The Future of the Service Center: The Human Factor
What sounded like a utopia just a few years ago is now reality: Smart devices communicate independently with one another, various communication channels usefully are linked with one another on platforms and neural IT systems are automatically handling service processes. How important is the human factor and how important will it remain in the increasingly digitized world of customer communication?
Despite all of the technical opportunities that seem to be growing day by day, customer service provided through service centers will become no less relevant in the coming years. In fact, the opposite is true: They will become much more strategically important. That’s what 60 percent of respondents to the Service Excellence Cockpit 2016 survey thought. 150 companies throughout Europe took part in the survey. The reason for this? It’s not just products or services that inspire consumers’ loyalty to a company. It’s positive experiences when they need advice or a problem solved by customer service. Ideally these customers would become multipliers who actively recommend a certain brand. And customer support representatives play a key role in that. After all, the expectations consumers have for customer service go beyond purely technological solutions.
And good service from a customer support representative can do much more than just increase the net promoter score. Customers reaching out and speaking with service center agents offers an ideal opportunity for cross-selling and upselling. This comes with a few requirements: The sales pitch is taken seriously as a service. Customers value being offered products with real added value.
All this is to say that humans are also – perhaps even especially – a crucial factor in a company’s success in this era of digital transformation and artificial intelligence. New technologies can help service employees complete their tasks (think of robots taking over standard processes), but they can’t replace them. At the same time, the automation process keeps throwing up new challenges. For example, expectations of customer service have never been so high: It’s got to be done quickly, ideally in real time. It’s got to be mobile and flexible, available on all devices and all channels. And, of course, it’s got to be customized and personal.
Three factors for success
As executives see things, ensuring service centers are able to play a strategically important role in the near future depends on three things:
1) Choosing the right employees
Even though artificial intelligence is growing increasingly smarter, empathy and emotions will not be replaced by technical solutions for the foreseeable future. “Individual communication at the emotional level is important in reaching customers,” says Dr. Jörg Reinnarth, expert on CRM, customer dialog and trend research at the Cintellic Consulting Group. Business coach Alexander Herzberg puts it rather succinctly: “Great people, great business.”
2) Training employees
Excellent service is not the product of coincidence. It is the result of solid work and permanent improvement. In addition to professional qualifications, the issue of identifying with the brand or product is key when training customer support representatives. After all, they are the ambassadors of the brands and products they’re providing service for.
3) Choosing the right technology
Technology can lighten the load on employees and provide them with support. As part of a pilot project, Arvato CRM Solutions examined how efficient things like AI systems and chatbots are, and what we need to be aware of when implementing them. This, along with knowledge management systems, plays a major role because an effective system can provide employees with all the relevant information from different sources in one place at a glance.
Author: Editorial team Future. Customer.
Image: nd3000 – Fotolia/Adobe Stock