Brad Snedeker: Humanising customer relationships – the emotion in automation
By Brad Snedeker, Director of Customer Advocacy, Calabrio
Organisations are constantly assessing how a software product fits into the business processes it serves. At the most basic level, for example, a database’s value isn’t in the information it stores, but in how a business can use that information. Over the last 10 to 15 years, we’ve witnessed a succession of culture-changing technologies come to the fore – smart phones, social media, the cloud, big data, AI – and we are seeing companies move with unprecedented speed to deploy applications that use these technologies to automate business processes and wring greater efficiency out of employees and customer engagements.
This is terrific. But in a service economy that makes it easy for customers to switch providers, businesses can’t lose sight of the one unchanging key to their success. Customers must have positive feelings about the company and want to stay loyal to them. This is why we keep hearing about “customer experience initiatives.” But what does this really mean? For many companies, it means using data to find out more about customers so the company can serve up more personalised and relevant information.
That’s good as far as it goes, but it tends to fall short when it comes to engaging customers on an emotional level and getting them to like the company and want to be loyal. Doing this requires a fundamental shift in perspective based on “humanising” customer relationships. It’s about putting the customer at the centre of the enterprise universe – instead of products or profits – and then using a deep understanding of customers to improve their experience (and ultimately to improve products and increase profits).
So how do we humanise customer relationships today? Ironically, through technology.
Take the contact centre, which for many companies is the focus of customer interactions. Over the last several years, companies have deployed technologies to increase the number of channels customers can use to get help: phone, web, text, chat, social. The goal is to make it easier and faster for customers to get the help they need using their preferred channel. But leveraging digital channels is about more than making them available, it’s about truly listening to the voice-of-the-customer to create the seamless experience that modern customers expect.
Our survey revealed that 74% of customers are more loyal to a company if they can speak to a person, and 60% feel like their voices are heard when they talk to a live person. So, if the result of adding new channels is making it harder for customers to reach a human, all these new channels can backfire, especially if they aren’t resulting in a satisfying experience on their own. The reality is that customers don’t know which channel is best for getting help with a particular problem, and most businesses can’t consolidate the information coming in across the multiple channels, creating a siloed and fragmented experience. And when a customer does reach a human in the contact centre, the experience is often not great because the agent lacks a comprehensive view of the customers’ journey with the company.
The good news is that we are now developing the ability to overcome these challenges. Solutions leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) enable enterprises to automatically consolidate all in-bound customer information – including voice recordings and video files, perform analytics to develop an understanding of how customers feel, and then turn this data into insights that are easily available to contact centre agents. These insights enable agents to respond on a far deeper and more human level to customer needs.
It may seem ironic that it is up to data scientists operating in the arcane world of data and algorithms and AI to humanise the relationship between companies and their customers, but it is great news for both. In addition to enabling companies to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty – and therefore revenue – the underlying analytics will help businesses improve their products and services, and they can leverage predictive analytics to more accurately forecast growth.