We are living in a digital age. People are more willing to self-serve and the use of AI and robotics for customer service is growing. This drive to automation has the potential to benefit organisations and their customers across all sectors.
Business employees understand how AI helps deliver operational efficiency and enhanced customer service. According to a recent survey we commissioned, which polled professionals and experts working to assist the customer service effort, 69% believe AI increases the speed at which they can resolve customer queries, while 27% claim the implementation of new technologies such as robots and automation would be the single thing that would help them serve customers the most during 2019.
Yet there are many pitfalls that could face organisations as they migrate to digital – not least failing to take account of the wider needs of their workforce. It is important businesses guard against leaving their own employees behind and failing to allay their concerns about the digital future and their role in it.
On the upside, many employees do feel their employers have been sensitive to their needs. 75% of respondents said they have had a positive experience of technological change within a contact centre or customer service environment, while just 6% said their experience had been negative. Moreover 85% of the sample agree with the statement: ‘my employer gives me the tools and technologies to deliver the best possible service to customers’.
However many employees are concerned about how they will be personally impacted by robotics and AI. In fact, 73% of respondents to our survey said they were concerned their job might become fully automated in the future. And many don’t think that day will be long deferred. 36% said they thought their job could become fully automated within five years.
Despite this, however, there will always be a need for people in customer service. Robotic technology is far from fool-proof. Organisations need to realise their AI systems are not immune to being hacked. Businesses need to ensure they are putting the right security and threat protection technology in place to guard against this.
Interactions that are complex and heavily-regulated will also need an element of human intervention. Taking out a life insurance policy or a mortgage for the first time is a case in point. While you can often initiate a starter process online you are unlikely to be able to finish it without the help of a human adviser.
The other key area where a human touch will always be necessary is where interactions cannot be handled effectively by normal, straight-through processes. Even with optimum planning of the customer journey, there will always be some customer engagements requiring human involvement. It’s important that organisations recognise this and put skilled resource in place to manage it.
The final area is what McKinsey terms “moments of truth: those interactions – for instance, a lost credit card or a cancelled flight – when customers invest a high amount of emotional energy in the outcome.” In such scenarios, robots struggle. Humans can understand the customer’s concerns, display empathy and offer advice that is accurate, informed, reassuring and calm. Customers who receive such service at these ‘moments of truth’ often demonstrate higher levels of long-term loyalty.
That is why there will always be a place for humans in customer service. And why it is so important that businesses take their employees with them on their digital journey. After all, a good customer experience will always be driven by a good agent experience. And that’s a lesson that every customer-facing organisation would do well to learn.
To find out what employees really think of the encroachment of AI and automation in the work place download our whitepaper for the full picture.