To say that the technological landscape has shifted enormously over the last decade or so is, at this point, probably a bit of an understatement.
Even when you think about how far we’ve come since 2007, when Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone to the world, it’s incredible. Who would have thought that one day, we would all be walking around with powerful little supercomputers in our pockets that put the sum total of all human knowledge at our fingertips? And yet, that’s exactly where we are – and there’s truly no going back again.
This evolution of technology has also triggered an enormous shift in the foundation of many different industries, with contact centers perhaps being chief among them. In the past, a contact center was hardly thought of as a “high tech” affair. A customer had a problem, they picked up the phone and talked to a human being to work towards a solution, and that was that.
Flash forward to today and contact centers are not only technological affairs, but ones that are also powered by sophisticated artificial intelligence, machine learning and more. Chatbots have become the new norm and indeed, all of this has changed the way messaging even operates in these environments.
Which, of course, has created a balancing act between technology and automation and those essential live agents who still operate within these contact centers. Luckily, it’s a balancing act that is also fairly easy to navigate – you just have to keep a few key things in mind.
The Future of Customer Service: The Importance of Automation
Maybe the most important thing to understand about all of this is that as the relevance of technology has grown dramatically, the very focus of contact centers around the world has changed along with it. There has been a shift that has taken place – moving away from live agents and more towards computerized, automated responses.
There is a pressing need in many of these environments to create a system that not only allows for a more spontaneous level of interaction between the customer and a support team, but one that is also constantly adapting and evolving on the spot to offer better services across the board.
However, artificial intelligence alone CANNOT create this level of service customers now demand. Indeed, the essential idea that most savvy contact center operators understand is that technology is not supposed to REPLACE live agents.
Instead, it needs to empower them.
Walking this balancing act will depend on one’s ability to combine human intellect and interactions with machine learning in a way that makes achieving customer service goals a foregone conclusion.
In the future, good customer service and customer satisfaction will be born from RELATIONSHIPS – and those will always be founded on human interactions first and foremost.
These days, there are so many different channels customers use to communicate with your business. Some may prefer email, while others will immediately take to social media with a grievance. Some might be more than happy to deal with a chatbot, while others will ALWAYS prefer the option of picking up the phone and speaking with a friendly voice on the other end.
These days, you can’t just “pick one” or even a few of these and funnel all of your efforts in those directions, ignoring everything else. You need to support the customer WHERE they are, WHEREVER they are, absolutely no exceptions.
Balancing technology and automation with live agents is how you take full advantage of all of these channels, turning them into opportunities in an instant and away from being the liabilities that so many people still operating via the “traditional” model of customer support still see them as.
How to Master Automation: Finding the Perfect Combination of AI and Live Agents
In an effort to take full advantage of all of this, there are a few key concepts that will need to grow in importance.
First and foremost, the goal of a contact center operating in the modern era should ALWAYS be to maintain personalization between support teams and the customers they serve. Customers want to feel like they’re the ONLY person you care about, even if both of you know this isn’t necessarily the case. This can be done through the careful and strategic use of contextual data, among other sources.
Ultimately, the goal is to create a MORE personalized customer experience than ever before – something that simply cannot happen if ALL human intellect is “mechanized.”
AI and machine learning is powerful – but without live agents using their hundreds of hours of experience to adapt to the customers’ needs, you’re going to be moving away from your ultimate goals, not close to them.
When automating communications, this type of contextual data provides the ability to deliver those personalized, relevant bits of content that customers have come to expect. Companies could make us of customer profiles, for example, that could provide an understanding of customers on an individual basis. This alone can be a great way to make experiences feel far less machine-generated than ever before.
Likewise, one of the biggest recent challenges for any contact center has to do with how people expect quick service, but at the same time they also want their interactions to be (or at least, to feel) more “human” than ever.
These two ideas may seem like they’re at odds with one another, but they’re really not. Ultimately, it just means that you should leverage automation only where it makes sense, and leave live agents to handle the rest.
In an effort to better achieve this, businesses of all types need to provide customers the OPTION of whether to interact with a chatbot or a human or, in certain situations, even a combination of both.
If your organization really wants to incorporate automation for customer service wherever possible, consider using it for only those repetitive tasks and simple questions that never really required a living, breathing human being to begin with. That way, the customer still gets what they want and your live agents are free to focus more of their care, time and attention on those tasks where they’re needed the most.
When it comes to the actual subject of messaging, automation typically works very well for responding to things like frequently asked questions or, at the very least, simple queries. Again, this is a great way to both guarantee the customer the level of service they want AND to free up agents to focus on more detailed situations where “that human element” still cannot be matched.
The Goodbay Approach: The Road to the Future Begins Today
As it pertains to traditional outsourcing, the level of shift that we’re talking about is very much a threat to most “Big Box” outsourcing companies. These are the organizations that always tried to fit companies into a “one size fits all” customer service box – one that, to be honest, never really existed in the first place.
Every business is a little bit different than the next and the same is absolutely true of every customer. Even if two customers have the exact same problem, they may want to arrive at the exact same solution in two totally different ways. Treating every business and every customer as if they’re the same may work on paper, but in reality it’s totally giving up on that personal approach to customer service – something that may very well form the basis for most business’ competitive advantage over the next decade.
Likewise, most traditional call centers have a very simple revenue model. They work based on the idea that “more human effort is equal to higher revenue for the outsourcing company.” Because of this, they’re usually the ones who are NOT inclined to embrace something like artificial intelligence, which is a decision that directly impacts their top-line revenue.
When you begin working with a support partner who is capable of looking BEYOND direct revenue, however, you arrive at an organization that is willing to embrace ALL forms of improved customer experience efforts. At Goodbay, this has always been the target we’re trying to hit and it’s one that we think will only get more important over the next few years.
In an effort to better balance technology and automation with live agents, you NEED a partner who will deliver more than just efficiency. You need someone who will deliver the correct blend of innovative, forward-thinking and proactive support that your customers have come to expect. Regardless of what resolution a customer wants, you need to be willing to support them HOW they want to be supported. Don’t force customers to adapt to make up for your own limitations – you should adapt to make up for your customer’s preferences. At Goodbay Technologies, that’s exactly what we’ve always tried to do for as many of our partner organizations as possible.
In the end, it’s important to remember that the ultimate goal is NOT to create a process that is overly efficient or that is packed with wall-to-wall automated responses. Instead, you’re trying to deliver personalized experiences by leveraging technology when it makes sense and live agents when the situation demands them. At Goodbay Technologies, we do this through the use of highly trained agents who work in tandem with the best that modern technology has to offer – a winning combination that will serve both you and your customers well for years to come.
If you’d like to find out more information about balancing technology and automation with live agents, or if you have any additional questions that you’d like to see answered in a bit more detail, please don’t delay – contact Goodbay Technologies today.