Digitally Enhance Customer Service – Don’t Fully Automate It


Holger Reisinger argues that automating contact centre processes whenever and wherever you can isn’t the answer.

The answer, of course, lies in cutting costs. But are companies cutting off their nose to spite their face? In short, yes.

Automated customer service tools might save you money in the short term, but in the long term you lose customers – and once gone, they’re often gone for good. When a customer calls your business looking to solve a problem, it’s the human element they’re looking for – they’ve often already exhausted all other avenues.

In an age when many technological questions, health questions, etc., can be answered with a quick search via Google, when someone calls a contact centre it’s because they need to speak to someone with expertise – not a series of impersonal, automated responses.

Indeed, according to Jabra, 24% of contact centre workers consult with colleagues and supervisors when on calls, due to the complexity of the problems they’re now dealing with.

I’m not opposed to change. Indeed, technology should be used to enhance call experiences – today it can make calls clearer, make the experience more efficient, and even measure a caller’s stress levels. Technology works best not when it makes a person jump through automated, impersonal hoops with computer-generated responses, but instead when it aids true, meaningful conversation – when it helps two people connect.

And yet, the trend of increased call automation marches on. I was at Enterprise Connect Conference in Orlando last year, when I heard a Marketing Executive proudly announce: “We’re automating 97% of our customer service functions….”

I had to keep myself from jumping in and explaining to the guy what a colossal mistake this would be. Some functions simply should not be automated, and customer service is one of them.

To be sure, some customer service processes can be automated without inconveniencing or angering customers. Allowing them to, say, check account balances, add or drop services, and make payments online. These are relatively easy, low-cost, and high-return activities.

Give the People What They Want – People

As the e-tailing group, a renowned ecommerce consulting organisation notes, “While automation can be expedient, the resulting impersonal tone and risk of poor information is formidable.”

Had I interrupted our friend in Orlando, I would have given him and his colleagues three reasons why removing the human element from customer service is a mistake.

1. Real Problems Require Real Solutions

The most important part of customer service is resolving customers’ issues. Because humans have the ability to listen, understand, seek out information and apply accumulated knowledge and past experiences to situations, they’re far better problem-solvers than any machine could ever dream of being.

When an issue requires resolution, the risk to the organisation is too big to entrust the task to a machine. At that point, the organisation is at an important crossroads and can choose from two options:

  • Delight the customer with friendly service, and 73% will fall in love with your brand.
  • Anger the customer with poor service, and 91% will leave (and tell up to 15 people about it while heading out the door).

Given the choice, I’ll take the human approach any day.

2. We Feel Your Pain

What also makes people such outstanding problem-solvers is the uniquely human emotion of empathy. It’s the warm-and-fuzzy feeling that comes from a soothing voice that assures you that they understand your problem, and can fix it.

As the e-tailing group noted, the impersonal nature of automated machines makes them poor choices to handle vital customer service functions. The computerised voice that intones, “I’m sorry you’re having trouble with your selection” isn’t, of course, sorry at all. It’s an automated voice and the message is played to you, and countless others.

3. The Customer’s Always Right

Finally, consumers want choices in how they receive service. Many people simply prefer to talk to another person – even if it’s to handle a mundane task like checking a bank account balance. Denying them the opportunity to do so is misguided. Yes, it may be more expensive to the organisation – but it’s less costly than losing a customer.

I didn’t make a scene at Enterprise Connect by interrupting that executive’s conversation – but in a way, I wish that I had.

It would have been a decidedly human response.

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Jabra – View the original post

To find out more about Jabra, visit their website.

About the author

Holger Reisinger With a MSc. in Economics and Information Management, from the University of Applied Sciences and Technologies in Salzburg, Austria and over 21 years of experi­ence from the IT and Telecommunications industry, Holger is a passionate and visionary spokesperson for New Ways of Working. As an accomplished IT&T executive, with successful industry experience in leadership, sales, global marketing and operations, Holger Reisinger has over the last ten years been involved in Business Development for VoIP and before his current position he was heading-up sales in EMEA Central spanning; Russia, Eastern Europe, MEA & Turkey, Benelux, Austria and Switzerland.

Read other posts by Holger Reisinger

Call Centre Helper is not responsible for the content of these guest blog posts. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Call Centre Helper.

Published On: 12th Jul 2018
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