Skip to content

The Future of Customer Communication

Augmented Human Service – Next Generation Automated Service

The ability to deliver answers to our customers and prospects that are efficient, effective and convenient to both parties is the goal – balancing service with cost.

Too much is said about channel, multi-channel, or omnichannel – although this is relevant as customers need choice for situational convenience. However, more bias must be given to:

  • the bearer of delivery (human, automated or self-service)
  • the science of how answers to questions are derived
  • how we identify the caller/texter/person on chat/person on video so that a frictionless, yet secure, entry to every customer conversation can be achieved.

We can explore this through looking at:

  1. Channels
  2. Bearers
  3. Answers
  4. Identity

We are at an incredibly primitive life-stage in all of these areas. The future of customer communication will see a significant leap in neural network and advanced logic capabilities. Conversational intelligence will extract meaning, intent, questions, topics (known and unknown) and combine this information with internal and external data sources, from workflow, policy and knowledge to weather, traffic reports and the daily news.

The key to customer communication, irrespective of whether the bearer is human or a machine, is the art of building context from the question or request to known internal factors (what did they buy, return, complain about, inquire about etc?), policy (the standard operating procedure) and external factors depending on the case and question in point.

In short, we are only just entering the digital world, but humans are not digital and our ability to listen, understand and relate to multiple historical transactions, as well as current and future influencing factors, in real time, is precisely zero! We were not designed for the big-data world.

Let us start with channels
Channels are the roads to answers or actions, getting you to the port where another service takes over that can give you the answer or action you seek. Channels are important for several reasons. They can act as the gatekeeper of cost control but be aware they can also be the driving factor behind significant customer frustration.

For the supplier:
Channel-to-service availability can be used by the supplier to ensure certain services or products

only land with low-cost bearers (we will get to this next). For example, we can deliver lots of content and potential answers in a website FAQ page, or perhaps deploy a chatbot for specific queries.

Furthermore, channels can be defined dynamically, such as by customer profile, by time of day, by location and, of course, availability of other bearers (typically human agents). This ensures high-value or late-sales-stage customers get the best service, which may cost more but is more appropriate.

For the customer:
Channels can also be used to suit the customer. Where there is no need for a conversation and the service is highly productised, customers may find it more convenient to select an app channel to transact a policy change, move money or request an upgrade.

Next, the bearer
Once the customer has selected a channel, or has had the channel selected for them, they are delivered to your choice of bearer. This may be human, automated or self-service, i.e. an agent, IVR, IVA, chatbot, auto-email, FAQ page or app.

These services are positioned to deliver the answers or actions needed, so they are all connected to, or have inbuilt, knowledge, skills, process and governance. For humans, these can be augmented with technology to help support them through any format of customer request. For automated and self-service channels, the art is to ensure the questions or actions are quickly recognised and logical answers or actions are quickly actioned.

In most cases they work well where highly defined processes or product services are required, for example when listening for or presenting options to which they have a “canned answer” – (is this a credit card, mortgage or loan question?) But the automated and self-service bearers are also a significant cause of customer frustration and complaint. We have all been there. I JUST WANT TO TALK TO A HUMAN BEING!

How we derive answers and transact actions is key
To deliver rapid, accurate and appropriate answers or actions requires knowledge, skill, process, context and policy. Whether automated or manual, the same elements are leveraged. This is becoming the most important area of focus for all customer management departments, as mundane and highly productised processes or product offers are increasingly automated or self-service centric, and the agents are left to deal with more complex, valuable or failure-based issues.

Furthermore, as our world becomes more digital, competitive, complex (both in product/service and compliance), fickle and prone to churn, the context element is becoming increasingly difficult for humans to compute. There is just too much data to process at the time of a conversation to be able to decode what has happened, when, why, to whom and how many other interactions have taken place before the call. Augmentation systems are growing apace to help support the agents who are dealing with complex initial transactions or sales, or complex failures where process and, perhaps, system audits are required to ensure the root cause of failure is fixed.

Gaining identity
Automating identity management through low-friction biometric techniques is going to gain traction, as it is a major cause of frustration and failure, whether this is done to streamline the process and to remove friction, or to fully identify for security and privacy reasons. Voice biometrics and in-app biometrics are already allowing the customer to gain instant access to services in a frictionless way. They allow the systems to pre-compute the context of the call based on historical interaction, whether that be human, automated or self-service, so that the service callers receive is accurate, acknowledges the history and context, and is dealt with rapidly.

We are about to witness a significant leap forward in capabilities in the areas of next generation augmented agent support and the next generation of automated agent.

Both of these technologies will go way beyond today’s very crude AI and automation techniques that typically scan for known questions or actions with predefined response paths. The future will be natural, conducive, emotionally intelligent, will understand context of internal and external factors, and will be available in any format and channel, accessible at any time from anywhere.

If you would like to get in touch, please contact Contexta360