A Tesla travelling at 70mph gets whacked from behind, causing the driver to lose control on a busy freeway. But the automated safety systems take over and drive the car to a safe stop in a dramatic dashcam video.
Self-driving cars is a technology that’s been much derided for its snafus and false promise. However, in this case fully autonomous self-driving technology knew what to do to save a driver’s life.
We should take inspiration from how self-driving systems are maturing and becoming useful and consider how a similar kind of autonomy is set to transform customer service.
Specifically, this means moving beyond traditional self-service offerings experienced by customers of everything from retail banks to insurance to travel.
Self-service has been in place for many years now. But we must be honest and say that the experience can be patchy. These systems too often fail to resolve a customer’s request, requiring a human service agent to intervene and start the whole process over again. Quite simply, self service doesn’t do what it says it does: empower the customer. The same goes for some assisted service systems which frustrate service agents who depend on them to advise customers.
So how does autonomous service fit in?
Autonomous service marshals real-time AI, intelligent automation, and event/pattern detection to provide progressive levels of autonomy across service interactions. In this respect, autonomous service doesn’t replace agent, assisted or self-service at all. It provides a platform to support and drive those engagements in a much more effective and empathetic way that focuses on a customer’s journey to get answers, help or information.
Think again of how autonomous systems support a driver in a car when and where they are best needed. This spans from no involvement at all through driver assistance, occasional self-driving, limited self-driving and self-driving in some or all conditions. There is no one size fits all mode of autonomy, which is dialled up or down depending on the needs of the driver, and real time conditions and context of where and what the vehicle is doing.
The same model applies to autonomous service. Levels and details of autonomy are raised or enhanced to support, accelerate, and assist current service practices through to fully automating service requests from end to end. And like how the autonomous system within a Tesla adapts to the road, so does autonomous service respond to the twists, turns and bumps in the customer’s journey.
From the customer’s perspective, autonomous service should be much more proactive and relevant in how it answers their needs when and where they are. But autonomous service will do more than just make established service modes run more smoothly. What customers should see is the rise of new pre-emptive services where AI powered autonomy anticipates moments of need and takes pre-emptive action to resolve a situation before it occurs. The analogy here is anticipating the risk of a crash and avoiding it happening or in customer service parlance, spotting a customer likely to leave and automatically taking steps to retain them.
Autonomous service is spreading out across all sectors while pre-emptive customer service technology is set to be a critical requirement as businesses navigate economic uncertainty. From our own recent study, almost two thirds (65%) of global business leaders said that perfectly anticipating customer needs and solving them before they feel the need to reach out was one of their primary goals over the next five years. A third added that they expect customer service to become more anticipatory than reactive within that same period.