As our smartphones increasingly become our window on the world and we are in a land of chatting and tapping, you would be forgiven for thinking that the “talk” aspect of the contact centre is soon to be consigned to the past.
Our new research on global customer trends (due to be released in January) paints a slightly different picture. Although customers like self-service and chat (as long as they are easy), they still reach out to human channels (particularly the phone) when they get confused, stressed, angry, or simply can’t do what they want to over digital channels. Automation does not make the contact centre redundant. It may reduce overall volumes, but it can also increase complexity (with call handling times skyrocketing as a result).
This is, of course, only if the self-service channels are doing their job and deflecting the routine, transactional stuff - which isn’t always the case. It is becoming apparent that innovative technologies are not necessarily improving the customer experience. When they fail, it is the human customer service advisor who has to pick up the pieces – which is why people are reaching for the phone. It is also why the contact centre can still make or break the customer experience.
How do we ensure that innovative technologies improve customer experiences in the future?
I’d suggest you ask 3 key questions:
- How does this make things easier for customers ? For example, if you put in a chatbot solution, make sure that it doesn’t abruptly terminate the conversation when it hits a dead end. Ideally you need to use the existing conversation to precision route the customer to an advisor who is most likely to have the right skills to help. Next, to prevent the customer from having to start again from the very beginning, make sure you can port the conversation across. This means that the advisor can rapidly get up to speed and pick up where the bot left off.
- Can I create experiences which are more personal and proactive? Contact centres are relationship hubs, where data about customers arrive through multiple channels. This data is valuable grist to the AI and machine learning mill. It starts with personalisation – knowing about the customer and using that data to tailor the experience.
The next step is proactivity. This is all about telling customers things they need to know before they have to tell you – perhaps their account has gone below a certain balance, their contract is coming to an end, or their new service has been activated. This should be done on their channel of preference at an appropriate time. Ultimately this is about managing demand, rather than having demand managing you.
- How do I help my advisors do an increasingly complex and stressful job? Our last blog explored the fact that the knowledge bases used by advisors and customers are often very different. This can create an inconsistent customer experience as advisors put customers on-hold, or don’t know any more than the FAQs tell them. Advisors need to be all-knowing and superpowered but they can’t constantly be in training, or in update mode. This is where AI and machine learning can come in again. By making it easier for advisors to get to the information they need, they can then concentrate on the uniquely human part of their job – the conversation with the customer.
Although automation is going to be key to the future of the customer experience, it’s the human touch which makes the difference. Contact centre advisors, allied with the right technologies, are uniquely placed to differentiate your brand and deliver the positive experience which customers value.