As much as the topics of automation, AI and voice/chat bots are dominating many discussions at the moment and the focus and customer service strategies are almost completely focussed on these technologies, the following key point is increasingly taking a back seat:
Why do customers call us and how do we eliminate the main causes, especially of unwanted contacts?
The reason for this is easy to explain: the new technological possibilities provide more flexible options for processing or scaling even high or highly fluctuating contact volumes without additional personnel costs. However, this also reduces the pressure on the organisation to tackle fundamental problems at the root cause or to resolve them in the long term.
Of course, it is interesting and useful to have automated solutions ready when unplanned (!) problems occur that drive call volumes to extreme levels. However, we are increasingly recognising the trend to also provide general problems and errors with an impact on the contact volume with the order to the customer service department to process these automatically; after all, this is why a lot of Budget has been invested in this technology.
KPIs such as „number of automated processes x resolution rate“ and/or the evaluation index „how satisfied you were with the automated contact“ are then chosen as confirmation or success criteria to indicate the successful implementation of AI/automation.
This is not wrong in itself, but here a customer only evaluates HOW the customer contact was processed and not WHY the customer contact was created in the first place. Because, hand on heart, no customer is looking forward to having to contact customer service in the event of a problem.
This information on the causes of the contact is usually available, even without AI: Be it through speech analysis, contact classification, customer feedback or employee surveys. However, instead of customer service driving the issues into the organisation (usually the actual cause of the contact) with the appropriate backing and looking for sustainable solutions, customer service is often faced with the dilemma of cushioning problems that arise elsewhere, as has been the case in recent decades.
As long as this basic attitude does not change, every technological advance such as AI will help to process customer concerns more flexibly or cost-effectively, but the actual root causes and therefore customer dissatisfaction will remain.
If you clearly recognise the tendencies of a development in this direction and bring the actual drivers for customer contacts back into focus, the consequence must be analogous to a good navigation system – which recognises that you are travelling in the wrong direction and reacts with „Your route is being recalculated“.
Hence our TIP at this point: Even if it is good, helpful and sensible to use and further develop automation and AI as tools for better and more flexible processing of customer contacts in order to better manage costs: Don’t forget the basics and keep questioning the root cause of the customer contact and work precisely towards eliminating these root causes.
Make these causes transparent and, above all, quantifiable. In particular, highlight the advantages from the customer’s perspective of eliminating the root cause compared to (automated or manual) processing in customer service (symptom).
Just as the Auto Motor Club breakdown service has a wide range of special tools for all kinds of breakdowns and you are happy that they can help you quickly and easily in case of doubt, as a customer you are happy if you never have to use them because you don’t have any breakdowns.
Carlos Carvalho – Senior Consultant