Is the Human Factor Killing in Customer Service?
In the wake of the COVID-19-induced lockdowns and preventive measures, most companies have been forced to step up their digitization efforts. That also meant that many of the business interactions moved from brick-and-mortar stores to the online domain. And even when the pandemic is over, the movement towards digital solutions will still continue. Therefore, most of us would be forgiven for asking if the human factor is dying in customer service.
While digitization is on the rise, some customers are still traditional
Digitization has the greatest impact on the human factor. This is especially true for English-speaking and French-speaking countries. Digitization is faster in those countries than in smaller ones, because products are developed for widely used languages. Meanwhile, smaller European or Eastern European countries with niche languages must wait for technologies to be shared and adapted into their language.
While many companies have digitized their offerings, allowing people to do most of their shopping and interactions through digital channels, it is worth noting that there are still many people who prefer the traditional brick and mortar stores. They prefer to meet a real human being of flesh and blood in their interaction with the company. When it comes to customer relationship management, CX clearly shows that interaction with staff is one of the main drivers of both customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction. That will not change in the near future.
For example, companies try to motivate people to pay their bills online and charge extra if you try to pay it in the branch, but some people are still willing to pay the extra to pay the bills to a real person. Pay. That’s because they distrust the online systems.
Digitization is not yet autonomous
While movies like to portray AI and machine learning in fantastic ways, where a robot can teach itself new skills and reactions in hours, if not minutes, the reality is much tamer. A chatbot or voicebot uses algorithms to learn, and it has to get tons of information before it can properly respond to your questions.
Well, there are bot trainers that feed these algorithms and check the accuracy of the data output, so there’s a pretty significant learning curve for that bot before it starts to get useful.
At the beginning of the digitization era, it was estimated that a bot would need the support of 30-50% of the resources being replaced, and that describes a bot that manages relatively simple calls.
Digitization costs money
A company’s financial goals are often at odds with digitization plans. To start the process, you need to invest a lot of money, which you will pay back for a long time. At the same time, you still pay the wages of frontline employees who work on the touchpoints and communicate with your customers.
Those same employees will also be responsible for convincing your customers to switch to your digital services and channels. So during the start-up period that can last up to several years, you are investing in both digitization and paying your employees, which can put a strain on the company’s finances. This is often not a feasible activity for smaller companies.
Bots are not yet equipped to tackle complex problems
Most large companies serving different markets work with different languages. For the most part, they’ve solved automated responses in these languages for simple tasks like activating and deactivating services or paying bills. However, more complex requests have yet to be handled by human agents. These employees can ask further questions to understand the client and in turn the client relies on them to solve their problems and appreciates their efforts.
However, if a company is to move towards digitization with these processes, it will require a significant investment and a very comprehensive system for the bots, backed by data scientists and analysts, who continue to refine both the processes and the bots. In addition, there will always be requests that must be handled by employees. In short, if you wanted to fully automate everything, the costs would be so astronomical that it makes no sense to invest in it.
Rather invest in the good employee engagement software that will take your employee satisfaction to a new level. And happy employees equal happy customers. Employee motivation management is still not obsolete.
For example, after the audit of one company, the recommendation was to replace call center employees with an IVR system. However, the company found that it was more cost-effective for them to pay 50 call center operators to handle call forwarding than to implement an entirely new IVR system.
Processes are too complicated
Even big players struggle to meet customer demands quickly. Most people probably have experience shopping at major online marketplaces. When they need to solve a problem, they often have to go through too many self-service questions, which should help them solve the problem or put them on the right path to solving it. All too often people get lost in that process because they can’t find the answer they’re looking for.
By the time you’ve clicked through most of the questions, you’re annoyed, tired, and just want to talk to someone who can easily solve the problem with you. Someone to whom you can easily describe the problem, and who will jump in and try to solve it with you to your satisfaction. So if in the near future there isn’t a super-effective AI that can answer your questions as you type it, people will still overwhelmingly prefer interacting with a real employee, who can answer their questions, reassure them, and maybe even joke or drop two.
The human factor does not die
Simply put, the human factor is not dying out in customer service, nor will it be in the near future. The human approach has something digital technology does not: a human face. Customer service agents have compassion, empathy and understanding for customers, something a bot or a digitized service cannot provide. They can empathize with customers and not only apologize for an accident and provide a solution, employees can give customers hope and reassurance.
In other words, companies that want to have very loyal customers and high customer experience and satisfaction at their touchpoints can never have fully digitized the touchpoints. Interaction with employees will always have one of the biggest impacts on customer satisfaction.