Singapore – Singapore telcoM1 has tapped IT service management company Amazon Web Services to enhance its current customer experience by launching Maxine, a VoiceBot for its existing hotlines.
Said VoiceBot is built on Amazon Connect, AWS’s omnichannel cloud-based contact center service that helps improve contact center agent productivity and end-user customer experiences. ‘Maxine’ is able to engage in more lifelike conversations with customers, as well as help improve end-user customer experiences by engaging them in open-ended conversations instead of menu-driven interfaces.
The deployment of ‘Maxine’ is part of M1’s continuous transformation journey to be a digital platform. As a cloud native solution, M1 is able to regularly develop and deploy new and incremental features and capabilities that enhance Maxine’s services.
This solution enables M1 to scale up and down in a short period of time. It also provides call center agents the flexibility they need to work remotely, without compromising the customer experience.
According to Stamford Low, director of customer experience and retail at M1, customer experience has always been a top priority for them since embarking on their digital transformation journey two years ago. He added as well that they have doubled down on delivering exceptional experiences for their customers.
“We are committed to ensuring a seamless and engaging experience for our customers on all platforms, including our hotlines. With technology as our enabler, M1 will continue to train Maxine to improve its capabilities and add more value to our customers, through the development of a self-help service,” Low stated.
Meanwhile, Dean Samuels, chief technologist for ASEAN at Amazon Web Services, commented that customers, such as those with M1, rely on actionable data to provide faster and more holistic customer experiences, optimize agents’ time based on what matters most, and enable customer service managers to take action in real time.
“With Amazon Connect, M1 can provide superior customer service at a lower cost with an easy-to-use omnichannel cloud contact center. Embedded artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) with Amazon Connect makes it easy to automate interactions, understand customer sentiment, authenticate callers, and enable capabilities like interactive voice response (IVR) and chatbots,” Samuels explained.
To date, M1 has its 1627 (Bespoke), 1622 (Business) and 1800-843-8288 (Prepaid) hotlines operating on the Amazon Connect platform. This will be progressively rolled out to other hotlines.
Retail has been challenged on every front over the last year and a half, and as a result, there have been significant changes to customer experience (CX); from livestream shopping and social commerce to supply chain disruptions. All of which has pivoted towards digital transformation.
While customers have adapted to new digital models, it’s important to note that offline shopping isn’t going anywhere. The future of retail will embrace both online and offline shopping, creating a hybrid experience that will provide the customer with even more value. According to Statista, more than 57% of Asia Pacific (APAC) consumers will shop in physical stores post-COVID restrictions. Foot traffic will still be just as desirable as it is now but overall CX will take center stage.
Meet the metaverse
In late 2021, Facebook changed its name to Meta to reflect its growing focus on the metaverse. But what exactly is the metaverse? It is a shared, persistent, 3D virtual space where people can meet and interact. Augmented Reality (AR) and VR technologies are essential parts of the metaverse. These advances in digital imaging, display, and output devices are what make the metaverse possible. Bloomberg Intelligence forecasts that the market size for the metaverse could reach up to $800b by 2024. How will it impact retail in the next year?
Online shopping and deliveries quickly became the new standard throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, a trend that will be accelerated by the metaverse. With AR and VR experiences, consumers will be able to explore brands and products from the comfort of their own homes. Consumers will no longer need to frequent physical stores to try new products before purchasing.
The metaverse will also enable more interactive-in store experiences. For instance, in Malaysia and Singapore, property developer CapitaLand Investment launched ‘A Jolly Molly Christmas’ festive campaign in its malls, introducing shoppers to the AR world allowing them to interact with Singapore’s virtual influencer, Rae, in the physical world. Real-world stores are now becoming the gateway to the metaverse and will be the next evolution of omnichannel experience.
Surge in social commerce
In 2022, social commerce will continue to bring fun back into the digital shopping experience. Social commerce sales in the region are expected to surpass US$4t by 2024, expanding 25% year-on-year.
According to the Forrester Analytics Consumer Technographics Benchmark Survey, 2021, 85% of APAC consumers are using social media to discover, 83% to research, and ultimately, 76% are buying products. The number is projected to grow as features such as livestream shopping draw more engagement than other types of posts.
B2C social commerce investments are paying off: B2C companies in APAC have generated 10% of revenue from social media as cited in Forrester Global Marketing Survey, 2021 (B2C). Not only that, 55% of marketers increased their social media marketing budget in 2021.
Moving forward, brands investing in social commerce must provide more personalized customer interactions and care, such as virtual agents who can instantly answer questions, share the latest offers, or recommend additional products with the consumer. We’ll see more brands providing a connection throughout the customer social journey. They will begin employing one-to-one video shopping, implementing conversational commerce, and launching virtual video boutiques. Above all, brands must provide excellent care on social channels, using the right technology combined with the human touch.
Advanced conversational technology will be key to providing such experiences at scale. Chatbots will play a key role in the next year, as more and more brands deploy advanced chatbots in their social shops that can handle sophisticated queries — and escalate to human agents when needed.
Most brands are employing bots that can provide routine answers to basic questions. While they don’t respond to more complex customer queries, this will change as more companies add AI-powered bots with advanced contextual and consultative abilities. In the next 12 to 24 months, Forrester reports that the vast majority of B2C brands plan to implement or are interested in developing advanced social bots that can provide a higher level of assistance.
Such advances in automation will enable more effective and satisfying care throughout the customer journey — before, during, and after the purchase. In many cases, social bots will respond to queries that used to require a human agent. More and more, shoppers on social channels will be able to access personalized answers, recommendations, and resolutions to their problems, whenever they need help.
Over the next year, brands will take what they learned during the pandemic and leverage technology-driven solutions that help build deeper connections and relationships with their customers. By creating immersive, personalized, and hybrid experiences, and always keeping CX at the heart of everything, retailers can excel in 2022.
This article is written by Shellie Vornhagen, CXO at CX platform Emplifi.
The article is published as part of MARKETECH APAC’s thought leadership series What’s NEXT.This features marketing leaders sharing their marketing insights and predictions for the upcoming year. The series aims to equip marketers with actionable insights to future-ready their marketing strategies.
If you are a marketing leader and have insights that you’d like to share with regards to the upcoming trends and practices in marketing, please reach out to [email protected]for an opportunity to have your thought-leadership published on the platform.
Customer experience is founded on customer expectations. Marketing leaders must understand the evolving expectations that consumers have of their interactions with brands – this includes customer experience and support that, hopefully, meets their needs but ideally delivers above and beyond these expectations.
As the pandemic turns endemic, delivering a consistently excellent customer experience is by no means an easy feat. Safety measures to protect our health and well-being have created a next normal for marketers. In fact, brand and marketing decision-makers need to constantly calibrate and innovate how they deliver on their brand’s promise and keep an engaged audience base.
The silver lining is that this scenario provides a real case for rolling out genuine omnichannel customer delivery and engagement models – something that has, for far too long, been relegated to the back burner for many brands. By setting new goals for customer service standards, relooking operational processes, and investing in technology solutions, strengthening consumer connections is possible even in a time when change abounds and reliability is imperative.
As such, we’ve seen customer experience agents take on multiple and increasingly important roles: from technicians and consultative sellers to today’s need for them to be empathetic community managers.
Not just a touch-feely bonus: The importance of empathy today
A recent McKinsey study reported that businesses that have empathy towards the customer will have a net positive benefit on their bottom line. Among 170 publicly traded companies examined, the top 10 with outstanding empathy ratings outperformed the bottom 10 by two times on the stock market.
Today’s environment has led to general expectations of a certain level of emotional empathy, no matter who we are interacting with. And brands are not spared – digital empathy and human empathy have taken on a new urgency.
Brands now have to understand audience emotions, their feelings, and thoughts, their pressures, their desired digital and real-world experiences, and even anticipate future reactions. Empathetic brands that are using this period to rethink, reinvent, and leapfrog will most certainly be developing evolved blueprints for the entire pre-, during, and post-transaction customer journey as a result. At the frontlines of the customer journey – the shape-shifting customer experience agent, who must now play multiple roles.
Technology as an ironic accelerator for empathy
Some may think empathy and technology don’t go together. In fact, technology can help customer experience agents manage their hybrid roles and fulfill the need to be empathetic community managers. By combining proactive support with increased automation, brands can provide personalized support engagement at scale, without sacrificing empathy.
By centralizing omnichannel communications with customers, organizations can upgrade and reinvent the role of customer experience agents. For example, with the ability to manage communication over Instagram and other social media channels through industry-leading contact-center-as-a-solution services available in the market today, customer experience agents have the ability to become community management extraordinaires. Empowering agents with 360-degree customer profiles and full conversation histories all in one place will allow them to unlock valuable insights and provide fast and personalized customer support.
Unlocking the power of social media messaging for customer support is more important than ever as we consider these stats from data from global cloud communications platform, Infobip: 70% of people globally expect to message businesses for customer service questions, and 64% would rather message than call a business.
As agents and representatives help transform customer interactions from being transactional to becoming more involved, these experiences are likely to be highly engaged, emotionally charged, and mission-critical for loyalty and retention. Consumers will also in turn anticipate that agents demonstrate they understand their problems and provide relevant reassurance.
This points to agents needing to be able to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and build quick rapport. This doesn’t just affect formats that provide visual and verbal cues – it also applies to digital channels such as chat, email, and social media, where agents cannot be certain of the tone of the conversation.
AI is maturing and here to help
While human empathy is natural, artificial empathy must be learned based on the data collected within the rules or framework set up by a human. This is where technology like artificial intelligence (AI) can come into play. AI that analyzes incoming messages and highlights factors like sentiment, helps prepare agents to respond accordingly.
Thanks to natural language processing (NLP), we can communicate with chatbots using human speech. NLP is an area of AI that helps chatbots understand the way your customers communicate.In other words, it means enabling machines, like chatbots, to communicate the way humans would.
An NLP chatbot is an AI chatbot that uses natural language processing, based on deep learning, to better identify a customer’s intent and therefore provide more valuable support.
From the customer’s point of view, NLP helps them feel understood. From a brand’s point of view, these chatbots elevate customer support, create helpful dialogue, and capture insights into your customers’ goals and challenges. This lets you build a brand voice while simultaneously providing a customer-centric approach.
Chatbots provide instant answers. And when boosted by NLP, they’ll quickly understand customer questions to respond faster than humans can. In addition to text, these chatbots can enhance the natural conversation experience by sharing helpful images (product images), videos (how-to videos, product explainers), map locations (store or service center finders), and more. These lightning-quick responses help build customer trust and positively impact customer satisfaction as well as retention rates.
Take for example Gibraltar BSN, a Malaysian life insurance company offering life and medical insurance along with saving and investment plans. The insurer had concerns that too many customers in Malaysia had not received important and sensitive documents sent through the post, especially during the pandemic. The company also wanted to optimize its contact center in a way that would allow them to engage customers using modern digital channels but still provide a critical level of empathy during a sensitive time.
By deploying AI-powered NLP chatbots, Gibraltar BSN facilitated the creation of its automated chatbot – GINA. With GINA handling simple customer service inquiries, human agents can help clients with more complex inquiries and offer a more personalized approach. Gibraltar BSN saw a 40% reduction in cost for delivering e-policies after rolling out this transformation.
Harnessing the full potential of the customer experience function
With the right level of support given to customer experience agents, the potential for businesses to exceed consumer expectations in a digital world is limitless. Today, customer experience, service, and support – an oft-neglected function – have the aid of readily available technology to bring another dimension of brand success.
For marketing leaders, working with CX is about quickly adapting to and adopting emerging technologies for their benefit. Be one of the first businesses to leapfrog and handle messaging at scale on social media, connect to new customers, and strengthen relationships with existing ones.
Singapore – yellow.ai, a global conversation customer experience (CX) automation platform, has announced that is rolling out its newest AI-powered voice virtual assistant features across markets in Southeast Asia, a direct response to adding more channels to their existing text automation channels such as those in-site and in third-party messaging apps.
The human-like voice AI bots can understand sentiments, intent and past behavior, and also modify pitch, tone, excitement, and more, to suit customer sentiment and intent on channels like Telephony, Google Assistant and Alexa. The company’s bots can natively converse naturally in more than 100 languages across text and voice, such as Bahasa Malay, Bahasa Indonesia, Tagalog, Mandarin, English, Tamil, and more.
According to the company, with the growing demand for hyper-automation and on-demand resolution by customers in Singapore, adding voice AI capabilities to yellow.ai’s rich customer experience automation platform is a natural evolution to realizing a vision of total CX automation.
This is supported by a statement from Raghu Ravinutala, CEO and co-founder at yellow.ai, who explained that conversational interfaces are changing how we relate to brands and voice is playing a key role in enabling smarter brand-to-consumer interactions.
“Today, growth and success in every business are highly indexed to creating personalized and differentiated customer experiences. At yellow.ai, we are dedicated to enabling human-like, engaging conversations with our conversational CX platform, which is the ultimate balance between human + AI capabilities,” Ravintula stated.
Yellow.ai’s launch of these features follows after recent findings by Gartner, in which they predict that by 2025, 40% of all inbound voice communications to call centers will use voice bots. As a company who has worked with over 109 brands in the region, yellow.ai offers enterprise-grade chat and voice bots, weaving in the best of AI and human intelligence to deliver highly differentiated elevated customer experience at a fraction of the current operational cost.
“With us, enterprises can successfully automate customer experience while elevating the quality of customer interactions. Now we are actively expanding our strategic partnerships and offices around the world, with Singapore as a key market, in Southeast Asia. We are delighted to extend our repertoire in the region with ‘conversational voice AI’, the future of CX,” Ravintula concluded.
Hong Kong – HGC Global Communications (HGC) has launched its retail ICT (information, communications, and technology) solution to cater to the needs of SME retailers in making their digital transformation strategy easier, especially as enterprise activity has been greatly affected by the pandemic.
An initial offering by the network company is making retailers stay connected to their customers, including Whatsapp+ service and automated chatbots for the retailer’s online chat system.
Furthermore, the new offering also aids SMEs in creating their online shop from scratch, including marketplace tools such as inventory management, trade reports, and analysis, as well as support for multiple payment methods.
Lastly, the digital offering allows retailers, more specifically in the catering industry, to practice electronic point of sale (ePOS) systems. The system supports digital menus, enabling customers to use their smartphones to order and pay for meals. This can reduce the necessary manpower and limit mistaken orders, so restaurants can deploy staff more flexibly and efficiently.
“SMEs are facing various challenges running their business in the midst of the pandemic. Even so, this presents retailers with an important opportunity to optimize their business operations. HGC strives to stand by SMEs at this critical time. Our Retail ICT solution can efficiently address the difficulties they encounter,” said Joe Cheong, COO for corporate business & enterprise market at HGC.
He added, “With the professional follow-up and support provided by HGC’s consultant teams, as well as our competitive pricing, we can guide them on a journey of rapid digital transformation to achieve significant improvements in operational efficiency. We hope to ease the pressure on SMEs, empowering them to continue running their business and identifying new business opportunities even during the pandemic.”
In addition to the digital marketplace package, HGC also offers retailers a unified communication solution (HGC UC) that combines business voice and mobile communication, plus other value-added services like mobile video conferencing to fulfill the needs of enterprises operating during the pandemic through a one-stop ICT solution.
India – India-based software development company XcelTec recently announced Ample, the company’s answer to sales automation in businesses using personalized bots.
Ample, which can be personalized by every user, is powered by artificial intelligence. This feature ensures the removal of any complexity that may arise in showing product demonstrations online. With the latest video bot release, XcelTec expects that business users will move towards online media for their business’ sales team, ensuring them to engage with customers online, with aid of the sales automation bots.
The recent software release is part of the company’s goal to simplify website chatbots, which has seen a 50% increase in sales activities online.
Singapore – Over the past 12 months, more than half of businesses in Singapore or 67% of them have used fintech in running their operations, and within this percentage, the top three forms of fintech used emerged to be mobile payments or digital wallets, robo-advisory or chatbots, and open banking APIs, according to a report by CPA Australia.
Mobile payments recorded the most adoption with 47% of businesses, followed by chatbots with 34%, while 30% said they have used open banking APIs.
Singapore has been widely known for being a top technology hub, and as the coronavirus started threatening safety, the government has further encouraged the use of fintech. In April, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) urged individuals and businesses to use digital finance services and e-payments to help contain physical contact.
Amid social distancing directives, more businesses have expressed desires to adopt fintech, with 73% expecting to use at least one fintech product or service in the next 12 months, with a third of them citing COVID-19 as a reason for further usage, to operate anew amid disruptions in operations.
The most boost in adoption is seen to come from the need to increase efficiency in doing business, with nearly 6 in 10 respondents, or 59.1%, identifying it as an important factor. Meanwhile, more than 4 in 10, or 43.6%, of businesses expect to use fintech to help them better understand and improve customer experience.
The top three most used fintech are still the same ones seen to drive the adoption for the coming months. About 42.7% of businesses believe that they will use mobile payments the most, followed by robo-advisory and chatbots with 23.6% , and open banking APIs with 19.1%.
While the report revealed that a positive adoption of fintech is on the horizon, it also found certain factors that hinder businesses to jump in.
The top concern showed to be cybersecurity with 34% identifying it as a barrier, while a lack of fintech understanding and knowledge within the board and senior management was also a concern with 30%. Meanwhile, 26% simply did not consider fintech to be necessary for business.
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