Verizon CX boss: Bots slash costs, but humans build brand loyalty

CX automation can build speed and process efficiency. But, a Verizon consumer survey reveals, brands that continue staffing call centers with humans build better relationships.

Customers appreciate the automation of formerly laborious processes, such as making payments, changing passwords and updating account information. But, a Verizon CX leader contends, in addition to the speed of automation and quick-response chatbots, humans ultimately build brand loyalty and trust.

That was one upshot from a survey of 6,000 consumers across 15 countries Verizon commissioned in February 2019 and released in mid-June.

Gordon Littley, managing director of Verizon's global CX practice, said that confirmed what he's learned anecdotally talking to Verizon customers' CX leaders: Customers need human agents to close the deal, solve their problems on the support side and build a connection to a brand that results in repeat-business loyalty.

Chatbots have limitations, he said. They need to be designed in a customer-centric way, Littley said, to avoid migrating outdated thinking into new technology platforms. That kills the customer experience.

"We're forcing customers to do business the way we want to do business. With IVR [interactive voice response], the whole intent of that platform was to avoid talking to customers," Littley said. "If you view chatbots in the same way, you're going to make the same mistakes. What you have to do is start with the customer, who says, 'I don't care what channel you service me on as long as it's quick and to the point.'"

Gordon Littley, managing director of Verizon's global CX practice Gordon Littley

Further reinforcing the notion that automation for the sake of cutting costs of human employees doesn't go over well with customers is that they're demanding the human touch. In the Americas consumers said they expect people to be involved in CX, with 44% indicating that being unable to speak to a person when contacting a brand would be the No. 1 reason to send them to a competitor.

Globally, 59% of the Verizon CX survey respondents said email or secure messaging platforms are their preferred methods of communicating with brands. However, the next three on the list -- they could choose more than one -- involved human interactions: phone (54%), in person (39%) and live chat (39%).

Yet, consumers also expressed that they want technology serving them automated personalized experiences that include tailored and meaningful recommendations that follow them across mobile and desktop platforms as consumers change devices.

Consumers getting increasingly impatient with tech

In the [United States], privacy concerns -- especially with what's been in the news in the last 12 months -- are spiking.
Gordon LittleyManaging director of Verizon's global CX practice

The Verizon CX survey found that speed for making a transaction or getting a support question answered affects consumers' perception of good versus bad CX. It's not page-load speeds or server latency, but rather efficiency -- the fewer the clicks and the more convenient, the better the experience, Littley said.

Technology can taint the customer experience when it fails -- or at least delays -- customer gratification. American consumers said slow apps (39%), having to make multiple attempts to resolve a problem (38%), a company ignoring data preferences (34%) and having to repeat information all would push them to a competitor.

Europeans want brands to focus more on data security and consumer priorities than consumers in the Americas, because that's a bigger story there now because of the GDPR European data privacy law, Littley said. However, U.S. consumers are starting to demand the companies that serve them pay more attention, as high-profile breaches take place and laws such as California's GDPR-like law go into effect next year.

"In the [United States], privacy concerns -- especially with what's been in the news in the last 12 months -- are spiking," Littley said.

E-commerce shop picking and packing merchandise orders.
E-commerce and customer support chatbot automation may be all the tech rage, but the Verizon CX survey of 6,000 consumers confirmed what smarter brands know: Humans build trust and brand loyalty.

Consumers getting savvier about AI, ethical data use

What AI technology does and how it works might be hard for the average consumer to grasp, let alone the ethics surrounding its use. But consumers know what they don't like when they see it, such as data breaches that cause distrust and inconvenience as passwords or even credit card numbers have to be changed.

Globally, in the Verizon CX survey, consumers expressed a willingness to share data if the tradeoff is more personalized experiences for younger generations. Older generations -- 55 and older -- said they'd give up their data in exchange for economic benefits, such as lower prices or exclusive sales.

One of the most important messages revealed by the survey, according to Littley, was letting the consumer know exactly what is being done with their data and sticking to your own data use policies are key to building trust and inspiring loyalty.

"If you're going to use data to help me in my interactions and how you deal with me, then I'm going to be OK with that, as long as I know what you're doing," Littley said.

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