Humanising digital customer service

Insight • By MERRYN KUPFER • 17 August 2016

Online customer service can literally make or break a brand these days.

On a daily basis, millions of customers head for social media to publicly vent or complain about a brand, so being able to respond in a timely and helpful manner has never been so key for brand success.


Today, people want to have a reciprocal conversation with brands online and they expect this to be a two-way conversation. The desire for brands to interact with their online reviews, and comments, left on social media has never been higher. In fact, 61% of Gen Y believe brands should respond to comments made about them online – even indirectly (Source: DMA).

Essentially, the pressure for brands to keep on top of their customer service has never been greater - but with ever evolving social channels, consumer habits and new technologies arising, how can brands keep on top of this?

This was a hot topic at the recent DMA Customer Engagement Event, and I’d like to start by quoting a few stats from a recent study conducted by Future Foundation Research. They provided some interesting, and rather surprising, findings from a survey of adults aged 16+.

Contrary to popular belief, 47% of people interviewed expressed an interest in pop-up messenger chat boxes when shopping online.

50% of those interviewed readily agreed that chat messenger apps were favourable for communication and purchasing with a brand. And why wouldn’t they? They’re quick and easy, you can have an answer there and then, rather than filling out a dreary online form and waiting 24-48 hours for a response.

Interestingly, the popularity in using virtual shopping assistants (who researched products based on user preferences) is highest between the younger demographics – the biggest peak in interest among the 16-24-year-olds, followed by 25-34 and 34-44 years respectively.

If you don’t already have one on your retail website, it’s certainly something worth considering. Ensure in advance you have the available resource in place to fulfil the service and this works in unison with your social channel support.

If creating a dedicated app on your website feels too costly right now, why not investigate the free messenger apps readily available? The use of messenger apps by brands are rapidly on the rise, with Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp the most notable. WhatsApp is currently dominating the market with 1 billion active users vs. 900 million for Facebook Messenger at a global level. Although these look pretty neck and neck, when comparing the daily usage, WhatsApp is leaps and bounds ahead at 70%.


One of my favourite examples of brands using WhatsApp for effective customer service is by start-up jewellery brand, Rare Pink. More so because of the innovative idea behind using it - and because they proved to be an early adopter back in early 2015.

Purchasing an engagement ring is a big and important decision for most couples, and it takes time and consideration. This became Rare Pink’s insight, after seeing couples coming in to look at rings time and time again, “umming” and “ahhing” over their decision, so they decided to give their customers the option to communicate with them on the messaging app. This proved especially useful for their male clientele wanting to chose a ring in a private. On WhatsApp you can avoid being tracked by advertisers, which could fatally give the surprise away if you’re surfing the net with your fiancée to be. In fact, 10% of their male customer base actually requested it.

The company connects one phone device with the app to three desktop screens, making the whole process easy to manage between teams of sales execs. They found that WhatsApp’s popularity far out-weighed that of their website pop-up – even when it’s essentially performing the same job.


You can read the original article here.

Lastly, what lies in the future for digital customer service? Introducing Amelia, a “cognitive agent”, created by IPSOFT.  Amelia is an online avatar, who can recognise and reciprocate human emotion to facilitate a much more “human” conversation, vs. a robot or automated messaging. She can competently understand human language, learn through observation and determine what actions to take to fulfill a request or solve a customer issue. Amelia could solve the 24/7 customer service issue most brands struggle to deliver, be available 365 days a year and perform a near-human experience that consumers crave. Over the next 10 years we’ll see more of these avatars popping up across all industries - retail, insurance, travel and banking to name a few. She could suit any industry. A little scary, but quite exciting.

For years people have joked our jobs will be taken over by robots, and well, with avatars like Amelia, we’re getting even closer to that reality.


If you’re interested in optimising your online customer service experience, get in touch today. We’d be more than happy to discuss the best solutions for you.