Customer service and the machine era

Customer service has changed beyond recognition since the 1990’s. In the past, customers would have walked into a physical store for a real person to help solve their problem. But, we are now in the machine era – where we will do everything we can to avoid talking to a human, preferring to use a variety of channels that allow us to either serve ourselves or allow a robot to take our calls and respond to queries.

Technologies, platforms, solutions, and applications have worked together to enable this evolution. The innovations of tomorrow could be so removed from our current reality that we can’t even predict them – in the 90s, who would have been able to predict that we could have the world at our fingertips in a smartphone? What can be predicted, and what is already being seen, is the impact of a certain set of technologies which are underpinning all current innovation – the ‘Triple As’ of customer service: analytics, automation and artificial intelligence (AI).

The wonders of data

While call centres have been recording calls for a long time, it’s usually just for ‘quality and training purposes’; the goldmine of data collected just sits idle on disks and tapes. Today, enterprises are waking up to the potential and opportunity this data can provide in revenue generation and customer satisfaction. By applying analytics, companies can open up insights and correlations that would be completely obscured, for example:

Speech to text: With speech and text analytics, organisations can convert recorded conversations to text, and then analyse what customers say, build patterns and trends, and spot opportunities. This helps enterprises respond in real time to what’s happening out there, based on detailed contextual analysis of thousands of calls. The approach swings from reactive to proactive mode.

>See also: 5 ways technology can strengthen customer service

Social chatter: There is a lot going on in the virtual world, but there is no logic, sequence or pattern. Social media data truly adheres to the definition of the ‘three Vs’ of big data; velocity, variety, and volume. Slicing and dicing this unstructured data is challenging, but if businesses are able to ‘tame’ this chaotic realm, they can know what topics are trending in real-time and understand mass customer sentiment. This empowers agents to tailor and target promotions, and even proactively intervene to mitigate potential issues.

Customer analytics: The 360-degree view of your customer is a complete package; incorporating demographics, preferences, and prejudices, history of interactions, patterns, and styles of individual customers. This helps in predicting the issues they may face, the reason why they reach out and enables relevant cross-selling and up-selling of personalised offers and treatments.

Automation and analytics

While analytics can pull customers towards a site with eye-catching and personal offers, that experience falls down if they are then unable to find the specific offer that enticed them in the first place.

One of the most common frustrations for online shoppers is that they reach a virtual stall after receiving an insightful result from their analytics engine, only to find the item is not there. The fact is that insight without action is only as good as the data that was stored in disks and tapes in the former era. It is thus essential to ensure that insights are followed up with NBAs (next best actions) in a dynamically automated manner.

>See also: AI: the next level of smart customer service?

Insights transformed to business rules and actions must be populated on all channels of interaction to apply the real benefit of owning an analytics solution. This can be done through sophisticated self-service solutions and collaboration tools that take the burden away from customer service agents. Organisations can use powerful management tools to analyse performance and track quality. Customer service agents must be empowered and trained to use systems that learn and grow from human interaction, providing them with fast, accurate answers to customer queries. This results in relevant interactions, complete and quick resolution, satisfied customers and motivated agents – the ingredients of a complete call centre.

The powers of artificial intelligence

We have all experienced an endless automated line, which rigidly sticks to a certain ‘press 1 for yes/2 for no’ system, and flatly refuses to put you through to a person. However, automated services have come a long way too, largely thanks to Artificial Intelligence. And the more we use online services, the better this AI gets when imitating human interactions and improving customer experience. So much so, that in some instances we would now much rather use a machine than deal with a human – just look at self-service checkouts, online banking, and the use of chatbots.

AI-driven automated services learn from humans constantly. This knowledge is built from one to one interactions over the web, IVR phone systems, mobile data, FAQ’s, forums and blogs, as well as self-service systems. These systems listen, learn and improve over time, taking tasks and automating them, refining processes and finding better ways to do things by using AI built on machine learning.

This simplification can lead to a 50% reduction in training costs, a 30 percent reduction in call time and the virtual elimination of after-call work documentation, as well as higher agent job satisfaction and reduced attrition. It’s a truly virtuous circle, with humans and machines working hand-in-hand so organisations can do more with less.

>See also: The 3 types of analytics set to transform customer experience

The revolution is upon us

If you’re thinking it’s all a bit futuristic and far-fetched, think again – it’s already here. The ‘Triple A’ revolution is already changing the world around us, without us really noticing. It is allowing businesses to process large numbers of transactions in a common, consistent, repeatable way; meeting the growing demands of customers, as Gartner predicts non-voice interactions will grow from 55% in 2015 to 85% in 2020.

This approach also creates a consistent customer experience, by harnessing the knowledge and expertise of customer service agents in the voice channel and using that in the omnichannel. If you think this is ‘futuristic’, you may already be on your way to becoming extinct.


Sourced by Sameet Gupte, CEO, Servion

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...