September 18, 2018

Contextual Conversations: The Software Innovation Improving Customer Support

Written by
Elroy Desmond Dsouza

In the fast-paced lives of the millennial generation, technology is slowly developing into something we rely on for most day-to-day tasks. Whether it’s paying bills, shopping for groceries or planning complete holidays, we’re always looking for simplified, time-saving methods to get stuff done. This is precisely why we opt for well-designed apps with intuitive User Interfaces (UI) that provide exactly what we need when we need it. We essentially expect these apps to behave less like apps and more like an actual assistant.

This demanding consumer behaviour has highlighted an extremely valuable insight for companies in the service sector: the bar for customer support has been raised. When we have a negative experience with a product or service, we expect customer support executives to empathize with us just as a friend would. This is not surprising. As humans, we have an inherent need to connect with other individuals. The more genuine the level of interaction, the more meaningful and memorable it is. In short, you need to make your customer service interactions count.

The numbers behind it all

Losing a customer to poor after-sales support is one of the gravest mistakes you can make as an organization in the service industry. Studies have shown that businesses lose more than $75 billion a year from poor customer service, and it costs anywhere from 5 to 25 times more for them to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Fortunately, companies—especially those in the tech and IT sector—are more than aware of these damning statistics and are investing heavily in methods to improve the overall customer support experience.

Contextual communication breakdown

If you’re looking for a formal definition, contextual communication is the “bidirectional transfer of information between two parties where both parties are aware of the relational, environmental, and cultural context of the exchange.” In simpler terms, however, it is a conversation between two parties where both sides are completely aware of all the aspects of the conversation.

Having the right context can save time

Let’s imagine you receive a call from an unknown number. You answer it and learn it’s one of your technicians asking you for an update on a job. You then proceed to ask them why exactly they need an update, what finer details they require, how soon they require it, etc. A lot of time is wasted establishing the context of the conversation, which can lead to a somewhat negative experience.

Now imagine you’re out on a service call, and instead of a call, you receive a text from your tech:

Need an update on what’s happening with Work Order – 9288, particularly regarding the pipes replacement that we have to organise for them. Calling in 5.

You’re instantly aware of what the nature of the conversation is going to be about; the context is set. Your eventual call with your technician will be much quicker, and you can also opt to have the conversation later, in case you’re too busy.

This kind of interaction is what brands and organizations look to emulate for their customer support processes. With the help of user data and smart software tools, contextual communication aims to help service professionals provide their customers with a memorable, more positive customer support experience. Apps like Uber and Amazon can use available contextual data to assess your preferences and to serve you with a customized offering for a more engaging service experience.

The future of customer support

Voice recognition tools like Google’s Assistant, Apple’s Siri, and Amazon’s Alexa bring a lot of weight to the table where top executives and technology gurus discuss the way forward for contextual communication. Google has already shown us how the Google Assistant is now capable of carrying out a completely natural conversation with a human being, to the eerie point where the human probably has no clue that the “person” on the other end of the line is an artificial intelligence (AI) bot.

As a matter of fact, AI has been redefining customer support processes for a while now. Facebook—through its Messenger app—now provides support for a chatbot, which can be coded to answer common support queries with a set of standard responses. Now imagine a chatbot that can take advantage of the treasure trove of contextual customer data available to companies like Facebook and Google. This opens the possibilities to hundreds of interesting use cases.

For example, imagine you’re interacting with a chatbot to make a reservation at the new fine-dining establishment that opened across town. Using easily available data like the average time you leave from work and the average time required to travel to the venue at that hour, the chatbot could easily suggest the best time to make a reservation. With a host of customer/user data available at the click of a button, the possibilities for contextual communication tools are endless.

Human interactions without humans

A recent report from MIT Technology Review and Genesys shows over 90% of top companies use AI to increase customer satisfaction, compared to 42% of companies overall. While it may seem beneficial for organizations to move to more automated processes, when it comes to customer support, it is important to maintain a careful balance by retaining an element of human interaction. It might take time for an AI-based tool to learn the subtle nuances of the human language, such as emotional cues, but we know that it is certainly possible.

The future certainly looks bright for contextual communication tools. With more platforms implementing AI chatbots and users demanding a cleaner and more engaging customer service experience, we can only expect this technology to improve and eventually become a seamless part of our online (and possibly offline) experience.

Elroy Desmond Dsouza is a writer for Loc8 and a copywriter and ghostwriter who loves to craft compelling and engaging content for various brands in the technology service and consumer market space. He has over 6 years of experience working at some of the best upcoming PR and digital marketing agencies and has had his work featured in numerous top publications worldwide.