Even when working as a pub landlord I used technology to improve the experience of my customers. From booking tables and taking payments, tech made the whole process of someone coming to my establishment more relaxing and enjoyable and freed up my time to interact with people on a more personal level.
Reflecting on National Customer Service Week that took place in October, I took a moment to observe the customer service sector as a whole. With all the whizz-bang tools on the market now I expected to be blown away by how much technology has benefited the sector. Yet as I did so, I realised my experiences as a pub landlord were not reflective of all customer-facing industries. In fact, despite significant advances in technology being used by the sector, customer-facing staff are still extremely frustrated with the level of customer service they are able to provide, citing a lack of access to technology as the main factor holding them back, according to research from Pegasystems.
I was struck by the research findings which found that almost one third (27%) of customer-facing employees saying they do not have the right technology available to provide an optimal service. But at the same time, 40% of respondents currently use between four and twelve applications daily in their jobs, making it difficult for them to rapidly respond to customer inquiries, locate customer information, and find solutions. It seems that we have arrived at ‘tech for tech’s sake’ situation, where customer service companies are throwing money at the situation until something sticks. Resulting in there being an overwhelming amount of technology available, but with a lot of it missing the mark.
Employees’ annoyance at technology is also evident as 43% of respondents said they are irritated with having to pass customers between teams and departments and a third (32%) said that having to manually enter the same information in different places makes them feel the same way.
At the pub, if my booking system wasn’t working properly it ruined my day, and no matter how much I tried, it was inevitable that I wasn’t able to be quite so friendly to my customers. So, it’s inevitable the frustration being experienced by customer-facing staff will trickle through into the customer experience.
But could AI be the answer? At the many conferences I now attend, this question is unavoidable. And it’s very clear that intelligent chatbots and virtual assistants will allow people to speed up processes and focus on issues that require human intervention. This technology will dramatically simplify the customer service job, and the Pega research revealed that 55% feel that chatbots and virtual assistants will become increasingly complementary and better enable customer service professionals in the future.
That’s not to say that AI will replace AI altogether. During a recent work trip to Madrid I was the victim of a number of tech-fails, one being trying to select a seat on the flight next to my colleague. Realising we couldn’t do it on the app we then tried the self-check-in at the airport, only to find out we couldn’t do it that way either. In the end we had to ask the guy sitting at the check-in desk who swiftly booked two adjacent aisles seats and checked us in.
What businesses need to do is pinpoint the most appropriate technology and use it at the right time, and in the right context. Businesses need to empower their employees with the most relevant and important customer information at their fingertips. This way employees will be able to resolve issues quickly and offer real-time, contextual suggestions on the next best available action. That way they will be able to offer ‘pub landlord grade’ customer service.