By Andrew Small, Vice President, Unified Communications and Contact Centres, BT
What consumers everywhere really want is for life to be less complicated. They value convenience over price – because they find it exhausting dealing with customer service issues – and as such will buy more from companies that make it easier to do business with them. In fact, 79% of customers are loyal to organisations that are easy and simple to contact and 76% buy more from those that make it easy to do business with them.
Unfortunately for you, customer expectations are always increasing. And if you don’t provide what they want, chances are your competitors will. Because there is always a new technology on the horizon.
Keeping ahead of changing technology
Consumers are finding new ways of getting in touch with your organisation, without necessarily giving up existing channels. For example, we’ve seen the rise of voice interfaces, chatbots and social media but also making a phone call remains a top choice for customer service: 84% of consumers have contacted a call centre in the past 6-months. There is still a significant role for the telephone and human agents, especially in more complex situations.
But technology evolution introduces challenges for consumers, your people and global organisations.
With any new technology or channel, it takes time for it to become mainstream. But when it does, consumers expect it to be part of organisations’ omni-channel strategy.
For example, social media is now mainstream for consumers but many organisations still neglect or ignore the flow of messages about and directed at them on channels like Facebook or Twitter.
Similarly, consumers are becoming much more comfortable with live video than in the past. In the last two years, the number of people using video conferencing at home more than three times a week has almost tripled. It’s a very small step to using video to show the engineer a malfunctioning washing machine or as an escalation of a voice call.
In other areas, organisations can be ahead of the consumer. Consumers are as yet uncertain about the role of chatbots in customer service. According to the 2018 State of Chatbots Report, just 15% of people have used chatbots to communicate with a business in the last year. But they also see that one of the biggest benefits of chatbots would be getting an immediate response to a query.
Knowing your customer base
To provide a superior experience, you need a clear understanding of customer expectations and how they’re evolving. You need to have the ability to swiftly change technology if your customers change their device or channel behaviour. But most of all you need to know what your customer is trying to achieve.
Customer expectations and what they are trying to achieve vary by industry and organisation. When working with the insurance sector, we find they tend to cater for an older demographic and that their contact centre channels are more phone-based, whereas the consumer electronics sector tends to have more new channels such as chatbots and video.
For organisations, evolving technologies introduce challenges in terms of the ability to quickly add new channels to their contact centre and future proof their technology roadmap. For example, video traffic is set to increase significantly in the next few years. Organisations who know their customers will be interested in using video more need to think about the impact on their network and infrastructure, and on their agents. Do you have the right agents with the right skills to manage different types of communication with customers?
Equally implementing channels before consumers are ready can result in siloed solutions and channels which are underutilised, putting greater pressure on agents and resulting in a poor customer experience.
Rather than designing channels in isolation, the key has become to design omnichannel customer journeys that take into account what your customer is trying to achieve – be it discussing a complicated insurance policy or buying a new printer.
Agents and technology working together
Digital customer care, self-service technologies and the rise of the app have already pushed a lot of the simple, repetitive tasks out of human contact queues. Our SuperAgent 2020 research found that the role of the contact centre has shifted from processing lots of simple, repetitive calls, really, really fast, to taking on much more complex and emotive issues than ever before.
Now, machine learning technology and agents are collaborating in the contact centre. Investing in machine learning technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and chatbots shouldn’t just be about cutting costs. It should be about getting machines to take away the simple things, to free up human advisors to add value to the customer experience. For example, Agent Assist advises agents on the best possible response while dealing with customers. Just like a human, it takes time to train, but after 12-months of building up the required knowledge base, the agents reported back that this application was “the best software we have ever had in the Contact Centre”.
Your customers want you to take the initiative. According to Chat, Tap, Talk three quarters say they are willing to reward proactive behaviour with greater brand loyalty. Using big data, AI and business analytics will give organisations new insights into consumer behaviour which they can use to anticipate customer needs and offer solutions in advance.
With the right strategy, it is possible to offer superior customer experience and cost control. Understanding what your customers are trying to achieve, how they feel, and the actions they’ll take as a result, will allow you to give them the right technology at the right time. They get a better experience and you focus on the touchpoints that matter most in the journey.