Product and service-based businesses need a place to direct customers in need. If they don’t have one, it’s a fast road to an angry audience and a poor reputation. Customer service is a constant need across industries and has been for decades. However, not much light has been shed on the vast progress of this industry over the years. It started out with confused or upset customers picking up their landline for help, but today the average contact center supports an average of nine communication channels among email, web chat, social media and much more. To provide some insight on what’s happening behind the customer inquiry scenes, let’s take a look at the evolution of the contact center. How are customers currently serviced, how can we create the most efficient environment today, and how can customers expect to communicate 20 years from now? Perhaps more importantly, what is the data about customer expectations telling us?
CONTACT CENTERS TODAY
Today’s technology landscape is progressing at unprecedented speeds. While consumers are on top of all the latest trends, businesses have the tricky task of deciding which technologies are worth the investment and which can hold the business back. Contact centers especially feel this pressure as they are on the frontlines with many generations of people that are, at once, incredibly tech savvy and still figuring out how exactly a touch screen works. This means that customer service representatives are responsible for continuously learning how to manage the latest technology; a contact center is fast-paced and involves a lot of training and re-training. It can sound quite intimidating, but data is offering a pathway to success for contact centers today.
1) 34 percent of consumers site long hold times as their biggest pain point with customer service, according to a recent survey.
In other words, the data is showing that customers today are begging for convenience—for time back in their day. They are becoming increasingly accustomed to instant gratification, but contact centers are inundated with phone calls and chat messages. It is impossible to answer each inquiry right away. However, there are other avenues to offering convenience back to customers and data is shedding light on these avenues as well.
2) 31 percent of consumers want more automatic call backs and 28 percent want more real-time order updates.
So, what customers really want from businesses and contact centers is proactiveness. There is no need to call about the status of a package, if the company is proactively emailing updates to their customers. Furthermore, customers don’t like to be on hold for long stretches of time because it keeps them from accomplishing other tasks. But, when they know to expect a call in about an hour, they can use that time to get other work done. Anticipating customer needs is an excellent way to keep customers happy. Another tactic is to look to new technologies to lighten the load for customer service representatives.
3) 49 percent of consumers don’t want to be served by a chatbot at all, and 52 percent say the phone is the most reliable channel for solving a customer service issue.
This is an area in which data is a critical guide to decision-making. It is important to remember that if a customer is contacting a company, they are likely already a little frustrated. Innumerable companies have deployed chatbots as a means of lightening the employee workload. But, data is telling us that almost half of the consumer pool is not pleased with their performance thus far. Or else, they are skeptical about being serviced by something non-human.
Intelligent companies will ensure that they make data-driven decisions. The last thing an impatient customer wants is to be kept waiting, watching an ellipsis on their screen. You must be absolutely certain that when adopting technologies “in the place of” traditionally employee-based work, that the technology will actually offer customers convenience and satisfaction.
CONTACT CENTERS TOMORROW
In the customer service space in particular, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are cited as technologies that can change the landscape of the industry. However, a technology that makes headlines does not necessarily make it proven and reliable. To measure the impact that RPA and AI will have on contact center operations over the next ten years, Arvato conducted an in-depth, global, six-month research project on the future of these technologies. They predicted that:
1) 69 percent of activities in the contact center could be addressable by AI and RPA in the next decade.
This is a notable statistic for two reasons: 1. It is encouraging to know that these technologies have potential, and likely will drastically affect the industry. But also, 2. this is still ten years down the line. AI and RPA are still evolving; just because a large percentage of contact center activities could be addressable, does not mean it will be adopted. It is more important to keep a pulse on these large-scale technologies. We should note their concrete applications today, so that we can forecast the ways in which they will impact the industry tomorrow.
2) According to Nelson Hall, the RPA & AI-based business process transformation is forecasted to grow from $701 million in 2017 to $8.1 billion by 2022.
Applying RPA and AI to everyday business functionalities will undoubtedly increase efficiencies and create new ways of interacting with customers. That said, automation will need to advance in such a way that it can keep up with increasingly complex queries and higher volumes of interactions. Utilizing advanced automation in both the front and back-office environments can and will help contact centers flourish, but take caution not to remove people from the equation entirely.
A LAST NOTE
It is estimated that over 81 percent of consumers would pay more for a better customer experience.
So, as the business world is infiltrated with new and innovative brands, customer service is a way to stand out from the crowd. While we can look forward to a future of rapid service driven by automation and advanced technology, we cannot forget that people still like to be treated as people. That’s not necessarily something that can be programmed. At least not in the near future. Businesses today, should be focused on using technology to proactively service customers, and keep them happy before they have a problem. Reliable and well-trained employees should be trusted to uphold your brand’s voice and give your customers the attention they deserve. Doing so will differentiate you from the market and keep your business coming out on top.