There’s little doubt that customers are rapidly embracing automated service, with an increasing number of interactions between consumers and companies taking place on digital channels.
Back in 2011, Gartner predicted that 85% of customer relationships would be managed without human intervention by 2020. But this seems unlikely to eventuate, and it’s probably for the best. Contact centres shouldn’t write off the importance of the human touch within the customer experience. Even in the current climate, it would be wrong to think of self-service as a cure-all.
These days, consumers are more discerning about how they’d like to engage with you. A study by Accenture found that 83% of US consumers and 76% of UK consumers actually preferred dealing with humans. The Salesforce State of Customer Service Report also confirms customers are seeking not only a human connection, but an Australian one.
It’s clear that CX leaders must continue to deliver better service, at less cost without alienating or losing customers. So, how exactly do you find the right balance between digital and voice?
Think problem-solving first
Automation technology such as chatbots and AI have proven beneficial for streamlining customer service and improving efficiency for customers and contact centre teams alike. But there are also many classic cases of over-automation backfiring. Automation and self-service can be overdone or even have the opposite effect on the customer experience.
Be careful not to end up solving your problems with different problems – particularly those that could be worse. Ask yourself if automating a particular project or task is indeed solving a problem, or is it just a different way of doing it. CX tech needs to be helpful to the customer, allowing them to achieve success easier and with less stress than the typical contact centre experience.
Explore ways to build loyalty
It’s worthwhile exploring how technology impacts loyalty and results. When you make it easy for your customers to book an appointment, place an order, change their account details, get a balance, or download a form you’re demonstrating how much you value them. Without saying a word, you’re communicating that you understand their time is valuable, and that they might not have the time to wait in a queue. When the process is easy and quick, it improves the customer experience that you deliver.
According to a report by Dimension Data, organisations committing to transforming their CX and leveraging new digital capabilities – alongside a human touch that’s available when necessary – are demonstrating significant value. A staggering 91.6% can evidence increased customer loyalty. Further, 84.4% report increased company profit/revenue and 78.9% also experience a reduction in costs.
Monitor shifts in customer demand
While technology will likely reduce overall demand for human agents, it will create new and more complex types of interactions, and these will require new management processes. As a result, organisations will need to develop strategies for coping with unpredictable spikes when digital channels go down. Implementing digital contact centre systems can help manage demand by automatically assessing customer needs and determining whether contact with a human agent is required or the issue can be resolved through self-service.
Beware of missed opportunities
There are more opportunities for a sales conversation than many organisations are aware of. But the right talent with the right competency must be on the line at the right moment. Calls in which the agent can provide expert knowledge or assists in customer decision-making are obvious door openers. Less obviously, an interaction that stems from a service failure can also become a selling opportunity.
If an agent has the skill to solve the problem and has treated the customer well, the customer may become open to the idea of a sale. Each contact is an opportunity, and every type of contact (especially those with a human agent) can assist in shaping satisfactory journeys. After all, humans have the ability not only to listen but also to empathise with customer thoughts and feelings.
Promote automation internally
AI can enrich careers by replacing those dull, repetitive jobs with more expansive and rewarding positions. That means the outlook remains bright for contact centre agents. To assist with the transition, employees are openly encouraged to apply for reskilling. For example, they’ll likely be required to analyse and improve AI-enabled customer journeys. Instead of trawling through pages of transcripts, agents will be able to learn how to train and manage bots to handle the heavy lifting. In the eagerness to introduce automation technologies, it’s important to allay the fears and concerns of your people and make them feel like part of this change.
Creating a virtual customer relationship centre
Automation is required to provide self-service choice and improve efficiency, but it doesn’t need to come at the expense of human connection. We shouldn’t ignore the simplicity and importance of making people feel good. Rather than focusing on the use of digital channels to cut costs, best-practice is to look for where digital contact works, where human contact is more effective and how to create a seamless handoff between them.
The model that’s emerging is known as the ‘virtual customer relationship centre.’ Organisations that implement this model correctly can improve their customer experience, capture savings, and create new sources of revenue. The level of automation you deploy will depend on your industry, customer needs, product/service offerings and inbound contact volume.
Learn more about the latest CX trends and discover how GSN is helping organisations to digitally transform and make every connection count.