When it comes to customer service, the idea that technology is at odds with a human touch hasn’t been an easy one to shake. When some people hear “automation” or “artificial intelligence,” they might imagine impersonal interactions. But that misunderstands technology’s role. Here’s why.

Digital solutions have never been better placed to enable and enhance flexible, personalised, human customer service. In the State of Service report, most service organisations say they’ve adjusted policies to give customers greater flexibility during the pandemic, helping service agents respond to customer issues with more personalised solutions.

Those qualities are more critical than ever to the kind of experience customers want to have. According to State of the Connected Customer,  71% of consumers say businesses that showed empathy during the pandemic have earned their loyalty. It’s time to make mastering the right digital capabilities a priority. 

Here we look at three key ways in which technology can actually help you ensure a human touch at scale.

Get predictive to be proactive

Our research shows that 46% of decision makers for high performing customer service teams say their teams are using AI, an increase of 35% since 2018. 

In B2B organisations, that increase is a whopping 147%, and B2C has seen a 45% increase from 2018 to 2020.

Decision makers are recognising the huge benefits of leveraging AI-powered tools in their teams. One of those benefits is how predictive technologies allow service agents to solve customer problems before they even become an issue for the customer. Where previously a customer service representative would wait for a customer to come to them with a problem, now they can use AI-powered technology to anticipate customer needs. 

This is already happening in so many ways that we barely notice. Think about the suggestions for ‘what you might like’ on Netflix or Spotify, for instance. Or the way your library and gym send out an email to let you know your books or membership are coming up for renewal and saving you from a late fee or cancellation. 

After all, a more personalised customer experience doesn’t always involve in-depth, human conversations at every interaction. Instead,  it can mean creating the kind of customer-centric, seamless experience that anticipates needs before customers realise they have them.

An organisation can also use AI-powered tools to survey customer data and predict what kind of messaging is right for individual customers. Again, there is a key role here for human understanding and empathy. 

Say, for example, a customer has had a poor experience with a certain product and has lodged a complaint about it. As fellow humans, we know the last thing they need in the meantime is emails telling them how good that product is and why they should buy it. With a 360-degree, real-time view of the customer, AI can help us sidestep that kind of error and give service reps a better chance to rebuild trust.

Time for a chat(bot) and a cuppa

The pandemic saw more people at home, watching TV. For FOXTEL, this meant an increased demand on customer support services. Making messaging more efficient became imperative with AI-powered chatbots rising to the fore and helping more customers find what they were after on their own. 

As a result, within two months, FOXTEL halved their message handling time and increased inquiries handled by chatbots by 40%.

It’s exactly these kinds of tech-enabled efficiencies that mean service agents can spend more time handling the customer enquiries that really need their attention and understanding, not the straightforward requests that can be easily met by a chatbot. Most (66%) of service professionals agree that self-service channels help reduce case volume. That means customers with more complex problems are likelier to reach a human agent faster, without making it harder for customers to solve more basic issues. 

Rather than replacing service teams, these kinds of technologies are helping them to work smarter and deliver the flexibility and omni-channel, always-on service their customers expect. Indeed, FOXTEL has on boarded an additional 200 agents as well as upskilling other business and technical teams. 

According to the State of Service report, while 86% of ANZ service teams say they’ve changed policies to provide more flexibility to customers, only 35% of ANZ organisations use chatbots. There is huge scope  for ANZ businesses to leverage AI-powered chatbots and provide more seamless customer experiences and free up the caseloads of overworked reps so they can give their time to the customers and issues that really need them.

See the full picture

Eliminating silos and aligning departments and systems are critical to a  360-degree customer view. With that view, organisations can adjust experiences according to customers’ unique needs and avoid fragmented, repetitive encounters that undermine a personalised approach. 

The State of Service report shows that coordinated teams are essential to providing a connected customer experience, and 79% of service professionals say it’s impossible to provide great service without a complete view of customer interactions. However, where 65% of agents globally say they have a complete view of marketing, for instance, only 48% of agents in ANZ have the same view. 

This could be set to change, though, with 77% of ANZ service decision makers saying they’ve invested in new service technologies. They are likely to include CRM, which can play an important role in sharing metrics and goals across departments as well as facilitating more personalised customer journeys. 

As Vala Afshar, Chief Digital Evangelist at Salesforce, says: “The delivery of connected, unified CX – a moment of straightforward certainty in ambiguous and uncertain times – has never been more critical to business success.”

Personalised, connected service for the customer starts with alignment in the organisation. And what can support that alignment most effectively? Smart technology. 

Businesses that want to lead with empathy – one of the defining qualities of successful customer experience – will find that the right technology isn’t just an ally in that quest, but a powerful enabler. 

On 22 April, tune into Salesforce Live’s Service and Customer Experience session for even more customer experience insights from Trailblazers like Foxtel and Telstra. Be sure to register and lock it in to your calendar today.

 

And for more insights from over 7000 customer service professionals worldwide, download the State of Service report.