enormous amount of data we have across an enormous number of channels and different kinds of products, and really thinking from the customer’s perspective”. One transformative strategy has been to take people out of their silos. And at Citizens Bank, it is not uncommon to find somebody from the contact center sitting with a commercial banker or operations manager, and working together, listening to customer feedback, and deciding what to measure and how to deliver. For M&T’s Murali, CX data should not exist in a vacuum but be married with service data, call patterns and financial data.

Quick wins can help to reduce complaints, even if stakeholders may at first resist a new approach. At T-Mobile, which serves over 100 million customers, Sandoval acknowledged the “healthy tension” between the three pillars of “growth, financial and experience outcomes” and that sometimes there were trade-offs. “Sometimes we do have to say, this isn’t the ideal experience but we’re going to launch with a MVP (minimum viable product)”, she said. Part of the open culture at T-Mobile is that “anyone in the organization can put up a hand and say, this is totally wrong”.

Engaging in authentic communication, while meeting the different perspectives, needs and priorities of your stakeholders, can evolve the consumer-brand relationship and contemporize your brand.

For all 8 key takeaways from Reuters Events Customer Service & Experience 2022, access the report here.