How can we deliver the ‘human touch’ in today’s digitalised customer service?

How can we deliver the ‘human touch’ in today’s digitalised customer service?

Consumers now are more mindful of their purchases and demand informative replies, quick response time and problem resolution. Organisations lacking in these areas risk losing current and potential customers.

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While there has been accelerated digital interactions between business organisations and their customers, only 1 in 5 customers experienced customer service that exceeded their expectations according to a study by Forrester.

Digitalisation of customer touchpoints, including the use of tools like CRM or Helpdesk, is not enough in building meaningful relationships with customers.

iTNews Asia speaks to Patsy Wong, Chief Strategy Officer at CINNOX, to find out how business organisations can integrate the missing piece in digital communication and interactions- the human touch. 

iTNews Asia: With the pandemic leading to mass digitalisation of communication between businesses and their customers, what are some touchpoints that cannot be digitised?

In many ways, people still love a sense of human touch - especially for touchpoints which are associated with strong feelings or emotions. For example, when people make a major purchase, receive financial advice or make a complaint, people want to receive the kind of assurance, empathy and emotional feedback that cannot easily be digitalised.

Businesses should try to make it easier for customers to get answers for standard queries, to free up resources to handle those that are more open-ended, with many variables. Also, real voice responses are difficult to scale up in the way that other digital communications can be, although the right tools can certainly make the implementation more efficient.

iTNews Asia: Is there any aspect that companies can improve on that will significantly increase customer experience without sacrificing the benefits of automation and technology? 

Once interactions have been digitalised, businesses have the opportunity to capture data to generate actionable insights. Whereas previously, businesses would get customer feedback from surveys to measure the level of advocacy or customer satisfaction, using metrics such as NPS or CSAT, we now have more accurate methods which don’t rely on voluntary self-selection.

Today, businesses can even leverage new machine learning technologies such as NLP or NLU to understand underlying sentiment, topics of concern and other trends based on interaction data - without even specifically asking customers for it. These kinds of insight can be very powerful, because it reflects the raw and unfiltered opinions from customers, and how they genuinely feel about what they are experiencing.

Based on these more honest and direct insights, businesses can apply automation to create efficiencies in areas that are deemed repetitive, thereby reducing friction in areas that require human intervention.

iTNews Asia: Is there a possibility where we may never be able to replicate the real human experience as we pursue more touchpoints? 

It really depends – while technologies continue to evolve, and AI continues to learn from new data and inputs, we are seeing things happen which previously seemed impossible. We need to keep in mind, from a practical perspective, that the nature of each business and the intent of customer requests will dictate the level of complexities and variations that AI is able to handle.

No matter how advanced AI becomes, the most useful application is still going to be a human-in-the-loop situation that allows people to step in when needed, to recalibrate or sense-check any computer-made decisions. When it comes to customer experiences, the emotional quotient is highly complex and nuanced – this is something that requires General AI, not Narrow AI. Even so, there’s still a long way to go.

There are of course some attributes that are uniquely human, and there are roles which depend on these qualities that will continue to require real live people to carry them out.

  1. One is ingenuity; the ability to use things in new ways, which is something machines can’t do. People have the ability to surprise us all the time. We invent things, put seemingly incompatible ideas together and create something entirely new.
  2. Empathy is another. Think about the difference a good doctor can make to your health. Or how your favourite teacher made you feel. Or the last time someone in customer service made you smile. People can do that - computers can't.
  3. Then there's judgment. Algorithms follow what is logical, but sometimes this doesn't deliver the right answer. Should a bereaved person be held to strict payment terms on a loan? Should autistic children who don't like being touched be punished for striking out when they are touched? Humans are able to show empathy and understanding and take into account extenuating circumstances.

iTNews Asia: Is there an example of a company that has successfully struck a balance between personal and digital interaction? 

Yes, certainly - one example would be where a mortgage lender extends a promotion via SMS to prospective borrowers, with a link to start a WhatsApp chat. Once the chat is initiated, it will first be answered by an intelligent chatbot, to identify the intent and channel the inquiry to the right member of staff. Upon identifying their intent, a workflow is executed which gathers the borrower’s info - for example, if the intent is to apply for a loan.

As the application process continues, the borrower could initiate a live human chat to clarify the application requirements. If the chat is not sufficient to clarify the queries, the agent can call the borrower directly to explain. Once the queries are answered, the borrower can submit the paperwork via WhatsApp and the agent can proceed with the approval process.

The above process is just one example how a frictionless customer journey could be mapped out, using a balance of personal and digitalised interactions.

No matter how advanced AI becomes, the most useful application is still going to be a human-in-the-loop situation that allows people to step in when needed, to recalibrate or sense-check any computer-made decisions. When it comes to customer experiences, the emotional quotient is highly complex and nuanced – this is something that requires General AI, not Narrow AI. Even so, there’s still a long way to go.

-Patsy Wong, Chief Strategy Officer at CINNOX

iTNews Asia: How can companies improve on their current digital tools to improve customer experience?

To improve customer experiences, it is important to understand that it’s not just about the tools; it’s about people, process and technology coming together to build a solution.

Businesses should first take a look at their technology stack and identify any gaps that need to be filled. Most companies will have invested in certain CRM and/or Helpdesk software, and this is a good place to start. However, such tools will most likely lack the capabilities to connect with customers over digital touchpoints and will need to be augmented with new tools that provide such capabilities.

With an increasing number of digital and traditional touchpoints, a platform that can provide a unified view will allow the agent to be more productive, without having to flip back and forth between multiple applications. Such a platform must also be able to unify the customer identity across multiple touchpoints, to give the agent full visibility of past interactions, to avoid asking the customers the same questions over and over again. Also, the orchestration mechanism will have to ensure that customer enquiries are routed to the most suitable agent.

Last but not least, the availability of data provides a valuable opportunity for using analytics tools that can evaluate trends in the customer experience and provide actionable insights for ongoing improvement.

To reach the editorial team on your feedback, story ideas and pitches, contact them here.
© iTnews Asia
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