Even before COVID-19 changed everything, automation and the focus on providing the best possible customer experience was on the rise.
The growth of automation was being ‘pushed’ by business-driven factors such as efficiency and cost saving. Now, automation is being ‘pulled’ by customers.
Gone are the days when people would complain that they could not speak to an actual human being. Now, people actively prefer to interact with a chatbot rather than a live person, as long as the problem is solved quickly and efficiently.
As artificial intelligence (AI) and automation become more sophisticated and intuitive, this can only become more popular and more widespread. Already the numbers are impressive with, for instance, PayPal now saying that 65% of customer queries are dealt with through automated response processes such as chatbots.
Automated handling is not a solution to everything. Some queries will require a human being to work through a problem, but many are straightforward enough to be handled automatically.
The advent of 5G will bring even more potential to streamlining the customer service environment. The goal of providing a complete digital experience is well within reach, and customers used to communicating via apps are on board.
It is now possible and highly beneficial to automate every part of the customer journey and put the customer themselves in charge of their own services and requirements.
It is, however, essential to take a holistic approach and allow customers to interact with your company in any way they want. An omnichannel strategy is as important as a smooth digital experience, with an app at its centre.
“It’s really encouraging to see the pull from end-customers wanting to go digital-first because they get a better customer experience serving themselves, whether that’s on a website, an app or an in-store kiosk” says Dominic Smith, Marketing Director at Cerillion. “Amongst our customers, we’re seeing a significant uptick in engagement across both online self-service and mobile app. And the beauty of digital channels is that they can be easily measured too – for example, in April, we saw increases of more than 150% in terms of the Monthly Active Users of our mobile app.”
The business benefits of a digital-first approach cannot be underestimated. Not only does an automated process reduce the risk of errors, increase efficiency and cut costs, the potential to increase sales during the customer interaction is significant. The increasing sophistication of AI will undoubtedly increase the effectiveness of whatever recommendation strategy you employ.
This is not simply a ‘nice to have’ idea
From a telco point of view, there are two areas of operation that constitute ‘table stakes’ – a network that is reliable everywhere and superb customer service. Once those two are achieved, then innovation through partnerships can happen effectively, and the digital-first approach will itself foster a culture that enables digital and innovative thinking.
The world of customer experience has gone full circle, from a massive in-house cost centre to an outsourced, lower-cost centre. What is now emerging is an interactive, digital-first experience that has the potential to become a profit centre in its own right.
For all businesses, this will involve real-time interaction with ALL business and operational support systems to eliminate manual processes that have always been slow and prone to error. The broad adoption of cloud services and connectivity of systems and platforms through APIs is making a better, more effective, customer experience a reality.
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