Article

The 3 keys to successful automated brand interaction

The only way to deliver exceptional conversational CX at scale is through automation. With so much on the line, it’s time we go back to the basics and unpack what it takes to lay the right foundation for automated brand interaction.

By Lynn Charafeddine, Ada

Published May 3, 2022
Last updated June 7, 2022

When it comes to your brand experience, each interaction counts. Your brand is the sum of every interaction you have, across every channel—with employees, prospects, and especially, your customers. This is what makes or breaks modern enterprises—not product or service, pricing, logo, or viral ad campaigns.

As brands scale, it becomes harder to interact in a meaningful way, and a gap starts to form between what brands promise and how they actually interact. And the only way to bridge it is through automated brand interactions.

It’s no surprise then that Zendesk predicts AI will be in charge of customer service interactions by 2030. This means that AI-powered automation will be responsible for a crucial chunk of your brand’s CX interactions, and as a result, a notable part of building relationships with customers and beyond.

With so much on the line, your automated brand interaction strategy needs to be built on a solid foundation, which can be summed up in three key words: empathetic, purposeful, and consistent.

1. Lead with empathy

show empathy

As any immigrant would tell you, airports closing during the pandemic was a real bummer. By July 2020, for the first time ever, I had not seen my family in the Middle East in over a year. So when Canada opened its borders again, I booked a ticket for my sister to come and stay with me.

The time flew by, and soon enough, she was taking her PCR test for the flight back home. Long story short, the timing of her result was off by two hours and she couldn’t board the plane. I got on the phone with the airline’s customer support to reschedule her flight, and as soon as the agent picked up, I started crying.

The agent took control of the situation and worked to find a solution. She guided me from one step to the other, didn’t put me on hold once, and would occasionally say, “I’m still here, just working through it.” She also waived all the extra charges the flight change was going to cost.

It was the fastest, kindest customer service interaction I’d ever experienced, and it turned my day around.

The power of empathetic customer experiences transcends any single interaction.

Every person you talk to has a story like this, one where an empathetic agent stepped up and saved the day. These stories stick with us. The power of empathetic customer experiences transcends any single interaction.

Human empathy is hard to replicate through technology, but it’s not impossible. While the conventional wisdom has been that AI-powered automation is only good for data-driven decision making, advancements in Natural Language Processing have made it possible for AI to support cognitive and creative tasks as well—writing articles, creating games, even providing therapy.

Empathetic AI is already within reach through interactions that are immediate, helpful, and there for customers in moments of need.

In the same way that the airline agent was able to recognize an emotionally fraught, high-impact interaction, so too can AI. It can prioritize interactions based on value (monetary or otherwise), and route them to the right agents or channels. For example, it could instantly connect a customer having a problem with a faulty product to a live agent. The customer would feel taken care of, instead of stewing in frustration for two business days waiting to get a reply.

Empathetic automation is also predictive and can guide customers in the same way that the agent guided me. For example, customers can start with troubleshooting interactions, and if those don’t work, be led directly to exchange/return interactions, without any prompting on the customer’s part.

2. Be purposeful

be purposeful with automation

It’s easy to talk about brand, and CX specifically, using fuzzy, fluffy language. We’re here to delight customers. We want people to feel good when they talk to us. Empathy and platitudes are not the same.

This way of interacting can get in the way of delivering value. No amount of “feel goodery” is going to make up for interactions that aren’t in service of a goal or purpose. To understand what purposeful brand interactions look like, we must first understand customer engagement and intent.

Engagement has become a metric that marketers look at very closely. The idea is that engaged customers are easier to sell to and have higher lifetime values. Marketers do their best to maintain this engagement by ramping up the amount/frequency of interaction. But all this serves to do is overwhelm and frustrate customers, who don’t find value in these interactions.

There is merit to looking at engagement, but it means nothing without insight into customer intent. In fact, it’s intent that drives engagement—and ultimately revenue.

To understand what purposeful brand interactions look like, we must first understand customer engagement and intent.

Intent relates to the customer’s current place in their journey, their history with your brand, the channels they’re interacting on, and the context surrounding the interaction. These variables will define the urgency of the interaction and the best possible next steps. The best CX doesn’t placate customers with flattery, but rather helps them do what they need to do, in the easiest, most seamless way.

The best way to automate with purpose is to integrate and centralize all data sources. This enables AI to create 360º customer profiles, make inferences about intent, and personalize interactions accordingly.

AirAsia is a great example of purposeful automation in action. It launched the Asean Super App, which allows customers to book any of its products and services. With each interaction, the AI powering AirAsia’s brand interactions learns more about the customer and is able to tailor more personalized and purposeful experiences, such as deals at favorite locations or proactive reminders to book an airport ride.

3. Provide consistent experiences

provide consistent customer experiences

To understand the importance of consistency, let’s take a page from the definitive UX research book:

“When users encounter your product or service, they bring their own expectations from previous experiences with them. When these expectations are met, confidence is built, and they will feel mastery over the interface.” Nielsen Norman Group Usability Research

The same is true for your customers. They will start building expectations about the brand experience from their very first interaction. If you meet these expectations, you’ll inspire trust, build confidence, and make customers feel like they have mastery over interacting with you.

This translates to them feeling like they know your brand, in the same way, you build an affinity with your favorite local coffee shop, the one where the barista starts preparing your usual order the minute you walk through the door. These are VIP brand experiences, and they are the gold standard.

Think about how jarring the alternative is. Have you ever been excited by how a brand presents itself publicly, only to be let down the moment you reach out to interact? It’s okay to admit you’ve fallen for the clever machinations of the marketing team, we’ve all been there. But how disappointing is the feeling? The expectation you built based on one interaction was not met in another.

Inconsistent brand experiences leave a sour taste in customers’ mouths, and they make it impossible to develop loyalty or build long-term relationships. The only way to provide consistent, VIP, “local coffee shop”-like brand experiences at scale is through automation.

Take BoxyCharm. With the help of Zendesk and Ada, BoxyCharm purposefully and empathetically automates brand interactions across their entire customer journey and on a variety of channels, including web chat and social messaging. Automation ensures that all these interactions are underpinned by BoxyCharm’s values, have a consistent tone of voice, and have comparable SLAs.

Tile is another brand embracing automated interactions to create consistency across global markets and in multiple languages.

Build on this foundation

Think of your automated brand interaction strategy as a three-legged stool built on:

  1. Empathy
  2. Purpose
  3. Consistency

If any of these legs are slightly shorter, slightly longer, or missing altogether, you won’t have a stable enough foundation for your conversational CX to rest.

We’ll be hosting talks at Zendesk Relate that go deeper into automation, brand interaction, and conversational CX. Register for the event today and let’s keep building on this foundation together.

Zendesk Relate 2022

Join us for some relate-able customer stories, best practices, and industry hot takes—everything you need to reimagine and elevate your customer experience.

Zendesk Relate 2022

Join us for some relate-able customer stories, best practices, and industry hot takes—everything you need to reimagine and elevate your customer experience.

Watch now