When Customers Need A Digital Advisor, Not A Digital Assistant

By Ryan Falkenberg, 30 November 2022 – Originally published by Techfinancials.

For some companies, selling and servicing their products digitally is relatively simple. You upload your products into an online store and ensure the buying and delivery process is slick and seamless. To help answer basic product questions, you offer them a digital assistant or chatbot. Take a company that sells sunglasses. Customers just need clear product photos, relevant product information and access to product reviews and they will happily make their online buying choices, unassisted.

For regulated companies such as mobile networks, banks, and insurers, it’s a little more complicated. Their products and services are more complex to understand, and often harder to return. They are also often sold in complex bundles. Simply explaining features and benefits is not enough. Customers’ need expert advice.

In most cases, this advice is offered by human experts located either in the contact centre or within a retail branch. This means that for a sale to happen digitally you need to involve a human. This significantly limits these companies’ ability to grow their customer base via their digital channels.

So why is it so hard to digitally offer these customers product advice?

It’s not about features and benefits. It is about needs.

If a customer knows what product they want, but not the model or make, a feature-based comparison is very helpful. It’s when customers are not sure which product they actually need that things get tricky.

In these cases, a company like an insurer can effectively predict the right product for the customer, and even provide rich, compelling product information and peer reviews to validate the recommendation, and the customer still won’t make the buying decision. This is because they are not yet clear what needs these products will be meeting. Until they are, they won’t move forward.

So the help they require is to better understand their own needs, not your products. And this is where the core problem lies, because digital assistants like chatbots are trained off product information. They are not designed to guide someone through a detailed need analysis that leads to a contextually-relevant recommendation. They are also not great at sticking to the rules, and keeping a record to prove it.

The emergence of Virtual Agents that can offer compliant sales and service advice

Fortunately many of these companies are now succeeding in building digital experts capable of offering consistent, compliant and hyper-personalised sales and service advice. These digital experts, in the form of virtual agents, can clarify a customer’s stated intent, analyse their situation or need, diagnose the root cause of any problem and then identify the right solution before triggering the relevant process to action it. Plus they can provide a compliance record to prove they did it right.

These virtual agents are also aware of a customer’s context and can draw answers from that context. Whether you’re trying to decide which cellphone plan to use or you need a query resolved, your virtual agent can tap into all available data and then guide you to the right solution based on your specific set of needs, without having to bring a live human into the loop.

Eliminating that point of friction doesn’t just provide the customer with a better overall experience, it frees up human staff for higher-value interactions such as retaining an unhappy customer.

Giving customers what they want

Ultimately, embracing full-service virtual agents for their ability to provide personalised advice isn’t simply about closing the loop on digital sales and service. It’s also about giving customers what they want. And increasingly, that means being able to do everything online.

It might not ever be as easy to take out an insurance policy or to change medical aid plans as it is to order groceries online (they’re still more complex products), but that doesn’t mean it’s not something we should work towards.

View original article here.