The changing face of customer service, and how technology can help
For businesses of all types, customer service has become more important than ever before. Part of this is because customer expectations of excellent, personalised service are rising. But at the same time, increased competition and online retail make it easy for customers to switch to a competitor if they’re unhappy with the service they’re getting from a particular company. Delivering on customers’ expectations of service is easier said than done, and that’s because of how customer service is changing. Firstly, many businesses are struggling to recruit enough staff to handle all the customer queries and touchpoints that they need to cover. And secondly, those touchpoints are expanding in number all the time, and customers demand coordinated, simple contact whether in person, online, through an app, by email or over the phone.
Technical customer service challenges
There has been a noticeable shift in online contact away from phone calls, towards live online chat in recent years. Businesses therefore need to readjust their customer service approach and technology to respond to this, with Gartner predicting that one in 10 agent interactions will be automated by 2026. However, achieving this means addressing a number of challenges at a technical level:
- Communication centre capacity – having to handle large volumes of customer queries across many different channels can be time-consuming for staff, who then have less time to sell and generate revenue for the businesses.
- Service efficiency – many queries that customer service staff have to handle are simple and repetitive requests, that could quickly and easily be dealt with by chatbots or artificial intelligence.
- Lack of proactivity – customer service operations often aren’t set up in such a way to allow them to contact customers first and generate actions, meaning that communication is often left to the customer to initiate.
- Outdated processes – slow adoption rates of new technologies for customer contact often hold businesses back. Even older customers are more receptive to using video calls if it helps them get quicker service
The obstacles to solving these challenges
While it’s clear what businesses have to do in enabling efficient, multichannel customer service operations, there are a few other considerations to take into account along the way. One of the most important involves the staff who will be interacting with customers day-to-day. To handle queries to a consistently high standard, businesses need more staff, and need to pay them more in a world where attracting and retaining good employees is difficult. Add in the need for staff training and projects to improve internal processes, the act of reshaping customer service can quickly become expensive. Many organisations turn to outsourcing in order to get the extra resource they need. However, this often leads to a lack of service quality through less knowledgeable staff, and an inability to ensure guidelines are being followed by staff working in another location.
How AI can improve customer service processes and communication
A technology-led approach increasingly looks like the best way forward, although a new tech implementation should always be handled with care. Businesses are understandably cautious about whether any new solution will be valuable in the long-term, and how well it will integrate with existing solutions. Nonetheless, moving functions into the cloud and adopting integration-friendly technologies such as chatbots, automated responses, intelligent voice services and AI can help businesses do more with less. A combination of these can help give customers more personalised experiences and deeper insights. By automating the simplest queries and conversations, staff time can be freed up to deal with more complex cases where human expertise is needed more. Additionally, these technologies are key for businesses who want to improve their customer service provision but without committing to an expensive recruitment and training drive.
Every business is different, and so will be approaching new customer service tech implementation from a different starting point. Working out which solutions to adopt should start with a review of current products and infrastructure, assessing the potential scope for integration, and putting that information in the context of the specific problems that need solving. However, the rise of technology in customer service cannot be ignored. Gartner is predicting that chatbots will become a primary channel for customer service within the next five years. Moving towards more tech-driven solutions is therefore fast becoming a business essential for those firms who have not done so already.
How we can help
SCC Collaboration Solutions can help you implement the unified communications technologies you need to connect with your customers across every channel. Take a closer look at our approach and the end-to-end support we can provide here.