In this series on the customer journey execution gap, we’re looking at how customer journeys are being reshaped by new technologies and behaviors, and how the speed of that change is challenging the best efforts of brands. In the last article in the series, we looked at how the twin prongs of data – in the shape of contact strategy and Voice of Customer data – can start to help you close the gap. 

In this fifth blog we’re going to zero in on two elements of transformation that can take cost out of the equation. Firstly, looking at how to manage contact demand by optimizing channel strategy, enabling agents to focus their efforts on the high-value, high-reward interactions. Then we’ll look at operations transformation and the potential for innovation to transform the contact center to make it as efficient and effective as possible. 

Why Your Contact Strategy Should Inform the Future Operating Model 

When looking at operations, it’s important to begin with analysis of contact demand. That gives an idea of where the volume of contact is coming from. In the last article we looked at a methodology for how to assess those contacts into different types. 

This first step helps identify where demand currently resides in the existing customer journey. Grouping contact types into themes, such as contacts that should be eliminated, nurtured or automated for example, then informs channel strategy.  

The next step is starting to plan that future channel strategy and operating model that treats the remaining volume in the most efficient way possible. This takes into account the best use of channels, as well as driving adoption of those channels, improving self service and use automation, all of which we’ll look at in this article. 

Technology is going to be a big part of rethinking operating model design. Often technology like generative AI is positioned primarily as customer-facing, but it’s going to be used to support a customer service agent and their colleagues as much as talk to customers. 

At Concentrix + Webhelp, we believe that the best customer experience is forged in a blend of the best of human and technology. Let’s look now at some of the ways technological transformation offers the potential for cost reductions while closing the customer journey execution gap.  

How Generative AI Can Work Hand-in-Hand With Human Talent 

Historically in customer service there has been a front office and a back office, where agents keyed something into the system, triggering an action that created a task for somebody in a back office to complete. But now generative AI-powered bots can understand what it is that the agents want to do and actually transact that end-to-end, so that in effect the bot becomes the back office worker. 

It helps to think about how this level of technology might complement human talent in the customer journey at three different stages: 

In front. The first stage is the ‘in-front’ task that replaces the agent with a machine. Speaking to a bot powered by generative AI, that not only understands what we said but what we meant, is now going to be increasingly accepted as part of the customer experience mix. 

Alongside. Next up, we talk about automation ‘alongside’ the agent: these are solutions that can boost the performance of an agent during a customer interaction by listening to the conversation and proactively recommending responses, answers, and content to make the agent more effective. This liberates the agent to have better-informed conversations with customers and offer them richer customer experience. 

For example, real-time speech transcription can automatically detect when certain products or processes are being discussed, and pro-actively display the relevant knowledge articles or workflows to the agent in the conversation, reducing handling times and improving the customer experience. 

Behind the agent. Finally, ‘behind-the-agent’ solutions can automate transactions and processes that have been triggered directly by the agent or customer. It also introduces opportunities for automation to improve the efficiency of shared services which support frontline operations, which might include Finance, HR, Resource Planning, Reporting etc. 

Helping Your Customers to Channel Shift 

Proactively helping your customers channel shift can also be a powerful cost-reduction exercise. For example this might include empowering them to self-serve, where the desire to do so has been identified in your contact strategy. We work with clients to unlock the value that’s being wasted through poor operational design.  

For example, at Concentrix + Webhelp we worked with a large UK retailer to evaluate their contact center demand drivers. One of the main areas we reworked as a result was its very popular ‘Contact Us’ website page. The page was very basic, simply giving instructions on how customers could call or chat, with limited information on FAQs. 

Instead, by restructuring the page around an order journey and each stage’s highest demand drivers, we redesigned the Contact Us page, optimizing it for demand reduction by offering a range of routes through, from self-service options to buying guides and contact channels. 

As part of the work, we helped the retail brand pivot to digital, by replacing phone numbers and email addresses with digital self-serve options. In practice this meant that where customers used to be presented with the phone number for each individual store, now they were presented with the option to chat live with an agent directly from their Google search results.  

Following the redesign, over the next six months call volumes fell by 40% while virtual assistant interactions rose by 326%, drastically reducing cost-to-serve.

How Technological Innovation Can Transform Customer Service 

So far we have looked at how technology can hold the key to rerouting customer demand. Next up let’s discuss operational transformation to handle the remaining high-value volume of contacts. 

Let’s take the travel sector as an example of what can be achieved. It transcends countries, cultures and languages – with the must-have requirement being highly-effective, global multilingual customer service.  

Traditionally, getting multilingual customer service right has been an incredibly complex challenge, resource-heavy and requiring operational hubs across multiple countries, often across a variety of voice and digital channels.  

At Concentrix + Webhelp we work with a number of clients in the travel sector to help them achieve multilingual customer service success. Previously travel companies may have struggled to, or indeed chosen not to, recruit advisors for less widely used languages, instead offering customers a ‘closest match’ alternative language and therefore a downgraded customer experience.  

Servicing digital enquiries in the customer’s native language shouldn’t be an aspirational aim, it should be the standard offering of any company within the travel sector with a global footprint.  

Our solution, Polyglot, translates customer interactions in digital channels from one language to another in near real-time with quality-checking human interventions. This means advisors can engage with customers in any location worldwide – and in any language – to resolve the enquiry promptly. 

There are three three key benefits that the service offers brands looking to deliver a multilingual customer service strategy:  

  1. Overcome language barriers
  2. Strengthen operational resilience 
  3. Create opportunities to grow 

Technology like this lifts the language barriers, deploying AI to offer the translation skills to manage any digital customer interaction – and remove the recruitment conundrum.  

Why Changing Demographics Also Hold the Key to Customer Service Transformation 

Finally, we’ve seen how changing technology can help reduce costs through operational transformation. But what about changing demographics too? A recent survey from a UK phone network revealed that nearly half (47%) of 16-24 year-olds let phone calls go to voicemail or reject them because they prefer to text (compared with just a fifth (18%) of over-55s) 

Now while there are dangers in demographic generalization, there does appear to be a generational trend away from voice to non-voice communication with brands. Anecdotally at least, the idea of anyone under 25 phoning a company appears to be an entirely alien concept for most.

What if Gen Z and many millennials’ expectations around text-based communication actually open up a lot of opportunities for technology solutions? Helping those customers to get speedy effective answers through non-voice channels could potentially help to reduce costs.  

Technical challenges like machine translation then become easier because there’s no transcribing of live audio from speech to text, then text from one language to another language. If it’s working solely in the customer’s own written language, tha margin for error is greatly reduced. 

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