Uncovering the Future of the Contact Centre: A Balance Between Technology and the Human Touch.
New and evolving technology has been enabling UK contact centres to rapidly transform the ways they interact with customers. Compound this with evidence that customers are willing to adapt and try new channels in unprecedented ways, and it might seem that human-led contact centre support is becoming redundant. However, a post-pandemic newfound customer vulnerability has preserved demand for human interaction.
This isn’t surprising. On some level, we will always feel the need to talk to people. Rather than completely replacing traditional customer contact centres with AI technology, finding a balance between the two might be the way forward.
Companies Who Are Adapting A Combination of AI and Human Customer Service Are Thriving
Many companies are now leveraging the combined power of cloud platforms and artificial intelligence to customise customer and colleague experience in real-time.
However, they aren’t replacing human employees. Instead, they strategically utilise automation in key areas to refocus people where they can add human value. These companies’ pioneering attitudes have resulted in more resilient and profitable operating models which are thriving in our new global economic climate.
This is crucial, as our global environment is now characterised by shortages in labour and supply, which has left both consumers and employees feeling vulnerable. Businesses are racing to keep up with constant change, and a need for new, reliable systems has trickled down to the contact centre.
Changes in supply and economic vulnerability aren’t the only triggers for innovation. Consumer habits, as always, have a leading part to play. Customers are becoming increasingly entrenched in mobile lifestyles, and successful companies know how to leverage unique technological capabilities to reinvent customer interaction in the mobile sphere.
Conversely, post-lockdown demand for face-to-face interaction suggests the need for a human touch in customer conversations. Consumers are still social by nature, which is why it’s important to combine the convenience of technology with the personalisation of human interaction.
Consumer Expectations Are Evolving, and New Technologies Help Companies Keep Up
Customers have gotten used to delayed deliveries and items being in short supply, however, expectations for authentic brand experiences are arguably higher than ever.
Just as with human relationships, consumers expect a brand relationship to mature over time based on shared experiences. For the company, this means a stronger alignment between service, sales, and marketing teams.
This is where cloud platforms and AI intelligence can help broaden the relationships between consumers and brands. These technologies can help us unify customer journey management by using common infrastructure and having shared access to customer data and insight across teams.
For example, customers might be offered a consistent set of channels depending on their need or lifecycle stage. This allows them to experience a brand relationship that develops over time, without needing to re-introduce themselves or re-explain their situations.
An important note is that this technology only enables a consistent brand relationship. Humans must still take the lead: businesses need to put strategies in place to frame the AI and cloud technology they purchase, and management must guide customer service centre employees towards adopting any behavioural changes necessary to support their new technological pathways.
Utilising AI and Cloud Technology In The Contact Centre
Until recently, the task of gathering and interpreting customer needs required a lot of work on the consumer’s part. Worse still, the process was usually unsuccessful with actually understanding what the customer intended.
One way in which a fusion of Cloud and AI can address this problem is digital voice, in which the effort to understand reverts to the brand, rather than the customer.
In order to achieve this, businesses must constantly fine tune and optimise their understanding of intent and the multiple ways in which people can express themselves. This understanding must then be put into context so that the relevant next action is offered.
For example, a business can analyse a customer’s most recent digital footprint to understand their current situation. It can also evaluate the relevance of transactional and interaction histories to anticipate the customer’s reason for contact and offer the best possible service.
Another option is live assistance, which matches the customer to the most experienced colleague for that need. The agent is then automatically provided a contextual summary which would enable them to continue the conversation with the customer, without need to repeat the same questions and answers.
Additionally, automation can refine our ability to anticipate needs by offering pre-populated forms, or by completing associated admin tasks after the conversation has ended. On-screen coaching in real time can also help improve performance. These capabilities can support employees as they focus on delivering quality customer service.
Bringing channels, workflow and data into a single digital ecosystem allows personalised customer journeys to become possible. Benefits include fewer transfers and escalations, which save cost. Additionally, faster and more effective resolutions both please customers and safeguard operational capacity. Employees are empowered to focus on delivering quality customer service without needing to spend time on more mundane administrative tasks, which could result in improved retention rates.
Bridging The Gap Between Technology and the Human Touch
AI and Cloud technology are powerful tools for the contact centre, but they still require fine tuning and carefully calculated strategies. Ultimately, they cannot function without certain guidelines and frameworks implemented by humans.
For example, many brands fail to design workflows which allow customers to complete their journeys in the channels of their choice. This is why many consumers abandon bots powered by conversational AI. The journey itself remains too complex, and they require human assistance to help them through (assuming they continue trying in the first place).
This could have been avoided had service designs been optimised and refined to allow consumers to easily move through the process without having to put in extra effort.
Fine tuning the balance between AI and cloud technologies with the human touch is an ongoing process. Companies who embrace the need to constantly optimise will achieve not only more successful customer interactions and relationships, but better employee retention and operational efficiency.
Managing these evolving technologies, however, can be a challenge. This is why Connect has committed to helping companies onboard powerful technologies which optimise the unique ways their customer service and contact centres perform.
To get more information about how contact centre technologies are changing, click here to download the full whitepaper: The Future of the Contact Centre