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AUTOMATION WITH A HUMAN TOUCH: THE FUTURE OF CUSTOMER SERVICE

by Karsten Kraume, Chief Strategy Officer, Arvato CRM

Consumers’ expectations have never been higher - the average contact center must support nine different communications channels – from post to phone, email and social media – and a seamless, 24/7 level of support is becoming the norm.

Providing this will require a new set of skills for customer service teams, as well as a growing level of automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) as brands seek to deliver consistently excellent customer service to more customers across more channels.

Our latest report, Customer Service in 2027, predicts that in 10 years’ time 45 per cent of customer interactions could be automated.

Meeting expectations with automation

Here are three key ways that automation will transform the customer experience over the next 10 years.

Firstly, advances in Robotic Process Automation (RPA) will mean that high-volume tasks will no longer need to be performed by a human, such as entering new customer information generated during a web chat into customer relationship management (CRM) systems.

These processes are repetitive and rule-based, so can easily be completed by RPA, and they can play a big part in making a more integrated customer service possible, freeing up staff to focus on more complex customer-facing tasks.

Secondly, AI can be used to process more complex data, powering self-service channels that can extract key information from customers, either by text or voice, and provide answers to frequently-asked questions.
That should mean shorter waiting times for customers to get the information they need and fewer basic queries for customer service teams, who can focus on more complex customer issues.

AI can also help build more detailed customer profiles to inform proactive product or service recommendations.

The third key role for automation will ultimately see the customer cut out of the process altogether.

The advance of the Internet of Things (IoT) will see connected products from fridges to cars communicating directly with contact centers without the need for any human interaction
. In fact, our report predicts that by 2027 up to 60 per cent of the volume of interactions could be made up of automated communications between smart devices.

Retaining the human touch

It’s easy to see how, in 10 years’ time, automated systems will be at the heart of contact center operations, but this doesn’t mean they will replace human representatives.

We actually forecast customer service staff numbers to rise over the next decade, as the level of automation is offset by increasing volumes of customer interactions.

But these roles will ask more of agents as customers will only be speaking to a person if their enquiry can’t be resolved by an automated process.

This means employing representatives with a higher level of problem-solving skills as the role shifts towards dealing with more complex customer issues. And it will impact on recruitment and training in the sector, with constructive coaching to upskill existing staff.

We will also see a greater demand for new roles such as designers, data scientists, consultants and solution architects, who will help to implement and manage new automated technologies and ensure that they truly compliment representatives’ skills and deliver a seamless service.

So, while it’s easy to see how automation will have a huge impact on customer service over the next decade, the sector will never lose the human touch.


 

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