‘Slash And Burn’ Is The Wrong Approach For Automation - UK

What goes around comes around. How many times have you heard that expression? It’s true for fashion and it’s true in business. How many times have flares returned to fashion only to be swiftly returned to the wardrobe after yet another fashionable five minutes?

One of the most exciting areas of the customer service industry at present is automation. Chatbots, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine learning are all offering technological opportunities to truly enhance the customer experience, but how is most of the business media covering this?

Reducing cost. It’s like the old days of outsourcing. Who can forget the endless pitches at conferences ten or fifteen years ago when every supplier claimed to be cheaper than everyone else because they had sent their team halfway around the world?

I can’t believe that we are talking about amazing technological innovations one minute and then indicating all the fantastic cost slashing this will achieve the next. Take a look at this Business Insider research report from last year. The research is focused on how chatbots will transform the customer experience and what’s the summary of all this exploration? Contact centre costs can be slashed by 29%. In the USA alone, the cost of customer service to companies can be cut by $23bn, based on 2016 costs.

Is that all we are going to focus on? How companies can reduce the cost of serving their customers? Every industry analyst has been telling us for years that CX is the number one strategic priority for CEOs so who would seriously be using automation and bots to slash cost? Surely the real opportunity is in using these innovations to dramatically improve the customer experience?

I know we have seen all this before because I have personally seen it quite recently when supporting customers on chat became popular. Who can forget how the business media talked about this new customer service channel? I don’t remember many talking about the opportunity to connect to customers who actually prefer chat, or how it develops an improved omnichannel strategy?

No. The general approach was how much cash you can save. An agent on a voice call can only talk to one customer at a time, but with chat we can have one agent talking to four or five customers at the same time! Isn’t it going to be incredible when we can fire 80% of the contact centre because we can now handle so many customers simultaneously.

How did that work out?

Chat is part of an integrated omnichannel strategy. Customers like to use many communication channels and they often hop around from one to another. There never was a wholesale transfer of all voice calls to chat and there never will be.

So here we go again with automation. The billions that can be saved appear to be at the forefront of what the business journals are reporting, but this ignores the real innovation that’s taking place.

Giving agents access to AI is going to be like handing them Tony Stark’s Iron Man exoskeleton. Your live human agents can continue to offer a great human to human customer experience, but their systems will immediately have the answer to every possible question any customer can ask. The system improves with every interaction and it never forgets. Agents are suddenly Super Agents with the right answer to any question. Your customers are going to be happy, but so are your agents. It’s like handing them a single tool that can fix any customer problem.

I can see dozens of ways that automation is going to transform the customer experience and if an executive really wants to focus on improving CX then I think that’s what will also excite them. Not a 29% reduction in contact centre costs.

What do you think about automation being approaching incorrectly by the business media and expert commentators? Is everyone focusing too much on cost alone? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

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