As online shopping becomes more popular, are machines, then, the future of customer service?
Yes and no. Technology certainly has the ability to improve customer experiences. Three out of four consumers believe that’s already the case today. Yet, the same study uncovered that consumers want to know that human assistance is on hand if required. One in three consumers felt that live human assistance should be offered as part of the initial online experience, with most consumers feeling it should be reserved for special cases, such as during complex transactions.
The future of customer service isn’t man vs. machine, but rather man and machine working together. This can be seen easily in the case of contact centres. As the point of entry for many customer queries or issues, contact centres represent the front line for many businesses’ customer service engine, with the potential to significantly impact the organisation’s reputation among customers. By automating many of the more generic responses, human customer service experts are left with more time to deal with more complex queries and issues – reducing frustration caused by call waiting times. Our research found that many businesses may be missing crucial areas for improvement in this area, by simply assuming the effectiveness of their customer service.Fewer than half of respondents believe the technology needed to deliver the perfect online buying experience is available. This stands in stark contrast to findings of a previous Mitel survey in which 90% of IT decision-makers optimistically reported progress in improving customer experience through the use of technology.
Why the disconnect?
Most businesses have a multichannel relationship with customers – meaning they have a number of customer touchpoints including online, in stores, through social media and over the phone. For a consumer, these engagements are all part of broader experience, but some businesses tend to still view these engagements in isolation. As a result, customers often find themselves repeatedly prompted for the same information as they pass through different channels. Most consumers we asked (58%) believe that the technology currently deployed by brands has room for improvement when it comes to delivering the perfect online experience.
Bringing Artificial Intelligence (AI) into the customer experience can have a transformative effect on the customer’s relationship with a brand. More than aligning customer data with the right customer, AI can be used to help customer handlers to personalise and improve human-based interactions by “learning” what leads to better outcomes. As an example, an AI-enabled contact centre might intuit which kind of consumers are more likely to prefer a callback rather than waiting for an available attendant, and offer the callback option early in the process. At another level, AI contact centres could prioritise calls based on recent events (e.g., a returned product, an overcharge) to ensure that potentially dissatisfied customers receive top priority and are routed to more experienced agents.
While technology is a fantastic tool to boost the customer experience, the role of the human is far from dead. Businesses need to take customers’ individual preferences into account and find a way to blend these experiences without losing the benefits of online and offline, whether it’s convenience, selection or service. Those that are able to empower machine to human interactions by tying together communications and collaboration capabilities with technologies such as IoT, AI will be best placed to strike the balance. In a hypercompetitive world where customer experience has become just as important as the product or service delivered, corporations that build this approach into their strategies will see a direct impact on their customer retention and ultimately business growth.