The human factor: The future of customer experience
Technology has radically changed how brands deliver customer experience. Today smart devices can communicate independently with each other, omnichannel customer service is considered best practice and artificial intelligence (AI) is being used to handle customer queries. But despite the clear and well-documented benefits of introducing new technology, organisations must continue to recognise the strategic importance of the human element of customer service.
Consumer demands are also increasing. Customers now expect a personalised service and to be able to interact with their favorite brands when and how they want. As well as organisations leveraging new technology and communicating across a broad scope of devices, customer service agents will continue to play a vital role in delivering exceptional customer experiences. Our latest Omnichannel Monitor study showed that 60 per cent of the 1,000 individuals surveyed said they prefer having human contact when to reaching out to business.
While technology is becoming smarter and more sophisticated, it can’t replace the human capacity for empathy, understanding and reasoning. And, it must be remembered that the effective use of technology and human resource aren’t mutually exclusive. The most successful customer experience strategies will use innovation to empower service agents, rather than replace them.
With this in mind, here are three tips to help organisations cultivate the human element of their customer experience offering and ensure their staff are prepared to use the latest technology to deliver exceptional service.
1. Hire with technological skills in mind
Emerging technology, from automation to artificial intelligence (AI), will play a fundamental part in delivering excellent customer experiences in the future and the role of the customer service agent will become far more complex. Alongside strong communication and interpersonal skills, they will need to be highly literate in IT and able to quickly pick up innovative new ways of working.
Technology, such as AI, will work side-by-side with customer service agents in the future, acting as a support tool for simple, high-volume tasks, freeing up employees to focus on more complex enquiries. Together with delivering a more personalised service, agents will need to be comfortable in working with sophisticated technology.
In addition to this, there will be roles created to support these innovations which businesses will need to consider. For example, we expect that new teams will be specifically charged with populating and managing the information used by AI technologies.
2. Use innovative training techniques
The requirement for a more skilled workforce means providing the right training for agents is an even more critical component of delivering exceptional customer service. Yet, while adapting to evolving technology is part of the challenge, it can also form part of the solution, offering brands the chance to create engaging training programs that deliver effective, memorable learning experiences.
Virtual reality (VR), for example, can simulate realistic scenarios that test employees, without exposing them to customers prematurely. Trialling VR in Arvato’s own training schemes has accelerated the development of communication and problem solving skills – key abilities for customer service agents using new technology.
Eventually, VR could also be used to develop bespoke, virtual training programmes that meet an employee’s specific development needs, helping them get up to speed and make progress in areas they need to improve. This would not only streamline the training process, but also ensure that employees are better equipped to deliver exceptional customer experiences.
3. Select the appropriate technology to support agents
Organisations need to select the technological solutions they use to support their service agents carefully. Each option will have different applications and benefits. Chatbots – text-based computer programmes capable of conversing with a customer – for instance, are being used by businesses that experience high volumes of simple customer enquiries to free up staff, so they can dedicate more time to handling complex, resource demanding tasks.
Meanwhile, cognitive support systems, powered by artificial intelligence (AI) software, are now being trialled as virtual supervisors. These systems are perfect for supporting staff handling complaints, or for agents proactively approaching customers. They collect and analyse data from the previous interactions a customer has had with the business, share it with the agent and recommend actions in real time that will help them deliver a memorable, personalised experience.
Delivering these experiences is now key if organisations are going to stand out in a crowded marketplace, where the difference between cost and quality of products or services is tightening. Appreciating the importance of the human touch in customer service and maintaining a skilled workforce of professionals equipped with the right technology is the best way to achieve this.
Parham Saebi, Head of Client Relations, CRM Solutions at Arvato UK & Ireland