Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of attending an industry roundtable. During the event, several interesting discussions took place focused on chatbots and the human touch, customer service and loyalty, and internal collaboration.
Hearing varying perspectives directly from industry leaders proved to be thoroughly insightful and raised many pertinent points regarding the role technology—particularly artificial intelligence and chatbots—will play in the future of customer service.
The Human Touch
According to representatives from a debt servicing agency, human touch is essential to providing quality customer service. Debt servicing requires dealing with emotionally distressed people—a task that necessitates care and compassion, as well as expertise in educating people around paying bills and managing finances. It can be difficult for chatbots and technology powered by artificial intelligence to deal with such issues.
Similarly, chatbots can be found lacking when dealing with hardship, or sensitive topics, such as fundraising for charities that help with poverty or fatal illnesses.
In these circumstances, it is vital to build the expertise and soft skills of contact centre agents, which cannot be readily taught to current iterations of artificial intelligence, such as chatbots. Skills like empathy and the ability to build rapport with customers are essential elements of the human touch.
However, through the integration of artificially intelligent chatbots and human interaction, superior levels of customer service are able to be achieved. The efficiency and infinite capacity of chatbots is combined with human empathy and experience to provide customers with an unparalleled personalised experience.
Scripted Versus Natural Conversation
Scripted versus natural conversation was also discussed, with a focus on the different approaches companies are taking. Generally, commoditised businesses (or businesses that sell physical products) seem to favour a scripted approach.
In contrast, a representative from a financial services company stated that he focuses on training his employees to think on their feet, rather than rely on a script. In training agents to become ambassadors, they are then able to turn customers into ambassadors and retain their loyalty.
Similarly, in the insurance industry it is essential to use a natural, rather than scripted, approach. This is because the insurance industry sells peace of mind; a natural approach is needed to convey this, particularly as people absorb information in different ways. However, it is important to note that chatbots are willing to ask questions that humans may not be, which could lead to a better service experience.
Again, it became evident that combining the benefits of chatbots with the advantages of human touch is the superior solution. This integration is able to provide tailored and personalised customer interactions which fit all different kinds of businesses.
Ensuring customer loyalty is clearly a key consideration. Companies are implementing various methods designed to increase customer loyalty and engagement. Some companies are moving their contact centres from off-shore to on-shore. The general consensus was that trust is integral to achieving customer loyalty and that, to achieve this, communicating commonalities is key. This is particularly pertinent in a ‘post-truth’ era in which customers distrust much of the information they consume. It is therefore important for brand agents to be seen as guardians of truth by providing honest and relatable information.
Companies should not be so arrogant to think that customers want to talk to them all the time. In fact, one strategy that seems to be paying off is less pervasive SMS campaigns.
Utilising the right tone of voice on social media can also help companies build trust with their customers. This is particularly true for companies targeting younger demographics.
As technology develops, chatbots are increasingly able to detect subtleties in language – and even emojis – to respond in an appropriate tone that reflects the communication style of the customer, appeases them and provides them with tailored solutions. This can help to build customer loyalty and trust while also providing customer with the efficient responses they have grown to expect in this technological era.
Internal collaboration is essential in achieving high levels of customer loyalty. One way companies are keeping their frontline agents in sync is through the implementation of group chats and collaboration solutions. Other companies are employing virtual agents to assist their own agents. The use of bots as a knowledge base is another potential internal collaboration tool, as is regular 360 meetings to understand customer issues and share knowledge within the team.
However, there is one drawback to this: while larger contact centres with a greater volume of calls will obtain relatively accurate results, contact centres with smaller volumes will not yield as effective results.
Overall, the discussions during this event were incredibly illuminating. They provided industry insight into key themes and issues that are becoming increasingly relevant. Certainly, I left with much to think about, particularly regarding the future of artificial intelligence, and the way it can be integrated with human experience in order to provide exceptional customer service that fulfils the needs of modern-day customers.