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Research: The Future of Customer Service is an Adaptive Workforce

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One of the hottest contact center topics in 2020 will be hybrid human and AI workforces, according to the State of Customer Service 2020 report by the Incite Group. Contact centers are increasingly applying artificial intelligence that’s merged with other technologies like machine learning to its human workforce.

The majority of customer service executives indicated that they plan to use automation for many back-end uses in the service sector, such as for gathering basic information, automating the handling of routine customer issues, case classification and routing, providing management with operations insights, and for pre-filling fields in the agent console.

With bots handling the routine tasks, humans will be free to focus on connecting with customers and delivering faster and better service, predicts Paul Coulton, customer service and operations director of Plusnet. “I think that the companies that will be the most successful in terms of moving forward will be the ones that adapt and embrace their diverse workforce the best [and] then pass that on to the customer,” Coulton stated in the report.

At the same time, there’s more room for improvement. Customer service executives’ top priorities over the next 12 months include:

  1. Continue creating a customer-centric organization and collaborating internally (18.7 percent)
  2. Keep scaling to keep up with evolving customer expectations (17.9 percent)
  3. Move from reactive to proactive customer support (13.4 percent)
  4. Synchronize channels to deliver a seamless omnichannel customer journey (13.1 percent)
  5. Improve response time and first contact resolution (9 percent)

Channel automation and metrics

About 67 percent of the survey respondents said email remains the top support channel, followed by voice (53 percent) with virtual assistants/chatbots representing the third most-used channel (45 percent). In terms of applying artificial intelligence to the contact center, AI was noted as a top technology trend by 56 percent of those in Asia-Pacific, compared to 42 percent of North American respondents and 41 percent of European respondents. Respondents from Asia-Pacific were also more than twice as likely as those in Europe and North America to say that all tier-one support agent roles should be automated.

Customer satisfaction is by far the most common customer metric with 47 percent of respondents indicating that they measure it. Metrics that provide long-term views of the customer are also key, the report notes, as reflected by retention rates being the second most popular metric, used by 38 percent of respondents and customer lifetime value (30 percent).

Even as companies seek to automate more tasks in the contact center, human input remains a critical part of the customer experience. In fact, many AI and automation solutions in the contact center are focused on helping humans excel at their jobs, rather than replace them. And while the customer service industry is still in a state of flux, it is becoming clearer that customer interactions of the future depend on the successful intersection of humans, robots, and data.

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