Navigating a tipping point in customer service

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2022 has taken the customer experience journey on quite the expedition. As the world attempts to deal with numerous climate disasters, war, a cost of living crisis and a soon-to-come recession, customer satisfaction has reached a fragile point in the customer service sphere.

A new study has shown 60% of customer service managers say this will be the “toughest winter yet” as fears of losing customers grow in the run up to the holidays. Yet the same data has revealed that two-thirds of customer service managers report that customers are becoming more difficult to deal with and that customer expectations are higher than ever.

Crumbling customer satisfaction is being met with rising customer expectations. For brands, it appears like a huge mountain to conquer as we venture into 2023. How do you retain customers at a time when it’s most fragile and also monitor changing volumes of demand and costs?

Prioritising the human experience, with a little help from AI

When times are uncertain, customers crave honest, genuine and human communication. It’s imperative for maintaining the consumer lifecycle, helping to build brand loyalty, advocacy and customer retention. In the modern landscape, however, it’s incredibly hard to create personal experiences for every customer without having the helping hand of tech.

Of course AI chatbots have become integral to customer service operations and maintain a key role in solving a range of CX challenges. Through 24/7 real-time support and answers to a range of go-to questions and queries, they are a highly effective mechanism of giving customers that on-demand support.

But they can’t replace the human to human connection and communication that forms a vital part of the experience. To get the most value out of AI while still delivering an experience that builds a customer relationship, AI should be used to augment communication.

Companies can now harness the latest CX platforms that use advanced AI and customer intent to direct queries to the best possible person, while automation is able to answer straightforward enquiries. Communication with human relevance is achieved while simultaneously delivering efficiency and optimising resources. But how does this approach work when having to deal with an economic climate that will bring ebbs and flows in demand?

Managing the ebbs and flows

It’s inevitable that with a recession and surging inflationary costs comes fluctuating levels of both customers and staff. So customer service volume and staff availability is significantly impacted. Understanding demand can be a tricky endeavour, with the IES citing that common problems include “assuming the future will be the same as the past; failing to think through the implications of change, both internal and in the external environment; and not factoring in productivity improvement”. Of course in such an uncertain economic environment, these problems are heightened further – the future is very much not considered the same as the past. This combination of elements means it becomes incredibly tricky to manage these demand levels without the right technology.

Businesses already depend on contact center software that acts as a CX platform to manage tasks and distribute them to the right resources, whether they be AI, CX experts or contact center agents. Automation not only helps the customer with initial enquiries but is able to provide suggested answers to these experts and agents when responding to a query.

This allows for efficient and effective processes that work in accordance with service needs and allow the right people to be used at the right time. But even with the right technology, it requires diligence, skilled talent and a lot of luck to keep from under-serving customers or burning through budget due to overstaffing.

To safeguard against fluctuating demands, and avoid paying more than you need to due to overstaffing, this technology needs to be embedded within the GigCX model. What exactly is this? And why is it so important?

The growing gig worker cohort

GigCX (Gig Customer Service) is a flexible-by-design model that is making a rapid rise worldwide. It revolves around gig workers who, essentially, get paid for the ‘gigs’ they work. By next year it has been predicted we will see nearly 10% of the freelance population worldwide comprising gig workers – that forecast put this at 78 million people with global wage disbursements of $298B.

Companies can build up this hub of flexible workers through a GigCX platform, enabling them access to this talent pool as and when necessary. Task distribution – as outlined above – can be split up accordingly and users in the crowd have the autonomy to ‘work when and where they want’. It’s a mutually beneficial setup.

But what about truly meeting sky high customer expectations? How about using your most loyal customers to be brand advocates, creating a pool of ‘super users’. With an unmatched passion for the brand and knowledge of the product, these are the users who are expert customers themselves and can offer an unparalleled service. Having the means to unleash this communication can be a key differentiator in standing out from the crowd and ensuring customer retention rates.

This isn’t simply an online messaging group – it’s a pioneering process to engage customers in one-to-one contact with super users. It contains a host of benefits revolving around CX agility, less training, high customer satisfaction and reduced costs.

The continued surge of GigCX for 2023

The demand for AI-powered CX technology is being driven by global events, falling customer satisfaction and rising expectations. The task ahead requires innovation, scalability and flexibility to be able to maintain budgets, manage ebbs and flows in demand and meet customer expectations. As is often the case in a digitising world, technology has the power to propel this change – but as part of human-centred strategies.

It’s why many brands are turning to GigCX to deliver better, more flexible and agile customer service. With more brands taking on this approach, 2023 could hold in store a whole new experience for many businesses, employees and customers alike. To thrive, what it requires is an openness and bravery to take on new approaches and, ultimately, reverse the downward customer satisfaction trend.

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