Contact Centre Summit | Forum Events Contact Centre Summit | Forum Events Contact Centre Summit | Forum Events Contact Centre Summit | Forum Events Contact Centre Summit | Forum Events

Posts Tagged :

Customer Service

Are these the Top 3 priorities for customer service leaders in 2024?

960 640 Stuart O'Brien
Reimagining self-service, piloting employee-facing GenAI, and exploring new offerings in the customer journey analytics (CJA) market will be top priorities for customer service and support leaders in 2024, according to Gartner.

A Gartner survey of 246 customer service and support leaders conducted September through October 2023 revealed service and support leaders’ priorities for the coming year amid their increasing responsibility for technology strategy in their organization.

“Advances in GenAI and shifting customer preferences are pushing service and support leaders to reimagine what’s possible for their organization in 2024,” said Kim Hedlin, Senior Principal, Research, in the Gartner Customer Service & Support practice. “Leaders are focused on how they can leverage technology to accomplish their top priorities, including improving customer experience and optimizing their operations.”

Leaders Pilot Employee-Facing GenAI to Assist Reps

Seventy-nine percent of service and support leaders surveyed were knowledgeable about their enterprise’s plans for GenAI adoption. Of these leaders, 83% said their enterprises either have plans to invest in GenAI or have done so already.

While much of the hype around GenAI in customer service has focused on customer-facing chatbots, many service and support leaders plan to invest in employee-facing GenAI assistants that will support reps in the next 12-18 months. Of leaders whose organization is planning to make GenAI investments, 94% report they are at least “exploring” employee-facing virtual assistants.

“Many leaders see employee-facing GenAI as an experimental step on the way to deploying customer-facing virtual assistants,” said J.J. Moncus, Principal, Research, in the Gartner Customer Service & Support practice. “Respondents indicated it’s an important way to learn the risks of GenAI while still having a human in the loop, before moving on to riskier customer-facing deployments.”

Shifts in Customer Preferences Push Leaders to Prepare for the Future of Self-Service

In order to meet younger generations of customers’ growing preference for self-service, many service and support leaders will experiment with new self-service capabilities in 2024.

However, these service and support leaders face implementation challenges. Among the service and support leaders who cited self-service adoption as a priority in the survey, 51% also named it a significant challenge for 2024. Interviews with service and support leaders revealed multiple reasons why self-service implementation is challenging, ranging from organizational resistance to data disorganization.

However, early experiments with GenAI have helped leaders to envision new possibilities within self-service.

“The GenAI hype is providing momentum for leaders’ self-service investments,” said Hedlin. “Leaders have seen glimmers of a future in which conversational interfaces powered by GenAI could handle more complex interactions than a traditional chatbot. That vision is helping shape leaders’ self-service strategy in 2024.”

Leaders Invest in CJA to Understand Customer Journeys Holistically

Fifty-six percent of service and support leaders surveyed say they plan to invest in the CJA market in the next 12-18 months. CJA enables leaders to analyze customers’ interactions with their organization over time and across channels. Of those who say they’ll be investing in CJA, 45% indicate that they’ll be investing in this market for the first time.

“Customer service and support leaders are using CJA to gain a more holistic understanding of what customers need,” said Moncus. “Customers’ and executive leaders’ expectations for service interactions will only continue to rise .Service and support leaders need to identify and understand significant customer touchpoints in order to deliver a better experience.”

Photo by Mimi Thian on Unsplash

Generative AI ‘revolutionising’ retail customer communication channels

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

From revolutionising the nuts and bolts of supply chain operations to turbo-charging customer service, generative artificial intelligence (genAI) stands on the forefront of innovation in retail – its ability to fabricate hyper-customised content is turning the tables in marketing and communication strategies.

That’s according to says GlobalData, with the analyst’s Practice Head of Disruptive Tech at GlobalData stating: “In a retail environment where the product-to-experience shift is increasingly significant, genAI can enable the creation of immersive, personalised experiences, integrating virtual and physical retail spaces in a manner that resonates with modern consumers’ expectations. Moreover, it is no longer about a one-size-fits-all engagement; rather, it is about a tailor-made experience catering to individual needs.”

Saurabh Daga, Associate Project Manager of Disruptive Tech at GlobalData, added: “By leveraging key data points from customers’ purchase history and preferences, genAI can facilitate building personalized shopping experiences and targeted marketing strategies. The technology can empower retailers to deliver superior service at reduced costs, leading to greater customer satisfaction.”

GlobalData’s latest Innovation Radar report, “Cognitive revolution: genAI meets retail,” offers a comprehensive view of how the disruptive technology is being deployed across the retail value chain, from inventory management and personalized marketing to customer experience and support.

GenAI can transform retail operations such as inventory planning, product recommendations, and customer service. Promising genAI applications include creating new product designs based on defined criteria and sentiment analysis to predict customer trends.

Traditional retailers like Carrefour and IKEA are using genAI to streamline operations and augment customer support. Meanwhile, e-commerce players like Amazon, Shopify, and Instacart are leveraging genAI to improve online shopping experiences and increase cart conversion rates. Big technology companies such as Google and Salesforce are offering genAI solutions to help e-commerce players as well as retailers optimize their online customer engagement.

Daga concluded: “While there are inherent challenges in implementing genAI, particularly in consumer-facing sectors like retail, the potential for substantial progress is undeniable. Challenges such as content quality and privacy must be managed through strong governance. Small and medium retailers can benefit from strategic partnerships to overcome entry barriers required to build the supporting technology, infrastructure, and personnel for genAI implementation.”

Small businesses ‘failing to capitalise on unique customer service advantage’

560 374 Stuart O'Brien

Less than half (40%) of consumers find that small businesses offer a more personalised customer service experience than larger corporates.

That’s according to FM Outsource’s new report, Small Business Customer Service In 2023: A Missed Opportunity?

The research, which investigated whether small businesses are meeting customer expectations, found that the majority of consumers (60%) feel that larger businesses offer a higher quality of customer service across a range of key areas in which smaller enterprises should have a natural advantage.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given their comparative restraints on resources, only 40% of respondents think that small businesses resolve their complaints quicker than larger businesses.

But just 39% of people said that small businesses seem to care more, despite challenges such as the cost-of-living crisis impacting earnings.

Additionally, only 37% said they believe small businesses are more likely to go the extra mile to resolve an issue, and less than a third (32%) said they are more flexible when coming to an agreement on a problem.

Martin Brown, CCO at FM Outsource, said: “While larger businesses typically have the advantage of greater resources to invest in their customer service, smaller businesses should – in theory – have their own advantage in being able to offer a more flexible, personalised service to their customers. The research shows that unfortunately many are failing to do this and may be experiencing negative consequences as a result.”

The research also revealed the business implications of substandard customer service with just (41%) saying they would be equally as likely to leave a negative review for both small and larger businesses following a poor customer service experience.

Brown continued: “The research really emphasises that small businesses cannot afford to rest on their laurels when it comes to customer service. Consumer expectations are continually increasing and it’s clear that there is a real risk of small businesses suffering negative online reviews, and an associated loss of custom, if they fail to meet those expectations.

“What can really set a brand apart from its competitors is the way it treats and communicates with its customers. Excellent customer service is vital for every brand and, yet, at a time when it should be most prioritised, it’s falling short. Outstanding customer service can be realistically provided by businesses at both ends of the scale, but only if they view it as a priority and not an afterthought.”

These are the technologies impacting customer service and support in 2023

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The technologies with the most current value to service and support organisations are those that support assisted service.

That’s according to a Gartner survey of over 200 customer service and support leaders conducted December 2022 through February 2023, which revealed that the top technologies currently impacting customer service include: case management systems, internal collaboration tools and cloud-based contact centre systems to be of most value in 2023.

“Today, the most impactful technologies in service are ones that support reps to deliver low-effort, value-enhanced experiences in the live channel,” said Lauren Villeneuve, Sr. Director, Advisory in the Gartner Customer Service & Support practice. “These technologies are critical to continue to shift customers’ transactional issues to self-service so reps can focus on more complex issues.”

Figure 1. Top Five Most Valuable Technologies in Service (% of Respondents)

Source: Gartner (May 2023)

Customer service and support leaders generally saw more future value in technologies that help them understand their customers’ multichannel service journeys.
Leaders named several advanced Voice of the Customer (VoC) analytics methods among the anticipated-most-valuable technologies in service across the next two years, such as predictive analytics (85% respondents indicate high future value), digital experience analytics (84%) and customer journey analytics (83%).

Digital channel capabilities — in particular, using chatbots and delivering service via live chat — are also anticipated to see significant increases in value over the next two years.

“Customer service and support leaders recognize that the future lies not in simply adding more channels, but in delivering a continuous multichannel experience supported by consistent knowledge content and smooth, nonrepetitive channel transitions,” said Villeneuve.

Virtual Customer Assistants and Chatbots Are Expected to Grow the Most in Value

Survey respondents also recognize the growing need for investment in virtual customer assistants (VCAs) and chatbots. Of all the technologies asked about in the survey, they held the largest increase between current and future value: Roughly three-fourths of leaders indicated that chatbots will be highly or very highly valuable to their organization in two years.

Concurrently, VoC analytics methods are expected to have the largest increase in anticipated deployment by the end of 2023. As customer service and support leaders look to move beyond surveys for capturing VoC, a majority are expected to deploy or pilot some kind of sentiment analysis (72%), customer journey analytics (68%) and digital experience analytics (65%) by the end of the year.

“This signals that customer service and support leaders see the value of tracking customer experience as they navigate digital and multiple channel offerings,” said Villeneuve.

“The technology landscape in service and support is constantly evolving – and we expect it will continue to do so, particularly with the recent advent of generative AI,” Villeneue said. “For now, leaders are continuing to find value in the technologies which have traditionally supported service and are looking towards these technological advancements to further mature the function.”

Customer service being ‘neglected’ too often, says research

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Nearly half (42%) of Brits don’t feel that customer service is a widespread business priority, leading to brand images being tarnished and business lost.

In the Make Every Conversation Count report from FM outsource a quarter (24%) of people felt that the general standard of customer service has declined in recent years. Respondents were most critical of the travel industry’s customer service offering, with 32% saying they have witnessed a decline, closely followed by utilities (31%).

When asked about the reason for this, 38% said that they believe companies take their customers for granted, suggesting that consumers largely place the blame for poor customer service with the business itself, not with individual agents that they have interacted with.

Even after a poor interaction with a customer service agent, 60% of consumers recognise a bigger picture: that it was a result of poor employee training. Only a third (33%) blame the decline in customer service on the poor attitude of individual customer service agents.

There is a clear link between company image and customer service quality, with 86% of people stating that a customerservice conversation had negatively affected their relationship with a brand or business.

Kirsty Robinson, Head of Marketing at FM Outsource, said: “Businesses’ reputations are on the line with every customerservice interaction. Just one poor experience can mean the loss of any repeat business and undermine the marketing efforts intended to win the customer in the first place.

“Agents, whether internal employees or outsourced, must be treated as integral members of the workforce, whose engagement and loyalty are not overlooked. Our research clearly shows that failing to do so will reflect badly on the entire business.

“Customer service acts as the face of a brand and as such must show genuine empathy towards customer issues. The ease and speed of communication and how customers are spoken to and treated by advisors, helps them to decide whether that company values their loyalty and repeat business.

“With the increase of review platforms and social media there is increased visibility of customers’ frustrations and customerservice shortcomings and your consumers are well aware of that.

“Nowadays, one bad experience can very quickly have a negative, irreversible impact on brand reputation. This is something that brands need to consider carefully. The customer experience cannot be undervalued.”

20% of inbound contact centre volume will come from machine customers

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

A fifth of inbound customer service contact volume will come from machine customers by 2026, as advances in Conversational AI, Automation, and Low Code Resources impact ways customers and reps interact.

Machine customers are nonhuman economic actors that obtain goods or services in exchange for payment. In customer service and support, they will resemble virtual assistants or smart devices that perform customer service activities on behalf of their human customers, such as reporting issues or gathering product information.“Machine customers will reset customer expectations about what constitutes a low-effort experience, creating a greater competitive gap,” said Uma Challa, Sr Director Analyst in the Gartner Customer Service & Support practice. “Organizations that embrace them will be able to differentiate their value and close the gap by meeting this new standard for effortless service.”

By 2024, Gartner anticipates 100 million requests for customer service will be raised by smart products.

Initially, machine customers will be best served in enterprise chatbot channels due to that channel’s ability to serve these requests at scale. Smart organizations will start to invest in conversational AI platforms (CAIP) to enable bot-to-bot communication.

“Organizations without a machine customer strategy in place won’t have a good way of distinguishing between human and machine customers,” continued Challa. “They may see their non-chatbot channel performance get worse without understanding why.”

Customer service reps are increasingly automating portions of their job to make their work easier, often but not always using company-provided tools to do so: Gartner anticipates 30% of reps will do so by 2026.

Examples of self-automation activities include using quick auto-response technology in emails to customers or using an unauthorized third-party call recorder to transcribe customer calls.

“While self-automation has been happening for a while in the software space, this trend will become more present internally in customer service because reps now have improved access to automation tools,” said Emily Potosky, Director, Research, in the Gartner Customer Service & Support practice. “Emerging resources such as AI models (e.g., Github Co-pilot, OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Codex) will continue to make coding more accessible to reps, regardless of their skill level.”

With this in mind, Gartner expects there will be a greater variety of products in the marketplace centered around employee automation, specifically, low- or no-code solutions targeted at reps to help them self-automate. Vendors that offer collaboration platforms may also increase investment in coding features to allow for groups of reps to work together to self-automate.

Customer service and support organizations that not only allow but authorize self-automation will become more competitive than those that don’t, as reps will notice and correct inefficiencies that leaders are unaware of,” said Potosky. “These organizations may also become more attractive employers, because potential job candidates are likely to appreciate the organization’s flexibility and openness to innovation.”

The rise of machine customers and self-automation opportunities represent a shift in how employees and customers use technology to interact with customer service. The growing accessibility of technology means that customers and employees are using it in unexpected, and often unauthorized, ways.

To prepare for this, customer service and support leaders should:

  • Create a framework for due diligence to review and approve self-automation opportunities.
  • Invest in a scalable chatbot platform to make it easier to enable machine customers to interact with enterprise bots.
  • Harness employees’ willingness to augment their own work processes, enabling them to create more engaging and effective ways of working.
  • Measure channel performance – bot-to-bot as well as non-chatbot channels – to understand the impact machine customers have on your overall channel portfolio.

‘Connected Rep’ strategy will improve contact centre efficiency by 30%

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Customer service functions that implement the “connected rep” will improve contact centre efficiency by 30%  by 2026.

The connected rep is a strategy that enables customer service reps (CSRs) to perform high-quality assisted service at scale. It bridges technology and talent, using context, guidance, and design to reduce rep effort and increase consistency across interactions.

“As CSRs handle more complex customer interactions, upskilling or recruiting strong talent is a challenging and costly approach to help reps respond, especially in a tight labor market,” said Kathy Ross, Sr Director Analyst in the Gartner Customer Service & Support practice.

“Instead, leaders must go beyond traditional talent levers and include rep enablement technology as a core component of talent strategy. This is the crux of the connected rep.”

By investing in a connected rep strategy, customer service and support leaders can reduce their reliance on costly talent strategies and increase the value of their assisted service interactions at scale. This is increasingly important with there being a 25% median attrition among customer service reps, according to a March 2022 Gartner benchmark of over 100 customer service and support leaders.

“Rep enablement technology can create lower rep effort, drive consistent outcomes, and promote customer experience (CX) and efficiency,” said Ross. “A dollar invested in rep technology is a dollar that stays when the rep leaves.”

Gartner says customer service and support leaders looking to reap the economic, CX and employee experience (EX) benefits gained from investing in the connected rep should:

  • Evaluate the gaps and growth areas in the current state of rep enablement technology, and build a legacy system shutdown strategy with enterprise partners
  • Secure approval of rep enablement investments by developing a business case that prioritizes helping inexperienced reps perform in highly complex environments
  • Build a roadmap to support their connected rep implementation by partnering with IT to assess the current state technology architecture and data management capabilities against the requirements to implement the leader’s vision

Half of customer service reps avoid adopting new tech

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Forty-five percent of customer service reps (CSRs) avoid adopting new technologies by relying on legacy systems and tools.

A Gartner online survey of 888 CSRs and support specialists from August 2022 revealed access to legacy systems is the main barrier to new technology adoption.

“Many leaders believe that certain groups are less likely to adopt new technologies, such as reps who are older or work from home,” said Melissa Fletcher, Sr Principal, Research in the Gartner Customer Service and Support practice. “However, the survey shows that these groups are not more likely to resist new technology, and what matters instead is reps’ access to legacy systems and tools.”

Reps who have consistent access to outdated tools use them 20% more frequently than reps who have less access to them. Half report still having access to legacy systems and tools seven to 12 months after a new technology rollout, given the difficulty that comes with removing such.

“Shutting down old systems is the single most impactful action that a leader can take to encourage rep adoption of new technologies, but it shouldn’t happen all at once,” said Fletcher.

Customer service and support leaders can take three approaches to ease into shutting down legacy systems:

  1. Grouped features: Assign features to groups based on the screens or systems they are in, and then remove rep access to these groups one phase at a time
  2. Login elimination: Remove direct login to the legacy system, and only allow legacy login for features not yet implemented
  3. Designated user groups: Assign a small group of reps who will have permission to perform actions in the legacy system, while removing access for the remaining reps

“Prior to engaging in any shutdown strategy, customer service leaders should meet with key stakeholders in IT as well as front line managers to set expectations around the transition period and the issues that are likely to arise,” said Fletcher. “Cross-functional teams can better assess causes of reduced performance such as system bugs or user error and develop short-term workarounds to maintain productivity while addressing these issues.”

Digital transformation for finance – and what it means for customer experience

1024 682 Stuart O'Brien

By Dr. Palanivel Rathinasabapathi Velmurugan is a Lecturer at Berlin School of Business and Innovation (BSBI) in Human Resource Management & Finance Stream

Information technology is becoming an integral part of our daily routines because of digital transformation. All businesses must embrace digital transformation, no matter how large or small. If you fail to incorporate digital transformation into your business, you will fail. As you use digital transformation in your business, you will benefit from improved efficiency, better business agility, and a better understanding of how to deliver value to customers, employees, and stakeholders.

In recent years, the financial sector has experienced a variety of digital transformation trends, which have several advantages for businesses and society at large. Digital transformation in finance is the method of using digital technologies to improve financial services with the objective of making them more efficient, effective, and easy to access anywhere in the world. In the context of finance transformation, it is possible to restructure and implement the finance working model, bookkeeping and finance activities, financial capabilities, and re-platforming of finance and accounting system software. With the advent of digital transformation in finance, various FinTech companies now offer a wide range of digital services to their customers.

Over the last few years, a vast number of banking customers have shifted from traditional banking to mobile banking (Digital Transformation). As a result, customers save time when accessing the bank in person since it is generally less busy, and it is more convenient because they can access online banking anytime, anywhere. Paperless transactions are one of the most significant trends in mobile banking.

Blockchain technology (Digital Transformation) plays a crucial role in this transformation. By introducing blockchain, people will be able to recognize, record, and store assets digitally and will be able to invest their resources and trade in markets better. Through better integration and governance, blockchain can support financial operations more efficiently and effectively. This has resulted in blockchain playing an increasingly significant role in the digital transformation of finance and investments.

Businesses that implement robotic process automation (Digital Transformation) can significantly improve their ability to digitize finance functions. Automating repetitive tasks reduces an employee’s workload and frees them up to emphasize value-added activities. Additionally, RPA can reduce the likelihood of human error, improving accuracy and compliance. It is expected that RPA will play a more vital role in achieving efficiency and measuring success as organizations continue to digitize their finance functions.

In the world of financial data, artificial intelligence (Digital Transformation) can be useful in identifying gaps and inconsistencies that would otherwise go unnoticed. By using AI, expense reports can be produced accurately and up to date, which is crucial for making informed decisions. The forecasts provided by finance companies are based on past data and current trends, so they can help enterprises foresee future demands and plan appropriately. Using AI-enabled analytics, the digital finance transformation can be supported through improved data quality, truthfulness, and efficiency.

After AI, quantum computing made use of the quantum mechanical phenomenon to tackle a wide variety of computational and algorithmic issues. A financial instrument, such as European call options in the derivatives market, is priced over time using the Black-Scholes-Merton model that uses Brownian motion. A wide range of applications is possible with this technology, including fraud detection, high-frequency trading, payments, and cybersecurity. The use of quantum AI (Digital Transformation) automates the entire crypto trading process to make it easy and profitable for you to invest in crypto. An advanced AI and quantum computing algorithm are integrated into a web-based computer programme. In trading, AI Quantum computing is the first system that combines AI with Quantum Computing.

Increasing accuracy, providing more reliable output, reducing manual intervention, and increasing automation are considered the top business case drivers of the digitalization of finance functions by customers. As mentioned in this article’s introduction, ICT is an integral part of our daily life. In this world, customers and investors will never be able to return to traditional forms of financial trade or services once they have participated in the digital transformation of finance.

Customer data and analytics ‘top priority’ for achieving customer service goals

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Customer service and support leaders cited customer data and analytics as a top priority for achieving organisational goals in 2023, according top new research.

In a Gartner online survey of 283 customer service and support leaders from August-October 2022, 84% of customer service and service support leaders cited customer data and analytics as “very or extremely important” for achieving their organisational goals in 2023. Eighty percent of respondents ranked digital channel effectiveness as “very or extremely important,” along with employee performance, development and quality assurance.

The Gartner survey revealed improving operations and growing the business are the two most important business goals for 2023.

“Understanding customers’ needs and expectations for their service experience is integral for improving loyalty and creating customer value, especially when organizations are up against economic headwinds,” said Jonathan Schmidt, Sr Principal, Advisory in the Gartner Customer Service & Support practice. “Executing on this vision requires investment in customer data and analytics, knowledge management, and an enduring partnership with IT.”

In light of recent economic headwinds, customer service and support leaders plan to devote more resources to improving, automating or eliminating inefficient processes (59% of respondents), migrating service volume to digital and self-service channels (51%) and contributing to the top-line by creating customer value (46%) in the near future.

“In tough economic times, customer service and support leaders are often encouraged by their CFOs to make do with what they have,” said Schmidt. “Given how difficult it is to hire and retain talent, it makes sense that they are tackling inefficiencies and prioritizing digital channels as a strategy for driving down costs without reducing headcount or sacrificing customer experience.”

With these survey findings in mind, Gartner recommends customer service and support leaders:

  • Collect actionable customer data across channels through a robust VoC program that goes beyond surveys and incorporates more advanced methods such as speech, text and digital experience analytics. Leveraging these methods for decisions on personnel, processes and technologies, is key to a successful customer service function.
  • Build digital self-service teams to oversee the digital channel strategy, manage channels like products, and work closely with data analysts to develop and measure success metrics.
  • Enable customer service agents with technology, such as connected desktops, to help them better guide customers through resolution.