- Businesses need to adapt their customer contact models to a world where remote is the default.
- AI-powered digital technologies can play a powerful role in improving the customer journey – both independently and in tandem with human agents.
At AT&T’s 2021 Business Summit, GlobalData supported the American telecoms giant in exploring one of the key themes of the event: reimagining the customer journey in a post-COVID, cloud-enabled world. This is a critical challenge for most businesses as the impact of COVID has fundamentally changed the relationship between customers and businesses, as well as the way the two communicate.
COVID has turbo-charged the existing trend towards remote or virtual customer interactions. Even before the pandemic, GlobalData’s research indicated that in verticals such as retail banking, already more than 75% of customer interactions were not carried out in person but were instead done online, through mobile apps, or though voice or video calls. By taking away the in-branch, in-person option during periods of lockdown, COVID has further normalized the remote-first approach. Furthermore, it has normalized it even for those who were previously resistant using remote services. The rapid growth in home delivery grocery shopping is a prime example of this trend.
GlobalData’s research also shows that the convenience of remote interactions with businesses makes it a popular option with customers. Having information such as account balances or order delivery status available at the push of a few buttons gives customers the near instant experience they have come to expect.
This expectancy of rapid customer service has significant implications for businesses’ contact centers. Nobody has ever enjoyed waiting in in a queue listening to annoying, distorted music – but the negative impact of the experience is multiplied against the speed of service delivered when using customer apps or online account managers. To make matters worse, when customers do have to call in to the contact center, it is usually because they have a more complex question/problem and have already been unable to find the answer/resolution through other means. So, the worst part of the customer journey is being delivered when the customer is already having a negative experience.
The good news for businesses is that there are ways they can mitigate or even prevent such scenarios. AI-powered, automated technology such as chatbots and virtual agents are a powerful was to rapidly and flexibly increase contact center capacity. Rapid advancement of the technology means that they are increasingly able to deal with more and more complex enquiries. Furthermore, they can operate 24×7, which may not be possible using human agents.
Using this level of automation in the contact center can filter out more routing enquiries (e.g., password resets), freeing human agents from the monotony of repetitive tasks to talk to customers whose reason for calling is best dealt with by a human agent. A fully integrated contact center stack will mean that if a call is passed from a bot/virtual agent, the human agent will be able to see all the already provided information and therefore reduce repetition for the customer. AI tools can also support the agent in answering the questions – e.g., by automated prompts.
Businesses should therefore see all aspects of customer interaction as interconnected and ensure that there is a smooth flow between them. AI tools are there to give customers greater choice and to deliver a digitally enhanced customer journey.