by Bernard Gissler & Ernest Gbehi, Sopra Steria France
The boom in digital technology (smartphones, tablets, internet of things, etc.) results in an increase in remote communication channels between customers and companies. Customer behaviour becomes almost compulsive to get a satisfactory answer in real time, regardless of the request made to customer services. Companies need to constantly rethink their positioning. How should they prepare themselves for future changes? What strategies should be implemented? How will future customer relationships be integrated into these business strategies? How will current contact centres, which are the pillars of customer relationships, evolve in order to address these changes? Two things are certain: technology will continue to evolve and customers will be increasingly more demanding.
How will a contact centre of the future look?… Let’s go back to the future
This question results in a different answer depending on the person asked.
For some, contact centres will become organisations in which processes will be fully automated and “robots” will do the work of humans. The organisation will be perfect, faultless and completely self-managed to satisfy all types of customer demands at any moment. In this way, humans will be confined to non-automated tasks or tasks without high value-added, so as not to “spoil” the fluidity and efficiency of the processes in place.
In our vision of this future, “robots” will not replace agents in contact centres (except with regard to opening hours, low value-added tasks, etc.).
The agents in place will have more advanced skills and will be immersed in a highly digital culture.
These future agents from generation Y and Z, who were born and raised to “be” digital, are extremely comfortable with the technology and are multi-taskers. Thanks to their DNA, these generations naturally have the ability to switch from one application to another or to find information quickly. They will be able to simultaneously manage, for a single customer, interactions from various channels or interactions with several customers over a single channel.
The communication channels available to agents will be considerably more developed, in line with technologies on the market, at least at the same level as the customer’s equipment.
A new generation of agents, digitization of processes, use of data interpretation tools in real-time … all of this will enable companies to anticipate customer needs.
On the other hand, contact centres will be extended and fully virtualized with the development of “home agents”, who will be capable of working from anywhere and able to be activated on request.
“Home agents” will experience a serious boom, as they enable very significant savings to be made.
Internet of Things: an ENORMOUS volume of interactions to supervise
A multitude of interactions from both customers (humans) but also, and above all, machines (as is the case of connected objects) will have to be dealt with by contact centres.
A transformation already adopted by trailblazers and which will continue to grow
In the digital age, customers have more decision-making power and the ability to discredit even the biggest of companies through comments and hashtags #. Customer services are a key way to differentiate between (offers made by) companies. Contact centres must therefore be positioned at the heart of the customer relationship and e-reputation strategy.
How can we prepare them to meet the needs of tomorrow’s customers?
The first transformation to take place relates to the tools available to agents and customers. It is no longer acceptable for agents to be obliged to “juggle” between several applications before obtaining valuable information to deal with customer requests.
- What is the last interaction with the customer, taking all channels into account?
- What was the customer’s experience?
- Is there any important information that the agent should know about the customer?
Agents must be able to quickly access relevant information in order to be proactive and be different. It is important to keep in mind one basic thing: to offer a seamless customer experience, the agents’ interfaces must be accessible and fluid with up-to-date information available for all channels. The customer must have a 360° view of products and services.
In 2015, only 17% of companies offered a consistent response between several channels (email/Chat, Facebook and Twitter). In the future, companies will have to offer fully omnichannel solutions as a minimum. To achieve this, companies should already have implemented mix-channel solutions as a minimum.
Surveys show that we are still falling far short of the mark. Proposing an offer of readable, coherent, omnichannel services must provide a 360° view of customers and vice versa. This transformation requires old architectures to be abandoned in silos for the benefit of architectures more suited to the current digital revolution. The 2nd transformation concerns customer interfaces. They must be smart, rich and accessible at any moment in a secure manner.
The customer journey will be more fluid thanks to innovative interfaces, capable of incorporating the latest technological developments (video, voice biometrics, social networks, geolocation, cognitive science, etc.).
Some companies have already started this transformation. This is the case for Sopra Steria who launched a prototype of a virtual assistant with IBM Watson Artificial Intelligence tools. Thanks to conversation analysis, the prototype makes it possible to capture information about the customer and how they use products and services. It also retranscribes the conversation in order to:
• Offer an advisor a qualification
• Highlight the management application (or action) responding to the context
• Go further with extended services. It reveals the dialogue with a virtual advisor up to the use of internal banking production services.
The integration of smart intelligence and increased intelligence in self-services will improve their performance and make them able to continually learn and therefore adapt to even the most complex customer demands.
These highly evolved tools know how to stand back, when necessary, to give way to human involvement providing added value.
In our vision of the future, accident reports will no longer exist. In fact, vehicles will be able to send information from their black boxes to the owner’s insurance company.
In the event of an accident, insured parties will exchange information with their insurers (contact centres) orally but also, and above all, using geolocation tools, on-board videos in smartphones, etc. To monitor these transformations, tools must be implemented in order to use the masses of customer information in real and non-real time.
New indicators such as the quality level of customer experience (and therefore its measurement) must be defined and implemented.
To conclude, we are only seeing the first signs of how tomorrow’s remote customer relations are transforming. These strategic transformations will impact all organisations at every level.
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