The Roles of Technology and Empathy in The Contact Center

We’ve all heard about a wave of emerging technologies that fall under the Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Digital Transformation umbrellas. In the Business Process Outsourcing industry (BPO), these tools are being leveraged to dramatically improve the customer experience, create efficiencies, and increase agent productivity.

It’s something that Servicing Solutions has embraced heavily on behalf of our clients, and we’ve seen great results from these amazing technologies.

Whether it’s the use of Intelligent Virtual Assistants to handle customer interactions, sophisticated conversation analytics software to gain actionable business intelligence, or custom SaaS collection software to predict when and how much delinquent accounts will pay, BPOs clearly have more at their disposal than ever before.

In fact, respected industry research firm Gartner predicts that by 2022, “70% of customer interactions will involve emerging technologies such as machine learning applications, chatbots and mobile messaging, up from 15% in 2018.”

I don’t disagree with this prediction; however, I absolutely believe that it is imperative to resist the urge to become overly reliant on AI tools in a contact center environment.  In other words, we must resist the urge to use “technology for technology’s sake.”

Think back to the early 2000s when US companies outsourced millions of call center jobs overseas. Not surprisingly, the sole driver behind that movement was expense reduction.  However, it soon became clear that those expense reductions were leading to a significant decline in customer satisfaction.

I believe there are some useful parallels to consider here, and that a rush towards relying too heavily on technology solely to reduce expenses will have a similar effect on customer satisfaction.

Today’s customer wants the option to be served in their preferred method, and we know that these preferences vary wildly.  Some love the convenience of self-service options, some want only to speak to a human agent, while others prefer a blend of both options depending on the individual circumstance at hand.

If we don’t heed the early century warnings from the rush towards overseas outsourcing, we run the risk of decreasing customer satisfaction by becoming too transactional with customers, when a relational approach has proven to be far more effective at building loyalty.

Here’s why:

First of all, despite the growing sophistication and power of conversational AI tools, there will always be complex circumstances that require the attention of a trained and experienced human agent.  Relying on technology to address such circumstances without the option to interact with a human will very likely lead to a diminished customer experience and an erosion in brand loyalty. Balancing technology with human interaction is paramount.

More importantly, AI tools will never have the ability to be genuinely empathetic on a human level.  While the convenience of automation is having a positive effect on the customer journey, we must also consider when empathy is called for over convenience. This is a more important consideration than ever before.

In fact, Forbes Magazine Contributor Shep Hyken recently predicted that in business, “the word for 2021 will be empathy.”  However, he also fears that too many companies will lose sight of that and continue to “over-automate and over-digitize” to the detriment of creating real relationships with customers.

Here at Servicing Solutions, we won’t sacrifice customer relationship building for our own cost-savings or efficiencies through the use of technology.  Rather, each technology tool we implement is carefully scrutinized to ensure that it improves the customer experience.  The result is a blend of the most powerful technologies with the right level of human interaction that creates an unparalleled customer experience and true brand loyalty.

In the same column, Shep sums up this critical consideration by saying:

“No doubt customers want and expect ease, convenience, self-service solutions and other concepts that don’t need human-to-human interaction. However, the less contact a customer has with the company, the less opportunity for the emotional connection that drives customer loyalty. Smart companies will recognize the balance needed between the digital world and the human-to-human world. Those companies win.”

I couldn’t agree more.

In summary, conversational AI tools will always be a key component of Servicing Solutions’ relational approach to customer engagement.  They play a critical role in providing a seamless journey that provides convenient self-service options and 24/7 access to information and answers.

However, we will never lose sight of how important it is to enable customers and businesses to develop relationships through human dialogue. Simply put, this is an irreplaceable part of building customer loyalty.

Ready to arrive at the right blend of cutting-edge technology and human interaction to provide a relational customer experience?  We’d love to talk.

In the meantime, visit our website and follow us on LinkedIn for more insights.