What is the Role of Technology in Customer Service?

The relationship between technology and customer service is constantly evolving. There seems to be a new tech development on the horizon at any given point (who hasn’t had at least one conversation about AI in the last few months?)

But businesses shouldn’t get caught up in taking on customer service technology trends without remembering the broader goals technology, when used right, can help you achieve:

  • Deliver faster communication: 75% of businesses report that they’ve lost customers due to wait-related issues.1
  • Provide more direct results: Incorporate the convenience of self-service options with intuitive automation and customers will be able to get the answers they need faster.
  • Reduce costs: Time, as they say, is money, and automation reduces costs by speeding up customer transactions and reducing overhead. Automation allows customer service reps to work smarter and quicker.
  • Improve customer outcomes: Using tools to gain visibility over your customers’ buying habits and preferences leads to better customer outcomes and increased retention.

Technology is reinventing the call centre, letting customer service agents use their time more effectively, and connecting businesses with higher-quality representatives at a lower cost.

Finding creative solutions for positively supporting customers is important in driving customer satisfaction. Technology can and will lead the way. That’s exactly what we will explain here, along with the value that quality outsourced partners can deliver to help you create a technology-led solution.

Suggested reading: Check out our Pocket Guide on Customer Service Solutions for insights into how you can start delivering better customer service!

Technology as a front-line automation tool

A major goal for customer service operations is to harness technology and automate communications, connectivity, and customer management — without damaging outcomes.

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Critical automation tools include: 

Live chat via texting or video

This includes automated ticketing and ways to collect customer data and analytics. Live chat is an informal, yet effective, way to pair up qualified service reps with customers who need information or assistance quickly.

Chatbots (if done right)

If programmed correctly, a chatbot can be a huge timesaver for the customer and call centre. However, do it wrong and you end up with exchanges like this:

Chatbot: Hello, and thanks for visiting our website. My name is Gwen. How can I help you today?

Customer: I need information about your recent sales promotion and free returns policy.

Chatbot: We’re sorry to hear that you have to return your purchase. What was the problem?

Customer: No, I don’t need to return anything. I just need to know about the sale you advertised and if I can return the product if I don’t like it.

Chatbot: It appears that your problem might be resolved if we can track the shipping status of your order. Please enter your order number, date of purchase, and our invoice serial.

Customer: (disconnects and dials help desk)

If you invest in a chatbot, don’t go for a budget choice. Similarly, it can be useful to have a live chat option that sits next to the chatbot function. 

Interactive voice response (IVR) menus

IVR can also be helpful for directing customers to the right person. However, again, you need to be careful. 

The typical instruction on an IVR is ‘Please say what you are calling about, for example “I want information on your latest sales.” Unfortunately for businesses that rely on IVR menus, 98% of their customers skip that feature through frustration and move past it by saying, “Representative.”2


The tools customers prefer

The channels you use to deliver customer service are also important to keep in mind. The most popular channels for customers are as follows:

  1. Phone support: 59% of customers prefer talking to an actual agent on the phone to help with answering questions or solving problems. Automation runs in the background when the call centre rep is stationed at a computer screen, quickly accessing answers and information.
  2. Email: 57% of customers want to send emails. For routine business, email is the automated communication of choice for many customers. Email provides space for the customer to go into detail. It also gives the business time to research customer support issues. Email can be a great tool to familiarise the customer with a wider array of products and services.
  3. Live chat: 42% of customers use online chat or live support to get in touch with businesses. This channel brings customers the advantage of immediacy and quick access to call centre helpers.
  4. Social media: 21% of customers would rely on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media platforms as a preferred method of reaching a product or service provider. Issues of privacy and a lack of traditional customer service features keep most customers from using social media as a vehicle for customer support.
  5. Online support portals: 18% of customers think support portals meet their needs. Support portals typically are stocked with pages covering frequently asked questions, product use instructions, return policies, etc. The portals can act as a barrier for live chat to encourage self-help and cope with customer service demand.3

Pro tip: The above numbers aren’t uniform across demographics. For example, Gen Z’ers are 1.6 times more likely to prefer using digital channels than Boomers . But the overall prioritisation of flexibility and options for all of your customers remains.

The bottom line: use technology to assist your agents

Technology opens the door to more effective communication, but it should never stand in the way of connecting customers with a live representative. It’s a great time-saver and can solve minor problems (e.g. chatbots) but you should always default to quickly connecting customers to agents.

omnichannel customer service agent

One of the most powerful tools that technology offers is collecting information which can then be funnelled to customer service agents — allowing them to personalise customer experiences and resolve complex problems quickly. However, you need to take care when executing this. 

  • 76% of customers expect personalisation out of their customer service.
  • 75% of customers prefer hearing from a real, human voice.4 

It is important to deliver a seamless experience between channels and use technology to enrich customer experience and make their communication with representatives more efficient. This way, you will be able to connect customers to the right agents quickly — driving better outcomes at a reduced cost. 

How technology has changed the call centre

Technology has changed the call centre in two ways:

  1. It makes the seamless and information-rich approaches we’re talking about possible. This leads to better journeys for customers and reduces costs by making sure agents focus on talking to the right people with more complex problems.
  2. The customer service landscape will grow more competitive. With technology developments such as automation and customer sentiment tools becoming more widespread, businesses are going to be quick to snap up these solutions. Organisations will need to look towards getting further support (like from an expert outsourced partner) to stay ahead of the competition.

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The future of the call centre 

A streamlined and multichannel support system hooked into a distributed network of qualified agents can deliver better outcomes to both customers and businesses. These include:    

  1. Better agents: Remote working makes it possible to hire people who wouldn’t traditionally work in a call centre — e.g. stay-at-home parents, people with disabilities, retirees. Those within this pool of talent often hold more years of experience than a traditional call centre agent.
  1. The right agents: Greater flexibility makes it possible to hire highly-skilled representatives and engage with them as needed. Rather than being restricted to fixed in-house resources, you can direct calls to agents based on their areas of expertise and experience. 
  1. Lower costs: Remote working removes office overheads — reducing costs and allowing you to spend more on quality agents and technology.

Remote working is not only a solution to social distancing, it’s a long-term investment that will allow you to deliver better outcomes to your customers and cut costs. 

Enhancing flexibility with outsourcing

The distributed call centre can improve in-house operations. However, outsourced partners can help you execute this plan and provide added flexibility. Only with outsourcing can you deliver real on-demand access to agents — scaling up and down to meet demand and never paying for more than you use. 

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Remember: outsourcing can be a decision made to increase quality. It’s also not an “all or nothing” choice, and often acts as an extension of your in-house team. The distributed call centre has created a new breed of suppliers that provide flexible on-shore access to the best agents — turning the old off-shore outsourcing model on its head. For more details, check out our blog — In-house vs Outsourcing Customer Service.  

Connect customers to the right agents at the right time

As an information gathering tool, technology is the key to connecting customers with agents and delivering the context needed to solve problems quickly. Technology provides options and lets customers choose how they engage.  

The ability of outsourced partners to supply technologically-enabled customer services can empower you to deliver better outcomes, more flexibly and at a reduced cost. Almost three out of five customers call out great customer service as important to how committed they feel towards a brand.5

If you want to find out how we at Odondo can help you reap the benefits of better customer service today, just get a quote

Odondo has been recognised by DesignRush as one of their Top Call Center Companies

1  TimeTrade 

2  What Customers Want And Expect 

3  State of the Connected Customer 

4  31 customer service statistics you need to know 

5  Why Customer Service is Important: 16 Data-Backed Facts to Know 

Bobby Devins

Bobby spent 11 years as an Investment Banker before going on to co-found his own e-commerce start-up, where Customer Service was one of the core functions that fell under his remit.

He has spent the past 9 years in and around the start-up space, most recently co-founding Odondo with the aim of reimagining the delivery of Customer Service. Bobby has pursued a very traditional career path for someone who ultimately aspires to be a hardcore gangsta rapper.

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