Article of the week 10 – 2023

CCW 2023 – New start and generation change

The first Call Center World since the pandemic break is over, a few days have passed since then. Time to pause for a moment and reflect. What were the highlights? What were the messages? What new topics and trends are we taking away?

Hybrid working – the future not only for contact centers

Much has been discussed about CCW over the past two years. Is it still keeping with the times to hold an on-site trade fair for several days – when we have all changed the way we work in the meantime? Remote work, mobile work, home office, MS Teams and Zoom have been with us ever since. My personal answer is: Yes, definitely. Where else can you meet so much concentrated expertise in such a compressed space and time? Where else is it so easy and pleasant to live human interaction with all its content-related and social aspects – in technical discussions and also during a small chat?

Since remote work has become an important topic also in contact center environments, we at junokai recommend to our clients: The best solution, the best balance between remote and on-site usually offers a hybrid solution. The social, human, teambuilding, motivational aspects of direct human communication (or even of „tea kitchen conversations“) are an important factor. And this is just as true for communication between vendors and customers, vendors and clients, and everyone else. Yes, we travel much less than we did before Corona, and we probably never will again. But also, yes, every now and then a personal contact is more valuable than ten video calls.

Highlights – which topics were the most visible

Conversational AI. Conversational AI. And Conversational AI. Did I already mention Conversational AI? There was no booth, no company that didn’t have AI on its banner. We have arrived in the digital future. You ask what’s new about that, surely that would have been the case at the last CCWs before the pandemic?

Yes, but there is a fundamental difference. A few years ago, we talked about AI in customer communications as fiction, as the promise of the future, as something that would have a lasting impact on the world of customer service and customer experience in the years to come. Honestly, there were very few real, implemented, sustainable applications at the time. We knew AI was coming. But it wasn’t there yet.

Today, it’s here. With power. What was heralded as the future at trade shows and in trade journals just a few years ago is now reality. Artificial intelligence supports both customers and employees with voicebots, chatbots and emailbots, and is already in actual use in companies or at least in project planning. The solutions shown at the CCW by many providers – some of them young and just outgrown the start-up phase – work with a precision, naturalness and individuality that was not possible just a few years ago.

What is happening right now is nothing less than a genuine generation change, away from simple FAQ bots and from rigid IVR menus to extremely customer-oriented and individual real-time communication with naturally acting AI emulations. Especially for clear, simple, recurring processes in customer service, which often represent large volumes but carry no real added value for neither customers nor companies. With their automation, valuable human resources can be saved and used for complex and value-added concerns. 

According to a Bitkom study from 2022, 95% of the companies surveyed also see customer service as the primary application area for AI. But so far, only 4% are using AI to support employees. Still a long way to go. But it is already clear today: Automated communication with conversational AI applications is the new „normal“.

Of course, there was a second mega-topic at CCW: ChatGPT from OpenAI. Despite all the hype that is being made about ChatGPT right now, it can still be clearly stated: Yes, we are probably experiencing an „iPhone moment“, one of the rare moments when real gamechangers enter the market. Generative AI will have a lasting impact on our future – and not just in customer service.

However, as far as CC and CX are concerned, we should be realistic: Today, right now, it’s not there yet. ChatGPT was the talk of the town at CCW, but there were very few concrete, real, immediately applicable solutions on display at CCW. OpenAI’s engine is currently used, for example, to summarize customer emails into a few bullet points and thus facilitate processing, or to summarize conversation recordings transcribed via speech-to-text in a short and crisp way and store them in the contact documentation.  Workload reduction for employees, AHT savings measures. No gamechangers yet. But they will come. Quickly. We can be curious. In one to three years, Generative AI will have arrived just as Conversational AI has today.

And something else was striking: As much as AI and ChatGPT were talked about, the Metaverse was invisible. 

What does this mean for customer service today and tomorrow?

With the technologies and solutions currently on offer, we have outstanding opportunities to shape the customer service of tomorrow. On the one hand, it is possible to design attractive, individual 24/7 customer journeys and live customer centricity through their targeted use, and on the other hand, to effectively support and relieve employees in customer care, while at the same time raising significant efficiency and cost potentials and making the best possible use of limited human resources.

However, what has always been true also applies here. The tool alone is not the solution, a tool cannot make bad processes better. Simply purchasing and implementing an AI solution will not lead to success. It is about the clever, well thought-out, planned and designed integration into a customer care ecosystem that must already have previously defined, monitored and constantly improved processes.

The potential and possibilities of a Conversational AI solution only really come to fruition when all „Fix the Basics“ tasks have been consistently completed. These include:

  • Answers to the questions „What do I want my customer service to be like?“, „What do we stand for as a company?“ and „Where do we want to go, what do we want to be like in five years?“ – in other words, a customer service strategy, and clear goals and action plans derived from it
  • Description, training, execution and performance measurement of all relevant processes in customer service – in other words, the answers to the questions „What am I doing and how, and how well am I doing it?“ This applies to service content as well as to support processes such as recruiting, training, workforce management, knowledge management, quality management, …
  • And an understanding of one’s own customers, customer needs, customer journeys – and the will to place them at the center of one’s actions.

Only when these tasks have been solved or these questions have been answered does it make any sense at all to deal with the question of what a tool/software should look like in order to support the implementation of the strategy and the achievement of the goals. An omnichannel application, a knowledge management tool, but also a chat or voicebot. Only then does it make sense to go into concrete selection processes and implementation.

There is a lot to do, but it is worth it. We at junokai support you on this way. With advice and with action.

Gerhard Klose – Principal Consultant


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