Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Visual Engagement Technology: Overcoming an Over-Reliance on AI in Customer Engagement

April 01, 2019
By Special Guest
Tom Martin, CEO, Glance Networks -

There’s little debate that the emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has captured the hearts and minds of thought leaders, business people, government regulators, consumers, and virtually every constituency that uses technology. At one recent industry conference, for example, AI was referred to as “profound,” “game-changing,” ”transformational,” and “revolutionary”—and this was just in the first keynote. All of these superlatives are true and, while much of today’s AI is in an embryonic form, there is, nonetheless, universal excitement for the potential these innovations can offer all facets of society.

In business settings, the potential of AI is compelling, but it’s not the answer for every process. For organizations in manufacturing, retail, transportation, hospitality, and countless other sectors, there are many examples of AI technology automating and streamlining what are considered mundane but essential tasks, and radically bringing down operating expenses.  Processes like assembly, data processing, and other recurring tasks are well-suited for AI-driven automation. There are also numerous cases in security, transportation, healthcare, and retail where AI has come to the forefront, and demonstrated significant proficiency for handling a variety of assignments.

Limited in Scope

But there are other essential business processes where the viability of AI—particularly in its current form—is less clear. One of the most prominent business processes is customer engagement—an area that increasingly uses AI tools—but with varying results. Customer service deployments, including contact centers, self-service web portals, omnichannel communication, and other forms of interaction have seen a rapid escalation in the use of chatbots and other automation that forms the first line of contact in customer service.

According to a recent report in Business Insider, a whopping 80 percent of American enterprises are expected to use some form of a chatbot in their customer service implementations by 2020. There’s a good reason for this:  in the article, it was noted that IBM estimates some 265 billion customer support calls were made globally in 2018, resulting in $1.3 trillion in customer support costs. If the use of chatbots reduces the number of support calls by 20 percent—certainly within the scope of projected AI efficiency—the resulting savings approaches $300 billion.

It’s hard to argue with the math, but there’s more to the story. Businesses that place a premium on customer loyalty recognize that delivering superior service relies on more than just efficiencies. There are much more nuanced—but equally important—factors that should determine how the right technology can create and deliver a rich, brand-centric customer experience that will satisfy customers, extend brand loyalty, and drive revenue. Prudent businesses that want to foster this stronger connection realize that extending a personal touch can enhance the customer experience while also creating a deeper commitment from the customer.

Challenges with Chatbots

The introduction of bots and other automated AI tools into IVRs and websites can certainly deflect and resolve baseline customer queries, but for more complex issues they can also induce anxiety on the part of the consumer who may feel he or she is not getting the information they need as quickly or as easily as they expect. This level of frustration causes customers to escalate their problems, and instead of AI proactively managing a customer, businesses find that the technology can have a counter-intuitive effect, placing added stress on customers, and the live agents who must play catch up to rectify customer issues exacerbated by the limitations of Artificial Intelligence.

What Matters to Customers

Instead of diving head first into the AI pool and letting automation drive customer engagement, many large companies that place a premium on creating a pleasant experience—especially those in financial services, technology, retail, and other sectors—are electing to double down on the importance of human interaction by investing in visual engagement technologies to fortify customer service. These innovations, which include screen sharing, co-browsing, and video chat where the customer sees the agent, are embedded directly into the core contact center or CRM platform, bringing together the consumer and agent into a real-time conversation that can be conducted on both desktop and mobile devices.

This gives consumers the ability to engage with their providers and merchants whenever and wherever they like, and creates a much broader, deeper, and richer experience than what is available with chatbots and other AI tools. In fact, visual engagement enables organizations to establish market differentiation and reinforce their commitment to satisfying customer needs. It also strengthens brand propositions, mitigates customer churn, and yes, even drives sales, turning customer service operations into profit centers.

About Visual Engagement

Companies seeking to deepen customer relations—and create a platform for developing advisory services that can be leveraged by the entire customer base—should closely examine the plethora of visual engagement solutions that are currently available in the marketplace. Offerings that are browser-based are certainly preferable to premises-based software that require hands-on management when upgrades occur. In addition, solutions that can easily be integrated into existing contact center and/or CRM platforms are optimal. Visual engagement integrated into the CRM enables the agent to launch engagement sessions directly from the contact or case record, for a frictionless workflow. The agent has ready access to the most recent customer history data, and the visual engagement session data can be automatically recorded as an activity in the CRM.

Another key factor is ubiquity. It does the business no good if only a subset of customers can leverage these capabilities. The very best visual engagement solutions enable the service agent to engage with the customer no matter whether the customer is using a desktop or mobile device, and do not require the customer to download any software. The workflow should be simple and consistent for the agent and for the customer. The agent just asks the customer’s permission to launch the session, clicks a button, and a screen share or video chat—or both—are instantly launched. The agent has the resources he or she needs to provide assistance, and the customer leaves the session with the satisfaction that the company truly understands their needs, and is happy to provide them with the personal care and support they deserve or expect.

While AI is a wonderful thing, and its future knows no bounds, it is perhaps not ready for prime time in the world of customer engagement. Forrester predicts that customer resistance against ineffective chatbots is on the way. It would be reckless for a business to place much of its customer care processes in the hands of chatbots and automation. Customers want respect, acknowledgment, advice, and, above all, reassurance that their allegiance to their preferred providers is sound.

Tom Martin, CEO, Glance Networks

Deepen Relationships; Build Brand Loyalty

Visual engagement solutions are effective, proven tools that help strengthen customer service and reinforce the value any business places on its customers. By facilitating effective, real-time engagement on a one-to-one basis through screen share, video chat, and other real-time collaboration tools, savvy businesses have the opportunity to truly differentiate themselves in an era of commoditized, impersonal service that runs counter to customer demands for responsiveness, empathy, and respect.

Edited by Erik Linask