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Customer Service Goes 'Digital First'

Marketing Horizons Customer Services Goes 'Digital First'

Phone reps are no longer the front line of customer service. Customers now reach out to their suppliers first through digital channels. In turn, companies worldwide view their call centers not only as a cost center but also a revenue opportunity. AI across the customer lifecycle is driving innovation in prediction, conversation and analytics, backed by a combination of cognitive engines and human assistance.

Listen to our conversation with one of the leaders in what is being called AI-driven conversational engagement. Seb Reeve, EMEA Director of Strategy & Business Development at Nuance, is responsible for defining and evangelizing the Nuance customer care proposition worldwide – sharing how companies can create extraordinary automated experiences.

If you are skeptical about the importance of this trend, consider that Microsoft is about to acquired Nuance for an estimated $19 billion, the 2nd largest acquisition in Microsoft history. Join us to learn about what’s new in customer engagement, and where it’s headed.



Ruth Stevens: How did AI technology start being applied to call centers and conversations with customers?

Seb Reeve: I’m going to give everyone some context from a customer service perspective. I've been in the industry a little over 20 years, and when I started this was all about phoning. That was how we tried to get things done. We were trying to automate phoning to save costs by pushing buttons and doing that kind of thing. Now, that's all shifted so it's much more conversational. We wanted a live agent. Today, automated solutions are allowing people to talk to them. Similarly, when we wanted to reach out to customers, maybe from a marketing perspective, early investments in digital channels were sending text messages to people. We've come a long way. Now, people go to the website and try to get things done by themselves and maybe find a phone number and call. For a lot of businesses, it makes sense to put the service and the touch points where the customers are. Enter stage left chat bots and web chat and those kinds of technologies.

Ruth Stevens: People have mostly changed their behavior in how they try to get answers to their problems. They are approaching the service encounter from a digital perspective. What might that look like today based on the availability of these new technologies?

Seb Reeve: I think when you put it all together, you start to trigger the experience right where the user is. For example, you might be on your mobile phone, and you type something into Google as a search. That's were most people start when they’ve got a problem they need an answer to. Two brands today are starting to inject their experience right there. In the search results, there's not only some answers that the brand has sponsored, but also a link to speak to someone. Digital first consumers will click on a chat link, and we put the chat bot right there. But you're logged into Google, using your personal device so increasingly these technologies are enabling a much more highly personalized experience that knows who you are, such as your history of purchases with that brand so that gives them more context as to what the questions about. If you get stuck during that automated experience, right in the Google front end that you started in, you’re able to speak to someone or chat with someone in context without losing that journey and having to repeat yourself.

Ruth Stevens: What are the marketing applications of these tools?

Seb Reeve: We’ve gone from the call center, and we've started to look at the website and the mobile app as a way to not just put your brand out there, but it's now the gateway to service.  

Cyndi Greenglass: Can you talk about where AI technology may take us in the future, with a focus on the marketing implications?

Seb Reeve: We're in a brave new world right now. I think the in the end it's important that we stay focused on what it's all for—making customers lives easier. I think that's the vein we're going to see more of—putting service where consumers are in terms of their digital lives and making it as easy as possible. Younger segments are getting into messaging channels. H&M has a good example. If you want to visit an H&M store in the U.S., what most people do is go on to Google maps and search for the nearest store. They inject the conversation experience right there, so there's a message button. You can click it and can speak to their chat bot and can ask questions about the store.

Ruth Stevens: All these tools that you're discussing may be the way that retail can survive and serve customers even more effectively.

Seb Reeve: People are not necessarily throwing away that retail shopping experience, for example, there's a lot of positives in terms of being able to go in. You can get advice on a product and being able to try on a garment before you buy it. Ecommerce isn't taking over everything, but there's a lot of upsides from a digital perspective, like being able to know if something is in stock. Being able to make an appointment or being able speak to someone or chat to someone—so blending both just gives you this easier experience.

Cyndi Greenglass: Can you talk to us a little bit about how you could use voiceprint for fraud identification?

Seb Reeve: That’s extremely topical right now. During the pandemic, identity fraud increased a couple of hundred percent. What's interesting about biometric technologies is they, can be used obviously for authentication to log into something, but you can also listen to conversations that are happening on the phone and see if it is actually someone else, a fraudster for example, a voice we've heard before. In the fraud world, you don't know who the fraudsters are necessarily, but if you work in a bank fraud department, you know potentially a whole bunch of the calls that you've listened to before that have been recorded. You can take voiceprints from those calls and use them to search the future calls, which starts to mean you start to connect the dots.

Key Takeaways/Three Little Piggies

  • Everything is digital first and it applies across the board, not just in marketing communications, but also in customer service.
  • The digital first era may be the redemption of retail. With it, we can lure customers into the brick and mortar store in an integrated fashion.
  • Ai has enabled the live agent, to be more impactful when they do interact with the consumer, because the robots haven't turned live agents into dodo birds. We can use the technology in the right way in every one of our interesting conversations to make us better listeners by impacting in our conversations and engagement with our consumers and our constituents.

Marketing Communications Today presents Horizons, it’s forward-thinking, looking ahead, through the front windshield and beyond, into the marketing future. Join Cyndi and Ruth bi-weekly for new ideas, technologies, tools and strategies that are emerging to help marketers navigate over the marketing horizon.

Meet our guest

Seb Reeve

In his current role at Nuance as EMEA Director of Product Management and Marketing, Sebastian Reeve is responsible for defining and evangelizing the Nuance customer care proposition across Europe, the Middle-East and Africa – sharing how companies can create extraordinary automated experiences which their customers actively choose to use rather than simply tolerate and complain about.


Meet the hosts

Cyndi Greenglass

Cyndi W. Greenglass is a founding partner and president at Livingston Strategies, a data-informed, strategic consulting firm that helps clients develop, execute, and measure their customer communications with a close focus on results. Cyndi has razor-sharp strategic skills matched by impeccable on-the-ground savvy and tactical abilities. She is an Adjunct Instructor in the Data Marketing Communications online master's degree program from WVU.

Greenglass has twice been named into the Top 100 Influential BTB Marketers by Crain’s BtoB Magazine and was the 2012 CADM Chicago Direct Marketer of the Year. She is a member of the Board of Advisors for BRAND United and has taught, trained and presented at over 50 conferences throughout the world.

Ruth Stevens

Ruth P. Stevens consults on customer acquisition and retention, for business-to-business clients. Ruth serves on the boards of directors of the HIMMS Media Group, and the Business Information Industry Association. She is a trustee of Princeton-In-Asia, past chair of the Business-to-Business Council of the DMA, and past president of the Direct Marketing Club of New York.

Ruth was named one of the 100 Most Influential People in Business Marketing by Crain’s BtoB magazine, and one of 20 Women to Watch by the Sales Lead Management Association. She serves as a mentor to fledgling companies at the ERA business accelerator in New York City.


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