It was great to attend the Execs in the Know Customer Response Summit in Austin last week. Execs in the Know always put together a great agenda and this one was exceptional. There were speakers sharing knowledge of the customer experience at several great brands and it was full of opportunities to learn from real industry experts.
One of the sessions I was really interested in was on Tuesday and focused on how automation will change the customer service industry. The session was introduced with this description:
“Cross-industry business execs are under intense pressure to decrease spend while improving top and bottom line revenues, while also increasing customer satisfaction, loyalty and lifetime value. Various types of automation are helping retailers achieve these goals. Some examples include: self service FAQs on web and mobile apps, web and mobile app avatars, and for back office – robotic process automation (RPA) – to remove people from rules-based decision making and moving them to higher-cognitive problem solving. These improvements help transform businesses.”
I’m always exploring developments in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) so developments like RPA are extremely interesting, but I think there is a problem with much of the discussion around automation. It is often presented as a way to dramatically reduce the cost of a contact center by automating processes and therefore reducing headcount, but in my own experience I have found that it can also be used to dramatically improve the quality of service – rather than just be seen as a cost-reduction strategy.
As an example, look at Atom Bank in Europe. This is a full-service retail bank that has no branches – they operate only via a smartphone app. Their customer service team records every enquiry from customers into a central database and artificial intelligence is used on new enquiries to see if the customer question can be answered before any human agent needs to step in. It’s a very interesting approach because it demonstrates that the entire customer service team can be supported by the knowledge of the AI system – rather than being entire replaced. It’s like a very clever FAQ system that can find the answers automatically.
This is where I think real value can be created with automation, making the service team better, rather than just thinking of robots as a direct replacement for human customer service teams. Many customers still want to be served by a person – this should not be forgotten. We can use these technologies to augment what human agents can do rather than believing that it’s all over for humans in customer service teams!
Many of these ideas were explored at the Execs in the Know event. If you have any thoughts on this then please leave a comment or get in touch directly via LinkedIn.
Photo by Jeff licensed under Creative Commons.