There was a time when we thought Millennials would never turn off the TV, stop playing video games, or get a job that didn’t involve flipping burgers. But those days are clearly past, as Millennials have grown up, emerged from their parents’ basements and become a generation with considerable economic clout. So much so, that much of the discussion at the recent TC3 forum, a conference that focuses on innovation in telecom, revolved around creating a customer experience that is aligned with the Millennial lifestyle.
Currently, that Millennial customer experience is being met by Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft. Those companies are shaping trends and building more automated interactions. Millennials complete those interactions, and carry with them the expectation that all their service providers will treat them in the same way. At this point, service providers are left with little choice but to develop a customer experience that meets Millennial expectations.
So how can you please a generation that hates calling service representatives on the phone, and expects everything to be delivered now? Because it doesn’t matter how courteous, professional or helpful your customer service reps are. Once a Millennial has picked up the phone, you’ve already ruined their customer experience, and probably lost them as a long term customer.
During my session at the TC3 Forum, I stressed the critical need for service providers to offer Natural Language Understanding, and build into the omni-channel experience that they provide for their customer. Natural Language Understanding allows users to ask questions in normal, everyday language, and get the responses that they are looking for. However, Natural Language Understanding is tricky. It requires domain-specific algorithms, which can understand what the customer is looking for in a complex service provider multi-product, multi-device, multi offering catalog. The Natural Language Understanding algorithms look considerably different for a customer ordering an Uber taxi or a pizza with all the trimmings, which are both simple interactions, from that where a customer wants a new device with a specific service plan that will provide the right amount of data that they need at the right price.
Over the course of the next twelve months, we expect to see Natural Language Understanding play a more prominent role in consumer services. Smart TVs and streaming services, as well as IOT and smart homes will see the beginning of this change later in 2016-’17. The first commercial Natural Language Understanding-based financial services apps will also start appearing on the market in 2016, and customers, especially Millennials, will gravitate toward smartphone apps and web apps, while avoiding phone call interactions. Siri and other personal digital assistants will continue to improve, putting more pressure on different industries to understand their customers’ natural language requests.
It’s time for service providers to start reach out to vendors to help them develop their own domain-specific natural language understanding algorithms and touch points, or risk being turned into a commodity by some company that can do it better.
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