The millennials’ motto of “anytime, anywhere availability” is putting unprecedented demands on companies to deliver instant support around the clock. This means customer service companies need a new strategy to make sure those demands are met.
The key is to be proactive rather than reactive, to deal with customers across digital channels, and to make maximum use of new automation tools that can ease the burden on human agents. E-commerce companies must have a clear strategy for how to use digital channels such as chat, instant messaging and social media. In more traditional sectors, voice is still an important channel. But the millennials who shop online prefer to engage with companies across digital channels rather than over the phone. This means we need to change our traditional approach – putting the right human agents in front of our clients – to a more technological and digitalized approach.
The global turnover for the e-commerce industry is expected to increase from the current EUR 2,520 billion to EUR 5,230 billion by 2020. This makes it an increasingly important sector for the customer care industry, but also one that poses unique challenges. Traditional retail businesses only needed to offer customer services during normal business hours, when their stores were open. But since online stores never close, a support team must be available around the clock. The only way to handle that on a reasonable budget is to define a best-in-place self-service capability with automated technologies such as virtual customer assistants and robotic process automation tools that can provide a first level of support without human intervention.
Services have to be available 24 hours a day, and if you only have human support, it’s very expensive and companies cannot afford it. So they need to find the right balance between human and digital interaction with their customers.
This means customers will interact increasingly with virtual agents in the future (automated services using artificial intelligence to answer simple and frequently asked questions), and proactive support will be offered when an error is detected.
Transcom is constantly working to find the best industry-specific ways of using these new technologies. We appreciate that the same technology will be used in different ways in the banking, e-commerce and telecom industries, for example.
Even though an increasing number of interactions will become automated as time goes by, the individual customer service agent will still play a crucial role, even for e-commerce companies. The difference is that they will manage more complex tasks, working across multiple channels in the future, instead of specializing in just one.
In the past, the agent concentrated on just one channel. But we are moving forward with the ‘smart agent’ who, with the digital revolution, will need to have skills to handle everything from voice to chat, to e-mail, to instant messaging. In some cases, this will mean offering them more sophisticated training in the technologies available, and we are currently testing ways of improving things like agent motivation, brand advocacy, gamification and new compensation models.
This article was originally published in Hello Transcom 2017