Authored by David Morton, Sales and Solutions Director, CRM Solutions, Arvato UK & Ireland
By the end of the next decade the customer service industry will look very different. The use of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) software will be widespread, providing customer service representatives with new tools which support the immediate, personalised, 24×7 customer service that consumers demand.
These technologies are already changing the role of the customer service representative. Our teams are integrating automated solutions such as chatbots and text-based computer programmes capable of conversing with a human. This technology is proving to be highly effective, in particular when supporting digital interactions, delivering faster and more efficient responses to simple queries. The adoption of such technology is allowing our clients in the retail and automotive sectors, to free up their representatives to handle more complex enquiries that do require a human touch.
Automation is also being used to consolidate customer data, everything from contact channel preferences through to order history and predictive modelling, onto single CRM platforms that are powered by intelligent analytics. This is arming business managers, agents and automation tools with data capable of providing recommended responses and next best actions in real time, to enable them to personalise customer service. Tailored, contextual responses can be particularly important for consumers researching and buying big-ticket items such as cars, online. Regardless of the channel they use, they expect the same bespoke, high quality customer care that they usually receive in dealerships.
But the leap forward promised by new technology will not replace humans. Instead, it will sit alongside customer service representatives, acting as virtual assistants delivering agent augmentation. This assisted solution will help to take care of the increasing volumes of inbound enquiries through a highly optimised process.
Investing in automation technologies will be crucial to keep pace with increasing volumes of customer contacts, preventing spiralling operational expenditure. But businesses also face the challenge of developing an in-house workforce with the skills and experience to harness these technologies and realise the benefits on offer. This can become a significant business challenge given the rapidly evolving technology landscape, the significant investment required to attract appropriate talent and subsequently the ability to remain current across both domains.
On top of strong communication and interpersonal skills, the customer service representative of the future will need to be increasingly IT-literate and able to quickly adapt to new ways of working. Brands will need to recruit staff with strong digital skills and the ability to converse with customers across multiple channels. They must also ensure that they have the investment in place to deliver regular, targeted training that runs in tandem with new technologies, as they are introduced.
Companies should also turn to pilot programmes as part of their preparation to transform services. Together with being a useful trial of the capability of different technologies, planning such schemes can help identify the skills gaps that may need to be filled through a targeted recruitment plan. Future training that ensures both staff buy-in and also prepares them for the future will be a further consideration that should not be underestimated.
It’s clear that technologies such as automation and AI are going to offer brands the opportunity to innovate, increasing efficiency whilst supporting the consumers demand for world class customer experience, but in order to take full advantage of this advancement in technology we must look at the skills challenge this will pose now. Without great people who can inform, manage, maintain and operate AI, RPA along with the next new acronyms, the benefits will not be realised.