Chatbots, IVR, Voice Assistants, what’s next?

Author: Chris Bryson, Global Analytics Director, Webhelp

Webhelp recently commissioned revealing new research from polling experts YouGov, designed to uncover what 2,000 British adults really think about Artificial Intelligence (AI). The report explores the public perception of how AI technology will change the way brands provide customer service. Webhelp’s Global Analytics Director, Chris Bryson, takes a closer look at the findings:

Rules in CX are being rewritten. It’s getting harder to predict the future but we can still try. Join the debate with Webhelp!

In the evolving digital marketplace, as customers become more exposed to AI systems, it is critical that businesses consider new strategies for the future of shopping without human-to human contact.

A quick browse on YouTube or TikTok proves that Alexa, Siri and Google Home are prone to misunderstanding, often to humorous effect. But in the marketplace Interactive voice response (IVR) and Voice Assistants (VA) can quickly leave the consumer feeling frustrated and disengaged. Providers must carefully weigh the potential benefits of automation against the impersonal impact AI will have.

There are pitfalls ahead as, while convenient and instantaneous, customer experience tools like chatbots can restrict the ability to engage at a ‘human’ level. Additionally the medium can fall flat when trying to respond to complex issues.

To gauge customer attitudes and appetite in this growth area Webhelp recently conducted research with the polling experts YouGov, asking over 2,000 British adults for their opinions on AI and how it could influence the way brands offer customer service.

The resulting data provides valuable insight on public opinion of customer experience tools:

  • Just over a quarter of respondents said they had used a customer service chatbot, interactive voice response (IVR) or smart home speaker, such as Amazon Alexa or Google Home.
  • Over a third were dissatisfied with the chatbots and the IVR, the smart home speakers proved more popular – possibly because these AI tools are chosen for enjoyment purposes and are not obtrusive.
  • 45% of those who had experienced a customer service chatbot were satisfied with it.
  • 38% were either fairly or very dissatisfied with IVR functionality.
  • 77% of respondents claimed to be satisfied with their smart home speakers.

There was also widespread dissatisfaction voiced around the efficacy and perceived value of current AI-powered customer experience offerings.

Degree of satisfaction with AI in CX. Take a look at the research here.

The research findings clearly illustrate the importance the public places on the human touch in interactions with brands.  A substantial 44% do not think AI will impact them positively in any way and over half (52%) think it would make dealing with brands more impersonal. This recent blog by Dave Pattman, Innovation Director at Webhelp, takes a deeper dive into the research results and prevalent trends.

Yet there is a growing adoption of instant messaging services giving customers the ability to pick and choose a contact method based on the importance of the issue.

Alan Ranger, Head of Market Development at Webhelp partner provider, LivePerson, explains the factors behind this trend.

“This is not limited to a window on a website [like webchat] and its use is native to the phones that people are already carrying around with them,” he says.

“Messaging is often more convenient and becoming mainstream for brands now. But the only way this will scale is through automation or AI - if you want to offer a personalised service to hundreds of thousands of people.”

Above and beyond reactive customer services, as the use of automation and AI to drive marketing offers increasingly becomes mainstream, we’re seeing predictive analytics move more and more into the forefront.

Speech analytics and language technology is just one part of this wider automation debate, however, and there are many other ways that Webhelp uses AI to help clients improve operational efficiency, reduce cost and to increase revenue. This is where automation, as Natural Language Processing (NLP) and VA come into play most strongly, and increasingly, organisations are seeking to take action ‘in the moment’ to improve customer experience.

Whilst some predict messaging could be the future of customer experience it has yet to be universally adopted by Brands. Adding new contact channels does not automatically lead to improved experience and can add to cost and complexity for the organisation if not properly implemented. The use of NLP also leaves customers unsatisfied, as illustrated by our research results.

To help clients find the right balance Webhelp utilises highly knowledgeable staff who advise, assist and complement the growing use of advanced technology as part of a truly omni-channel customer journey.

The key is in creating a flexible and relevant journey, our expert view can pinpoint just where and when simple interactions can be automated and at which points more complex or emotionally important interactions should be delivered by a person.

Which means less shouting at the phone, more satisfied customers, and very importantly, more revenue and customer advocacy.

For more insight into this fast developing topic, sign up to receive fresh insights and invitations to executive events with our Webhelp Disruptor Series campaign:

Get in touch if you’re facing disruption – or want to disrupt – and would like to talk through the implications for CX. E:

The Hub #10 Influencer Marketing – May 2019

We are happy to present the 10th edition of The HUB magazine! Our latest issue entails numerous and interesting topics for you such as influencer marketing and how it is rapidly becoming a mainstream way for brands to reach their target audience.Learn how companies are implementing this marketing strategy to enhance brand awareness, trust and loyalty amongst their consumers.

We also included insightful topics like, how e-commerce is redefining the shopping experience, mastering tricky interview questions, staying consistent through self-discipline and the importance of maintain healthy lifestyles in both our work places and our personal lives.

Do you also start your day with breakfast? Apparently, it is the “most important meal” of the day. Read on to find out if this is a fact or just a myth. And if you are still planning your holiday destination – Östersund a magnificent city in Sweden is our city tip for you!

The importance of the human touch in customer experience

Author: David Turner, CEO, Webhelp

As new technology drives a sea change across the customer experience sector, it is important to evaluate how the public honestly values personal interaction as a service need. Webhelp conducted research with the polling experts YouGov asking 2,000 British adults for their thoughts on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how it might change the way that brands offer customer service. Webhelp UK’s CEO, David Turner, looks at the importance of the human touch.

Rules in CX are being rewritten. It’s getting harder to predict the future but we can still try. Join the debate with Webhelp!

With talk of AI and automation in the news on a daily basis, it’s too easy to get caught up in the hype. Businesses must understand both the emerging technology and the need to have people with the right skills. Unsurprisingly, every year the evolution of these technologies - and the debate around them - increases. But what will this mean for employees at the heart of customer experience?

Predictive text, driverless vehicles, sat nav, chatbots, interactive voice response, smart speakers, digital assistance, ‘drones’... these examples alone are enough to make us think that people now prefer to interact with machines rather than each other!

But assumptions like this can be dangerous for business, so we asked a few people – well actually a couple of thousand! That’s how many UK consumers responded to a recent Webhelp-commissioned YouGov survey with their thoughts on the ‘rise of the robots’ and the future of customer service.

The results proved surprising. In reality, consumer acceptance of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is limited and progressing slowly and there are substantial risks in choosing an overly aggressive approach to automated customer experience.

However, as exposure to AI and automation increases receptivity will grow - but this research confirms the importance of establishing the most productive blend of technology and human talent now. At Webhelp we are constantly improving our services to make sure we strike the perfect balance of the most advanced technology available and highly skilled people – never losing sight of the importance of the human touch.

So much of the industry discussion on AI is technical or academic, however our report concentrates on what people really think. We asked normal consumers not industry specialists, people who don’t spend each day thinking about customer experience or AI strategy.

And the findings were very clear - a large majority of UK consumers prefer dealing with humans over automated services. This was consistent across all aspects of customer service, from querying a bill (85%) and changing account details (62%) to making a complaint (84%), buying a product or service for the first time (77%), chasing an order (73%) or dealing with a fault (78%). The preference for person to person communication was overwhelming.

From the research findings, it seems that most people don’t appreciate automation in their interactions with brands. With 44% saying that they do not think AI will impact them positively in any way and 52% concluding that it would make dealing with brands more impersonal.

Take a look at this recent blog by my colleague Dave Pattman, Innovation Director at Webhelp, for a deeper dive into the research results.

To succeed, brands have to address the significant degree to which people favour human interaction over AI service tools and the negative perceptions of AI’s potential future impact. Providing bespoke channels and advisor access at key points are ways to tackle this in the short term.

The final element in creating success is by studying design technology and, in particular, the interaction between humans (the users) and computers (or mobile technology) in user experience design.

Helen Murray, Chief Customer Solutions Officer at Webhelp UK, recently blogged on the challenges of designing CX solutions with AI, sharing and suggested five key issues that executives need to consider to create a seamless and efficient service.

AI activity is at its most successful when dealing with specific and well defined transitional tasks - for example the standard ‘quick question’ use of chatbots and voice activated software. More complex consumer contact points require an in-depth response and an emotional understanding that is currently beyond the scope of the medium.  Brands must recognise these branch points, to get the most out of their technology and personnel.

The sea change that automation brings is a fluid and unpredictable journey, but the right knowledge can equip you to tackle the rocky road ahead, so read on and enjoy the ride.

Sign up to receive fresh insights and invitations to exec events with our Webhelp Disruptor Series campaign: Watch our video to know more!

Let me know what you think by leaving a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

Those areas of complex contact active it takes away the opportunity for AI to be successful – anything that takes longer it will hand has taken out those simple transatantions and complex activities that requires activity with a human being.

Rewarding exemplary employment initiatives

Author: Anton Manley, Chief Client Officer, Webhelp

The UK Employee Experience Awards, now in their 5th consecutive year, have been designed to recognise and reward exemplary employment initiatives and quality employee experience (EX). Here Chief Client Officer for Webhelp UK, Anton Manley, reflects on his time as Chair of the judging panel…

Regular readers of our blogs will realise that there is no such thing as an average working day at Webhelp, but on the 15th May I was delighted to don a (temporary) new cap after being invited to judge at the UK Employee Experience Awards.

The Awards provide an excellent platform to highlight market leaders in employee reward and retention. Additionally, this initiative takes a pivotal role in recognising successful staff engagement in the workplace and applauding the key support measures organisations take to develop a productive workforce and strengthen the company from within.

Why is this so important? Employee experience is arguably the single most significant way to leverage staff commitment and create brand motivation and momentum. To put it more simply – in words of renowned business leader Doug Conant: “To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.”

Being the chair of such a prestigious expert panel of independent judges, who generously shared feedback and contributed their expertise, was an honour. However, whilst it was a wonderful experience, choosing our winners was certainly a challenge.

This year the shortlist of entrants for the awards was particularly strong, with a range of outstanding and inspiring entries from industries as diverse as healthcare, utilities and finance.

Held at the Park Plaza Riverbank in London, this well organised event offered a number of open presentations, allowing attendees to see first-hand how companies are re-defining excellence in employee experience.

LEARNING & DEVELOPMENT AWARD: Gold winners, brighterkind.

Hundreds of EX professionals in were in attendance, and I was personally delighted by the focus on the importance of employee care demonstrated by the UK companies present, as it’s an area that is often undervalued.

Annette Franz, writing for Forbes, understands this and nails it when she says: “At the heart of it all, employees want to do their job and do it well. Unfortunately, they can't if they aren't provided with the tools, processes and resources needed to do that.”

Articulating and rewarding best practice is essential in helping the CX industry continue to develop and prosper as a whole. By making EX and C-Level priority and developing the assets that enable all staff to be engaged at work doesn’t just benefit employees, it’s been proven to have a significant impact on the bottom line.

Although there is rising awareness of the importance of EX, businesses do struggle to attract and retain the people they need in key areas. Webhelp’s Director of Strategic Marketing, Dave Pattman, examines the AI skills gap and data from our recently commissioned YouGov poll to find creative ways to solve this issue.

In case you haven’t registered yet, Sign up to receive fresh insights and invitations to exec events with our Webhelp Disruptor Series campaign:


AI: Tackling the Global Skills Gap

The swift emergence of AI and automation technologies is creating a strategic challenge in terms of expertise. Increasingly, businesses are struggling to attract and retain the people they need. David Pattman, Managing Director CX Services at Gobeyond Partners, Part of the Webhelp Group, examines the AI skills gap and international data trends to find creative ways to solve this crisis.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is poised to transform processes and productivity across business, industry and the economy as a whole. This burgeoning field is driving digital transformation in customer experience, forcing companies to compete to recruit top-end talent.

The financial services sector has been quick to embrace the use of chatbots and virtual assistants to help customers with routine tasks like scheduling payments and to automate frequently asked questions. At the same time, Predictive Analytics has become key in reducing the risk of loan defaulters and machine learning is being used to identify patterns of transactions to indicate fraudulent activity.

Across multiple fields, the increase in the use of AI technologies is creating a skill shortage for businesses seeking to expand in this area. As AI rapidly reshapes customer service, upskilling the workforce so it can thrive in this new environment is a critical business challenge.

An added complication is that the inevitable growth in automated AI services will create brand new roles, requiring very specific skills – AI supervisors, for instance, to deliver the human insight needed when deploying these technologies on a large scale.

According to Glassdoor research on salary, satisfaction and recruitment, data scientists currently occupy the top slot for employment in the United States, with technical roles dominating the top 50.  Further research from The Hays Global Skills Index strongly indicates that an international AI skills crisis is on the horizon. It will become absolutely crucial for companies to develop robust strategies to close the AI skills gap, in order to stay relevant.

Sam Lansley, AI Software Developer at Generis Knowledge Management, believes that the lack of AI skills is a concern for the economy:

“This is a particularly worrying area for the UK. Automated systems used to be very rigid but now enhancements to AI have meant that the impact of this technological evolution will soon be significant for all industries. Humans will need to be more skilled. There are going to be challenges in terms of how businesses transform and how industries - and even countries - remain competitive. Jobs will be lost, but in many areas it will be a case of changing the job description rather than taking jobs away.”

He adds that: “AI is currently more mainstream in the US and China, where data privacy rules are also much more relaxed. It is so important to invest in and to promote the necessary skills in data and in AI in order to compete.”

The World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs report found that 35% of core skills will change between 2015 and 2020. McKinsey research suggests that between 75 million and 375 million people globally may need to switch occupational categories by 2030. This begs the question - are businesses doing enough to bridge the AI skills gap?

Companies that aren’t investing enough in human capital should think again and take steps to upgrade their skill base to get the biggest benefits from machine learning and artificial intelligence. Tech giants Google and Amazon are investing internationally to expand their talent pool. But training and development for AI are not solely the responsibility of private sector businesses, education at a national level has a clear role to play in developing digital skills.

Webhelp is doing its bit too. From real-time systems that augment understanding between advisors and customers and the development of our own data professionals, to investing in tools that improve advisor focus and performance, we’re taking measures to ensure that our people have the AI skills - and support - they need to be at the top of their game.

While there’s no single route to success, a sustained, multipronged approach to create a highly-skilled and flexible workforce (ready to take on the next big thing!) will pay dividends. Those companies that are able to harness digital transformation will undoubtedly enjoy significant productivity and financial gains.

You can take a look at this recent post by our guest blogger, Dr. Sue Black OBE, Professor of Computer Science, Durham University, and Founder of Techmums, for a deeper dive on how digital disruption can have an impact on people and organisations.

In case you haven’t registered yet, sign up to receive fresh insights and invitations to exec events with our Webhelp Disruptor Series campaign, and download our latest Whitepaper on 'Emotion' here


[Automobile] Les industriels pivotent vers un modèle de service… et l’expérience client devient centrale !

Les industriels de l'automobile ont engagé une mutation profonde : basculer d'un modèle propriétaire à un modèle de service. L'expérience client prend une importance déterminante, comme l'explique Jalil Lahlou, directeur Business Unit Automobile & Mobilité chez Webhelp.


Posséder une voiture ou accéder à une voiture ? Au niveau mondial, la tendance marquante est la décroissance du modèle propriétaire. Pour rappel*, voici quelques conclusions phares de l'étude  "EASCY, The five dimensions of automotive transformation" (2018, PwC - marchés Europe, Etats-Unis, Chine) :

  • d'ici 2030 le parc mondial de voitures devrait se réduire de 25% pendant que le besoin individuel de mobilité va s'accroitre de 25% en Europe et aux US : les véhicules seront donc plus utilisés
  • en 2030, près d'1 véhicule neuf sur 3 sera destiné à l'autopartage (véhicules partagés à la manière de Moov'In, ou système de co-voiturage, à la BlaBlacar ou Citiz),
  • aujourd'hui, l'autopartage ne représente qu'environ 1% des déplacements dans les pays étudiés
  • en 2030, plus d'1 véhicule vendu sur 2 sera électrique et 40% des kms seront faits dans des véhicules autonomes, très souvent partagés.


Autopartage, location : le service client va faire la différence

De nombreux constructeurs, startups, et acteurs de la mobilité ont bien compris que ce changement de modèle - le redéploiement vers les services - présente des opportunités.

Pour exemple, Europcar ne se résume plus aujourd'hui par sa seule activité de loueur et se renomme Europcar Mobility Group.

Quant au service Renault Mobility, il adresse les marchés B2C et B2B. L'application permet de louer ponctuellement tous les modèles de voitures du constructeur, électriques ou non. La solution se déploie à travers l'Europe, notamment grâce à des partenariats forts, comme avec IKEA en France.

De plus, Renault et le loueur Ada ont lancé leur solution d'autopartage de véhicules électriques Moov'In à Paris en octobre 2018. Et PSA en a fait de même avec Free2Move en novembre 2018.


Chez Webhelp, cette réorientation de l'industrie automobile vers les services fait l'objet d'un accompagnement spécifique, qui se matérialise dès 2018 par la création d’uneBusiness Unit dédiée à l’Automobile & à la Mobilité.

Nous faisons le constat que ce passage d'un modèle d'achat à un modèle de service se traduit par un changement crucial : « les points de contact avec la marque vont se multiplier », rappelle Jalil Lahlou. Autrement dit, les marques vont jouer leur réputation de façon répétée, et non plus seulement au moment de l'achat.

D'où le besoin d'un service client digital et humain, très réactif et performant. Avec un enjeu évident : c'est bien le service client qui va faire la différence sur ce marché très concurrentiel !


Les grands acteurs se réorganisent autour de l'expérience client

Pour compléter ce panorama des réorganisations stratégiques de la mobilité autour de l'expérience client, on peut citer d'autres exemples récents :

  • BlaBlaBus, résultant du rachat de Ouibus par BlaBlacar, témoigne de réflexions stratégiques très nouvelles
  • Daimler propose car2go un service de véhicules électriques en autopartage, à Paris depuis janvier 2019. A noter que la nouvelle entité s'appelle Share Now, et qu'elle est née de la fusion de car2Go (groupe Daimler) et de Drive Now (BMW). Par ailleurs, Daimler a racheté la plate-forme de VTC Chauffeur Privé, fin 2017, et l'a rebaptisée Kapten en février 2019
  • en B2B, des services d'autopartage comme Mobility Tech Green sont proposés aux entreprises (grands groupes ou PME) et aux collectivités
  • des startups comme Zenpark et Carizy, accompagnées par The Nest by Webhelp, connaissent un développement rapide.


Pour ces nouveaux services, l'expérience client digitale se révèle déterminante dans les opérations d'onboarding, d'abonnement, de localisation du véhicule, de self care et de paiement.

Et l'humain apporte la réassurance et une aide précieuse quand le client rencontre une situation stressante (manœuvre de branchement-débranchement à la borne électrique, incident technique, accident...). Le mix digital-humain doit être parfaitement bien dosé pour répondre à ces nouveaux usages en mobilité !