We have discussed the synergies between evolving customer needs and emerging technologies in modern customer service in our Dynamics 365 for Customer Service blog; but we wanted to take a look at complementary and ground-breaking service technology that will shape both customer expectations and business’ reactions in many years to come. Truly what is the future? Are ChatBots and Virtual Assistants a fad or a reflection of how customers want to do business with us?
The balance of customer care, simplicity and profits
In the UK news in recent weeks there have been two examples of businesses that are making large-scale changes in the way they operate – with customer service at the centre of the decision.
British Telecom (BT) has invested £1m in a new centralised B2B “Network Operations Centre” (iNOC) serving its larger enterprise and public sector clients in the UK, manned by 170 IT experts. Along with this physical change, BT are also offering a “self-service” online portal for customers to see their own transaction history. This has followed a CIO-led approach by the telecoms provider in answer to falling revenues from this sector. So it seems that for BT, the rationalisation, the harnessing of technical expertise and the self-service model, is all enabled by modern technology.
Another big UK employer Tesco has also announced a rationalisation in their customer service operations, bringing them together in one expanded contact centre in Scotland. As Internet Retailing website comments: “The decision goes to the heart of the supermarket’s strategy to focus on the customer, while transforming the business to a sustainable and cost-effective model to meet the demands of a fast-changing retail environment. Last month it said it was to start using voice-controlled Google Home to enable users to add things to their Tesco shopping basket.”
Those are just two very recent examples. According to PwC in its latest UK Economic Outlook report; “Up to around 30% of existing UK jobs could face automation over the next 15 years, but new AI-related technologies will also boost productivity and generate additional jobs elsewhere in the economy.”
So it seems there is a shift in skill sets in the wider customer-facing universe, with more of a blend on technology to support business to help customers. But what are these “AI-related technologies”?
ChatBots and Virtual Assistants – a key part of modern customer service
As we saw in the Tesco example with Google Home, virtual assistants are helping the customer directly with how they order goods and services from businesses; but ChatBots and Virtual Assistants are also being used in the back office to assist organisations make decisions and also provide simple customer care scenarios and routing of cases.
According to Gartner, by 2020 85% of customers will manage 85% of their relationship with a customer through AI (artificial intelligence).
In a Tech Crunch article, it describes how more than 10,000 companies in the UK are developing Facebook Messenger chatbots. ABI Research further quantifies this automation (over 90,000 developers currently working within Google, Microsoft and Amazon) and predicts how it its popularity will grow.
There have been a few recent news stories about the teething-issues with customer-facing AI tech, but this in itself comes with the territory of machine learning using algorithms and analysis of real-life conversations or scenarios.
Microsoft have been surfacing their Bot developments through such customer interfaces as Bing, Teams, Skype for Business and Skype, and have encouraged organisations to develop their own Bots via the open Microsoft Bot Framework. Skype users can choose from a menu of Bots in the Skype directory for a variety of purposes and add them as contacts.
ChatBots and Virtual Assistants certainly help with the self-service element of customer service, replacing the one-dimensional FAQ page of websites for example, it allows contact centre staff to be freed up on more complex cases for faster resolution and added value. This has a positive impact on the customer but also enriches the working life of the service team.
Speak to Prodware about how Microsoft solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Customer Service work seamlessly with AI technology such as Cortana Intelligence and Bots to enhance customer experience, improve employee productivity and ensure your organisation is relevant in today’s changing environment.