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In this Leadership Insights video interview, Amanda Razani speaks with Jenni Palocsik, the VP of marketing insights, experience and enablement at Verint, about why company leaders need to level up their digital customer experience offerings and how to do it effectively.



Amanda Razani: Hello, and welcome to the Digital CxO Leadership Insights video series. I’m Amanda Razani, and I’m excited to be here today with Jenny Palocsik. She is the vice president of marketing insights, experience & enablement for Verint. How are you doing today?

Jenni Palocsik: I’m doing well. Thank you so much, Amanda. I’m really excited to have this conversation today.

Amanda Razani: Me too. Can you share a little bit about Verint and what services do you provide?

Jenni Palocsik: Sure. Verint is a customer engagement company, and the best way to explain it is, today, when we look at all of the customer interactions, the customer experience interactions that brands are having, the number of interactions are going up, customer expectations are skyrocketing, and the brands are being asked to do more with less. We call that the engagement capacity gap. That’s really the problem that I think many brands are facing today. They either have to do more with the same amount or even with less. That’s really where Verint shines.
We have an open platform that enables the customers that we do business with, and we have a number of brands that are everyday names and we help them deliver CX automation. We are helping them to deliver experiences driven by AI and the data of all the interactions that they have worked with our customers on. We’re constantly improving and growing those interactions to make them even better, whether it’s the employee experiences on the backend or the customer experiences with an agent or an employee of the brand. All of that comes together, and we’re always optimizing and delivering that experience to the customers and to the companies.

Amanda Razani: Wonderful. Well, that’s a good segue into our first topic of discussion, which is you recently released a report, the experience index report, and can you hit on some of the key findings from that report for us?

Jenni Palocsik: Sure. One of the things that we think is really important is to do our own primary research. Internally, at Verint, we call it the insights factor. We do research in order to inform our employees our strategy, but also to the market. One of those reports is the Verint Retail Experience Index, and we’ve been doing those for quite a while. That’s really the focus of why we wanted to have this conversation today. It’s really about sharing the latest data with companies so that they can stay on the pulse on what’s important to customers. We also have another report that I’ll probably cite some research from it too, which is the State of Digital Customer Experience. I think the two together work really well, because retail is not just in stores anymore. It is in stores, but it’s also the digital experience on websites, on mobile apps, or even in social messaging as customers are interacting with brands.
Some of the findings we are seeing is that approximately 30% of shopping interactions start in digital or end in digital. Two-thirds are still in the store. They start in the store or they end in the store, but the same ones that start in the store aren’t always the ones that end in the store and vice versa. There’s a lot of cross-pollination. It’s important to not just look after one experience or another, but to understand how all of these experiences come together. As you optimize an experience for a customer, you need to understand what they’re looking for. As we talk to customers, we’re finding that a lot of them are having trouble with the post-purchase experience. They researched a product, they bought it in store or they bought it online, and then afterwards, they might need to contact customer experience.
About a third of them are finding it really hard. Sometimes it’s just a question they have about a product, other times they might need to make a return. They’re expressing that it’s difficult to do and it’s much harder than they thought it would be. A lot of times, they have to call back more than once or they have to get on chat more than once. Those needs are not being contained, they’re not able to self-serve, and it gets really frustrating. As part of that, we’re also saying that 69% of customers will leave a brand after one poor experience. The stakes are really high. As we interact as consumers ourselves, we know how frustrating it is, so we want to make sure that we are gathering the best insights from the customers who do interact with us. We want to know what their experience is like. We want to ask them for their feedback.
We do a lot of surveying, a lot of listening to customers ourselves as a company, and we help brands do that. One of the biggest things is to be able to analyze what we’re hearing from customers, but also act on it. What decisions are you driving from it? There’s nothing worse than asking a question, getting feedback, and then not doing anything about it. We really try to empower our customer brands to do that on a regular basis. We’re seeing a lot of, in today’s economic conditions, cost is still king, the price of a product, but there’s a lot of importance still on having a wide selection of merchandise. Especially when you look at some of the big brands online, you can find anything. Well, when a lot of consumers still want to be able to walk into a store and interact with that product, I think that there’s a really important place for retail today that has both an online presence and a store.
That’s something we’re really seeing a lot more about. We want to help brands interact with customers in the channels that they prefer. We’re not going to force them all to be on the phone or force them all to do online chat, but how do we help their experience be even better regardless of the channel.

Amanda Razani: Customers are expecting omnichannel presence basically, and depending on their needs, in person, digital. I recall reading in the report, I think it was 31% more than last year of customers have just greater expectations when it comes to the customer experience. Knowing all this, what are some steps that business leaders should be taking to ensure that they’re meeting those demands of their customers and not losing these customers, as you said?

Jenni Palocsik: Yeah. As you cited, expectations keep getting higher and higher. It’s not a steady state by any means, and I think next year, the expectations will be even higher yet. We have to keep improving. We can’t stand still. One of the things that we’re really seeing, and I’m sure everybody’s heard, no surprise, is AI is really important, but how do you use artificial intelligence and how do you automate the right portions of the customer service experience so that you are delivering what a customer needs. Over the past, I would say, five or more years, a lot of people have implemented chatbots. First generation chatbots, okay, great. You had a chatbot. There’s nothing more frustrating than entering your question into a chatbot and you’re like, “Nope, that’s not what I asked. Nope, that’s not what I want.”
There is an art and a science behind that. Being able to really understand, through conversational AI, what the intent of the customer is, what were they looking for. It might not just be what words they typed in, but based on other customers who went to that website, you can know the types of questions that are most commonly asked, but you need to be able to also offer that handoff to an agent. When we have a lot of the standard questions that a customer is asking, yes, we can automate the answers and they’re happy and they go on their merry way. But the more complex ones are the ones that, at times, can’t be answered by a chatbot or a virtual assistant. As AI informs the data, your chatbot can get better. We certainly have chatbots, we have a containment bot that we talk about that really helps to elevate the customer experience, and we’re always training that bot on the latest data.
Each time a customer interacts with it, it makes it smarter for the next customer who comes along. But if a question comes up that can’t be answered by the bot, we have an easy way that hands off to a human agent. Rather than have the customer have to repeat themselves and start all over again, which is nothing beyond frustrating, we hand off with a summary that was generated by AI to the agent so they can quickly scan and say, “Oh, this customer did this successfully and they asked this question and we answered it, but this is the one that’s stumping them.” So, as they interact with the customer alive, they already have cut that transaction shorter, and it’s much more convenient for both the employee because they don’t have a really frustrated person on the line or in the chat, and they can solve their problem more quickly.
We also have the ability to help them with a wrap up summary afterwards so that an agent doesn’t have to take the time to type up all the notes and put it in their CRM system for the next time they call. I think AI is certainly the buzz these days, but instead of it just being a buzz, how do we use it for the power of good in an ethical and appropriate way to improve the experience for customers and for employees? It’s not about replacing people, it’s about making it easier and augmenting what they’re doing, looking up knowledge articles based on what somebody types in, and that can help with self-service and really improve things all around.

Amanda Razani: That personal and human touch is still very important. But I have a question. When it comes to the future in this technology, do you think that it’s a goal? Is it a goal and should it be a goal that eventually will be taken out the equation and the AI chatbot will be so smart and sound so human-like that they no longer do have to pass it off to a human? Or do you think that shouldn’t be a goal, or what are your thoughts on it?

Jenni Palocsik: I think, oftentimes, companies talk about deflection. If you’re working with a chatbot and they’re deflecting interactions so that they stay in self-service and don’t reach a human, we don’t like to think about it that way. Because oftentimes, if you deflect an interaction, it might mean that somebody didn’t get their question answered, so they just left frustrated. I think there are a lot of simpler questions that can be answered by a chatbot, but I would never want to prevent the ability for a customer to reach a human because there’s always going to be some questions that a chatbot can’t answer. I don’t think the answer is to force everything to stay in that AI channel.
I think humans work well with AI when used best together, and it really, using AI with humans, helps you scale and grow your brand, because it’s really difficult to keep hiring people and hiring people and an onboarding people as a company grows, but you can keep your really skilled agents who have the empathy and work well with customers, and then have the bots in the background working with them to make their job easier and answering the easy questions, so that maybe they don’t always have to get to a human but they work together.

Amanda Razani: Okay. Since there is such a blend of digital and physical these days and customers desiring both, is there some other technology that should be looked at such as, I’ve heard a lot about the metaverse and augmented reality, virtual reality. Are these options that business leaders should look at utilizing so that the customer has more of an in-person experience, even if they are online? What are your thoughts to that?

Jenni Palocsik: I haven’t done that very much as far as the VR and those types of experiences. I think it’s something that will come into play, especially when we’re talking retail, because we started talking about the retail experience index. If you want to experience a product or a store or see different things but you aren’t there in person, that might be a way to give somewhat of a proxy of that experience if you can’t get there in person. I think other approaches are using social messaging for customer service. It’s not really a chatbot, but if you’re using messaging to interact and ask those secure questions with your retailer, it’s a customer service-type interaction and it enables you to have a asynchronous interaction. Whether it’s with an airline or another brand, you can post your question and they get back to you and then it’s back and forth at your pace and your convenience.
Some of the other things that we do is we have a retail choreography solution, which helps with queuing of customers when they’re in stores. It really is something that became more prevalent in the last few years when people weren’t going out and they weren’t shopping. When you did go into a store, you had to have a way to either set up an appointment or to have a virtual queuing system so that you knew who was next. I think all of these different solutions work really well together, whether it’s in person in the store, or online, or someone online planning to go into a store. It all has to work really well together.

Amanda Razani: From your experience, as business leaders are trying to level up their customer service offerings and implement some new technologies and make some changes, what are some of the roadblocks that you see them coming on and what are your tips for them to get past those and have a successful initiative?

Jenni Palocsik: I think, oftentimes, companies try to do too much too fast, and then it’s a big overwhelming project. Let’s replace all of everything. Let’s come up with a new platform. It’s very disruptive. I think we like to work with our customers to really understand what their business needs are, what are the outcomes they’re trying to drive, and then come up with a logical sequence of things that we can do with them that might start small, but we like to implement different bots or different programs so that you can put one in place, learn from it, and then grow, expand, and start and tackle a new challenge.
It’s less about changing up everything, and it’s more about being able to see real improvements, real ROI really quickly, because nobody can move slowly these days. We try to work with our customers at their own pace. They all have their own strategy, and we want to work with them and understand what they need the most and how we can help them.

Amanda Razani: Awesome. If there’s one key takeaway you could leave our audience with today, what would that be?

Jenni Palocsik: I think it would be that keep an open mind to new solutions, identify areas of friction and pain for your customers, and knock them off one at a time. Leverage the data you have. There is so much data out there that’s in pockets and in silos. If you can bring it all together to inform your decision making, you can have some really powerful outcomes. Just really think about how the employee experience can be improved because then it can also improve the customer experience and help your brand win.

Amanda Razani: Wonderful. Well, I want to thank you so much for coming on our show and sharing your insights with us today.

Jenni Palocsik: Thank you so much, Amanda. I really enjoyed it.