As the race towards automation and efficiency through the use of AI self-service tools continues in customer contact centers, the consumer is sending back a clear message: customer service has lost too much of the human element.
It’s a narrative that’s made its way into the mainstream media, with Newsweek recently commenting:
“if it seems brands don’t really want you to talk to their customer service reps, it’s because they don’t.”
The article also points to a severe disconnect between brands and consumers, citing a OnePoll survey that reveals 7 out of 10 Americans prefer speaking with a live agent by phone.
Covid and the subsequent “Great Resignation” have certainly played a role in this disconnect. With a shrinking labor pool, wage competition from “menial” jobs that have historically been lower-paying, and a rapid move towards work from home, the contact center environment has faced a perfect storm of factors that have led to the acceleration of self-service tools. In fact, some experts have estimated that this move towards automation advanced by more than a decade in just a few months following the beginning of Covid.
This all comes at a time when consumer expectations are at an all-time high, with research from Hiver reporting that 80% expect better customer service than they’ve received in years past. And now more than ever, they’re willing to move on to a new brand if they are dissatisfied.
So how can brands keep the human element intact while still controlling costs and efficiencies?
1: Understand What Customer Centricity Means: According to Gartner, customer-centricity is the ability to understand customers’ situations, perceptions, and expectations. Customer centricity demands that the customer is the focal point of all decisions related to delivering products, services, and experiences to create customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.
Designing a customer experience program that does not sacrifice customer centricity for profitability will always win out in the long run. It requires the acknowledgment that AI tools are a key part of the customer journey that supports efficiency, but do not have the ability to understand each and every customer situation.
2: Let Customers Define Their Journey: A true customer-centric approach is built on the understanding that each customer is different. Despite the overwhelming desire to deal with live agents, there is a rapidly growing segment of the population that is comfortable with self-service tools, especially for more routine items. At Servicing Solutions, we rely on our automated tools to handle these routine requests, but the option to speak to a human is always available. With 47% of consumers reporting frustration with being forced into one communication channel, regardless of their preference, it’s something we’ll never abandon.
A Forbes magazine columnist recently shared a customer service experience in which she “got through 95% of the process without human assistance but felt an instinctive need for a human touch before closing the deal.” I can think of no better example of the need to let the consumer define their own journey.
3: Develop Smart Systems that Make it Easy to Get To The Right Agent: In the same Hiver study, the number one complaint from consumers is “having to explain issues again and again.” We’ve all had the experience of having to provide our personal information or describe our inquiry repeatedly, through multiple communications channels.
Access to a live agent is only the starting point to addressing this concern. Ensuring that customers are routed to the right agent who can handle their inquiry and have the necessary information to do so is paramount. Our highly personalized concierge approach to customer engagement is backed by powerful Artificial Intelligence and Predictive Modelling tools to do just that. We are able to learn customer behavior and preferences on an individual level, allowing us to route all inquiries properly for each individual customer.
In Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer, they conclude “that customers expect more than digital transformation or the promise of customer-centricity, they demand flexibility and a thoughtful, personal touch.” I absolutely agree that this is a perfect starting point for a stellar customer experience program.
Ready to Invest In Real Experience” and design a CX Strategy that does not lose the human element? We’d love to chat. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org