• Guest Blog: Howard Williams: The conversation engine of the future

    852 668 Stuart O'Brien

    The clock struck twelve and 2016 ended to a collective sigh of relief. But what does 2017 have in store? The last twelve months laid down the groundwork for some exciting advancements in technology, with the prospect of virtual reality and voice operated assistants already poised to advance throughout the year. But what about developments in more traditional technology systems and processes, like customer relationship management (CRM) and consumer support centres? Howard Williams, marketing director for live chat software developer, Parker Software, investigates.


    More than 50 per cent of consumer purchases are currently being made online, and predictions suggest that by the year 2020 online retail expenditure in the UK will grow by nearly 45 per cent. There’s no doubt that the way customer service teams interact with consumers will continue to transition to an increasingly digitalised forum throughout 2017 and beyond.

    With the need for heightened digitalised services, the way the call centre industry needs to evolve and adapt is key for the coming year, with service leaders predicting customer live chat usage to grow by 87 per cent throughout the next 12 to 18 months.


    Connecting the connected

    This growth in live chat demand is taking place against an Internet of Things (IoT) backdrop that’s full of smart homes, smart cars and even smart factories. As more devices and systems are developed to interact and connect with each other, we are entering a world where the list of what we cannot achieve with customer relationship software is shorter than the list of what we can.

    The way current live chat software integrates with CRM systems is ready to be revolutionised in 2017. We’re talking heightened integration, automation and smarter systems to create a central hub of communication monitoring. A vital shift when you consider that, currently, 79 per cent of global contact centres say they have no comprehensive view of a customer’s various interactions with a business.

    Imagine, as a customer service representative, that you receive a live chat enquiry from an irate customer, who becomes increasingly frustrated when you ask them to explain their complaint for the fifth time this week. You try and sympathise with them, but you’re already starting off on the wrong foot and winning them round becomes almost impossible.


    Board the conversation engine

    Now imagine a system that automatically documents a customer’s full communication history, previous orders and contact details. Information that’s immediately put at your fingertips next time they reach out — whether through live chat, phone or email. You are informed and able to help immediately with a personalised, more human exchange.

    Systems capable of driving this kind of customer service relationships are not that far away. On the horizon we can see a conversation engine that automates the important information that we let fall through the cracks, such as conversation, contact and order history, and is capable of directing customers to the same service agents each time the consumer makes contact — no matter how they reach out.


    Don’t forget the bots

    Bots stole headlines for various reasons in 2016, and we can’t look at the future of automated technology without exploring how they will feature over the next year or so. Bots will be a vital pawn on the conversation engine chess board, but only if they are used intelligently to support a customer’s journey from initial query to speaking to the right person in the correct department. Software bots need to facilitate quality human interaction, and anyone attempting to replace the human experience with a bot will fail. Only a person can build the meaningful, long-lasting relationships with consumers that businesses rely on for repeat business.

    Integrating standalone software and digitalised programs to create a single, comprehensive system is where we see the call centre developing in 2017 — will you be boarding the conversation engine with us?


    Stuart O'Brien

    All stories by: Stuart O'Brien

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