The disruption never stops. Between supply chain issues, workforce shortages, natural disasters, and whatever is about to hit us next, disruption is everywhere – and it’s causing an abundance of unhappy customers.
The worst part: disruption typically causes a spike in customer service needs, which magnifies customer experience (CX) issues for brands that are not prepared. The initial disruption inevitably leads to a wave of additional problems and requests, which further strains customer service teams.
But this isn’t new. We’ve been operating in a state of disruption for nearly three years now.
While it has been difficult, to say the least, the disruption has forced customer service leaders to reevaluate how they think and shift how they operate.
Perhaps most importantly, these changes present the perfect opportunity for leaders to reimagine and deliver a new, better era of customer service.
Better CX at the Intersection of AI and Humans
The most prominent change we see is combining artificial intelligence (AI) with human capabilities to increase productivity and customer satisfaction.
Some people may think AI is there to replace agents, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. AI is there to complement or assist agents and streamline service.
For example, the airlines have been dealing with unprecedented travel chaos this summer and are canceling or delaying flights daily. In fact, over 1,000 flights were canceled over the Fourth of July holiday weekend in the U.S.
As a result, airlines have been inundated with thousands of upset customers trying to reschedule their flights; and agents simply can’t move fast enough to meet demands. One of the worst stories we heard is of an airline passenger who drove 45 minutes to the Denver, Colo. airport to rebook his seats after spending nearly four hours on hold.
This is unacceptable for any industry. While not the entire problem, tedious tasks such as authenticating identities, collecting background information, and forcing customers to repeat their issues create unnecessary delays and makes transactions more time-consuming.
AI can tackle tasks like these, allowing agents to focus on resolving customer issues and shortening time-to-resolution.
Balancing Automation in Customer Service
Although implementing AI is critical to upgrading CX, there needs to be equilibrium at the intersection of AI and humans.
However, when it comes to automation, many organizations look at it as a solution to cutting costs.
Many organizations still view customer service as a cost center and prioritize cost efficiency above all else, which pushes them to rush tech adoption while failing to consider the impact of poor automation on the CX.
The key is striking the right balance between automation and the human touch.
Automation, self-service, and human agents need to work together for the best CX. Are the customers looking to solve simple problems? Automated self-service is probably a great option. Is the situation a bit more complicated? Chatbots or virtual agents could collect preliminary information prior to connecting the customers with live agents to solve the larger problems.
Oftentimes, 100% automation leaves customers frustrated with an endless loop of questions, prompts, and answers that don’t solve their unique problem.
Having that human-to-human interaction is vital for customer satisfaction, as bots also can’t express emotions like sympathy and understanding.
Similarly, frustration mounts when a customer must wait on hold for the answer to a super simple problem that could easily be solved with automation.
The solution to this problem lies within recognizing that contact centers are instead a profit and brand driver.
Take Google’s Contact Center AI as an example. The solution improves customer service with AI that understands, interacts, and talks to customers, allowing human agents to focus on more difficult and specialized calls.
As such, executives should continue to invest in automated service options, while prioritizing a strategic balance between automation and human agents.
Personalizing the CX is Key
Another change we see is brands expanding the number of communication options available to customers and personalizing their experience.
When it comes to technology, Generation Z, Millennials, and Baby Boomers have vastly different preferences.
We can’t expect every generation to want the same CX; therefore, we need to adjust our offerings accordingly.
Cloud-enabled contact centers give brands more options to offer to customers, and in turn, give consumers more choice – including traditional phone calls, live chat, SMS messaging, or even in-app support.
Seamlessly blended channels eliminates friction that arises when customers switch from email to chat to voice – providing a differentiator against most customer support teams.
AI can help automatically extract all the relevant information about customers, their existing relationships with the brands, recent purchases, the current problems, and more.
When equipped with this information, agents are proactively prepared to provide better service to the customer with no repetition needed across channels.
These extra insights enable agents to be more personable, empathetic, and solution-focused, making the customers’ and agents’ experiences seamless and enjoyable.
Moving to the Cloud
A final trend within the industry is the explosive growth of cloud infrastructure across customer service.
A driving factor of this is security. In the first quarter of 2022, the number of reported data breach incidents increased by 14% compared to the same time period in 2021.
Also, the average payment for ransomware attacks increased by 71% from last year, with the average payouts now approaching $1 million. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is clearly under attack, and this is where enhancements in cloud-based technology and security comes in.
With many contact center agents now working from home, cloud-based technology allows remote agents to access their work platforms through installed applications or internet browsers.
One of the safest ways to secure PII is in cloud-based storage, as it allows agents to regularly back up their computer and data, reducing the risk of losing data and data breaches.
With the enhancements made in cloud-based technology, more companies are making the transition with security and privacy compliance top of mind.
The rise of multi-cloud infrastructures has been around for many years. However, most of the time it is delivered on proprietary services through Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, or Google Cloud Platform, which leaves companies 100% dependent on one specific infrastructure.
While these services are very reliable, they are not foolproof. In June 2022, Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365 experienced online outages that lasted about 12 hours.
Outages like these leave customers in the dark. On the other hand, the simultaneous configuration of multiple clouds increases availability and builds business continuity and resilience.
If one infrastructure is down for maintenance or a natural disaster affects a specific region, the other cloud applications can readjust and balance out the customer service load while the primary server recovers.
Given the significant impact outages can have on a brand’s reputation – and the cascading impact and nature of disrupted customer service operations – expect to see more brands requiring their technology to be deployed via true multicloud infrastructures.
The Future is Bright for Contact Centers
Contact centers have experienced a rapid pace of transformation and change dating back to the early days of the pandemic.
While the shift has been massive – and for some, very hard – brands have an opportunity to capitalize on the momentum and strive for a great CX. The key is to balance modern technology with human agents, and to always keep up with and prioritize the customer’s changing needs.
Thankfully, new advancements in technology makes this achievable and easy. It’s time for brands to get on board and reap the benefits.