I was discussing films with a colleague recently and we started talking about the Terminator genre and how we felt the quality had dipped since the original film was released. The concept of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine-domination is an interesting one as it has a lot of relevance to how I feel that customer care will need to evolve in future years.
A common theme across all industry verticals is the need to do ‘more with less.’ Budgets for customer service and care will only ever go one way in the longer term – as companies compete more aggressively they will need to be smarter with how they spend their money on managing customer relationships. Voice remains the most expensive channel so the question for CEOs is most likely to be: ‘How do I optimise my spend across all available contact channels – without reducing the quality of care?’
My view is that machines will be a large part of the answer: self-service technology is nothing new, but it will need to get better to provide as much proactive care as is possible. Apps will need to be super user-friendly and allow you to answer the transactional queries that otherwise generate those unnecessary and expensive calls – When will it be delivered? What is my roaming charge? When can I upgrade? I don’t understand that figure on my bill?
The use of chat will need to be highly targeted to identify consumers that could potentially call the contact centres but be staffed by advisors that are trained and have the ability to resolve as many customer queries – themselves – as is possible. We are already seeing companies like Amazon investing in ‘drone technology’ that may see deliveries being undertaken ‘across the skies’ and their ‘echo’ system shows that the TV could increasingly become a key care tool in the future – not necessarily requiring a human advisor at the other end.
The ability to automate customer care journeys is an attractive one, particularly if you can re-invest the cost savings in driving a different focus within your contact centres. I could imagine a future where voice is predominantly used to drive attraction, retention, and value-creation. These are specific and unique skills that require enhanced levels of training and people skills to deliver well.
It is not inconceivable that contact centres of the future will be populated more with sales and marketing expertise, as opposed to those providing transactional care. They are likely to have a much larger focus on proactive outbound engagement and have access to the on-site analytics and data-modelling that help companies target customers with services they don’t yet know they need.
The focus will shift from ‘responding’ to the customer to ‘delighting’ the customer.
It is unrealistic to suggest that all customer care will become automated, but there is clear room for investment in ‘machines’ to ensure that voice is prioritised for customer interactions that drive the greatest value for both parties.
Photo by ICH licensed under Creative Commons.