Digitisation and today's problem-solving logic constitute a significant challenge for corporate customer services. While customer needs are increasingly complex and difficult to understand there is not yet a comprehensive IT solution on the market, so experimentation and risk-taking remain. Is the future of customer services unknown? We asked Adorján Bortnyák, Product Manager at Geomant.
When we talk about customer service today, what are we actually talking about?
According to the classic definition, and what most people think, customer service is about solving a problem that affects the client. But if we're talking about the digital world today, customer service begins much earlier than the appearance of a solution or problem; it's a holistic view of the whole customer experience.
Can you tell us more?
For example, if customers want to buy or use a service, or collect information about a particular company, we are already talking about customer relationships, and that goes beyond solving problems. Nowadays, it is a basic expectation that companies should be available at any time from any channel. What's more, customers expect to be able to swap between these channels without interruption, for instance, they could start a conversation on Messenger and continue by email but would expect to talk to the same person, or at least not have to repeat themselves.
How complicated is it to follow customers' needs and wishes?
This is the issue I discussed during my presentation at the February Evolution Conference, the title of the presentation was: "Digital Customer Service, A Blessing or a Curse? Because we think companies are facing two significant challenges in this area, for one, they don't know which digital channels their clientele or customer base will appreciate and prefer, so it's challenging for them to adapt. They are in a period of experimentation, and of course, it's easy to say that companies can be present on all channels but the other challenging factor in this area, on the IT side, is that it's challenging to sync these channels so that customers can switch between them. Getting this functionality tends to involve difficult decisions and complex tasks.
Companies are rightly starting to build so-called 'island solutions', stand-alone solutions that focus on one area. For instance, some companies will develop a mobile application for a particular process that will work beside the classic call centre. Other typical examples are companies setting up chatbots and machines for automating small processes again beside their call centre infrastructure as opposed to in line with it. The result of this activity, however, is lots of fragmented solutions for different processes.
Wouldn't it be better to have one solution, instead of these 'island solutions'?
That's right. The customer expects a company as a service provider to have a passage between these channels. And the issue of IT solutions here is that the orchestration technology able to put these islands into a single system is missing from most providers for the time being. So there is a missing "conductor" role that brings together the "musicians". This is a gap that Geomant have endeavoured to fill with their Buzzeasy technology. However, companies are faced with the bad news that most solution providers don't have the technology to integrate different channels into a single system to solve multiple problems. Whether it's a voice call centre, chatbot, mobile application, web customer service, or at least a dozen other client applications - companies use different technology in-house and are currently unable to integrate it into one, single system.
You mentioned that companies are experimenting, trying to get to know what their customers need before they invest in technology... this whole process, particularly the uncertainty in harsh market conditions must be putting a lot of stress on companies.
It's really not an easy situation. On the one hand, it's stressful trying to keep up - the flow of customer needs is relentless, and companies just can't predict what they'll expect next. And on the other hand, when they put new solutions and services in place, they have no idea if they will be welcomed or not. It's all trial and error.
Let's look at chatbots; there are so many things that a chatbot can do, they're a typical 'go-to' solution for businesses because at a minimum they're a knowledgeable machine that can answer questions, be spoken to and understood – but in the reality that doesn't exist. It's not just that recognising the intent or sentiment of various local languages is an area that needs developing, but it is not currently possible to build an engine or robot that can answer all the customer's questions. So, while there is pressure on managers to use chatbots, they quickly realise that there are limits. We tend to encourage the use of chatbots and AI in combination with humans for the best result and offer escalation to live agent paths. We feel this is the best choice for optimising customer experiences.
Talking about the need to digitise processes, do you think that customers want that anyway? Do they want to communicate with people, or will they accept that digitisation transforms every aspect of life?
I would be brave if I would attempt to answer this in general. I'm sure that every company and its customers have their own needs. But I can say that I think the need to talk to a living human is less and less expected – I'm thinking of new generations.
Obviously, there are complicated situations… and companies need to recognise where it's appropriate to introduce digitisation, for instance, it's perfect for automating repetitive tasks. However, based on Geomant's philosophy and "conductor" thinking, I think a good solution is where the machine recognises the point in the process when human intervention is required and offers the option to talk to a person, either straight away or scheduled for a later time.
It's also very important to have the possibility of an escalation in both directions. Let's say a customer who has started an online operation should have the opportunity to talk to a living person if he/she has a problem. At the same time, it should also be noted that if a customer demand can be solved digitally, the colleague can redirect the person to a digital workflow where they can continue the process uninterrupted.
In any case, human resources should be maintained for non-digital situations, and overall good solutions need to be further developed.
To what extent is the corporate sector open to digitising processes?
There is still a lot of evangelisation in this area because it's a pioneering project, but as of yet, in my opinion, they have not fully embraced the complete journey.
I know we talked a bit about the future in the previous questions and answers, but how do you think our everyday life will look in five to ten years?
This is a very open question. I think one vision of the future of customer service may be the transition from reactive to proactive logic. That is, that a business does not wait until the client logs on with a problem, but instead prevents the issues from the data and information gained during digitisation. And here we go back to the customer experience again.
Digital Hungary first published this interview, the read the full version in Hungarian head over to their website: https://www.digitalhungary.hu/interjuk/Meg-szenvednek-a-vallalatok-de-a-jovo-ugyfelszolgalataira-ra-sem-fogunk-ismerni/8381/