It was just over a year ago that Oxford University and Deloitte revealed the results of their seminal study into automation and the workforce – the headline stat being that 35% of current jobs were at high risk of being replaced by robots within the next 20 years.
Customer service roles were deemed to be one of the professions at greatest risk, with a 91% likelihood of automation, while call and contact centre occupations were ranked as having a 75% chance of automation.
The study was flanked by research by Amdocs, which found that 75% of surveyed consumers said they would prefer to use online self-service over a call centre.
Rise of the humans
Despite such seemingly damning research, many consumers still foresee a future for human customer service. A new Verint study highlights that, while self-service will remain a welcome addition to the customer service mix, human involvement remains a critical component in solving queries, especially those of a complex or sensitive nature.
Verint’s Digital Tipping Point study conducted interviews with 24,000 people across the globe to discover the following:
- Four out of five prefer that human customer service interactions remain a part of customer service.
- The phone emerged as the most popular way to contact organisations and service providers, according to nearly a quarter (24%) of consumers; visiting the store front was next at 23%.
- 83% believe speaking with a person will always be an important part of the customer service equation.
- 67% of consumers and 91% of businesses feel customer service online and via mobile devices needs to be faster and more intuitive to serve end users.
Crucially, the ‘tipping point’ from digital to human interaction remains a critical service component for businesses to get right.
Verint’s research found that as customer service requests become complex, reliance on human interaction increases. 34% of customers prefer to go in-store for complex enquiries, while another third prefer to connect by phone. Only 7% of consumers opt for email as their channel of choice in complex query scenarios.
“As consumers become more digitally savvy, organisations are considering and even implementing more cost-effective digital channels as part of their evolving customer engagement strategies. However, the message from consumers is clear. They still want human touch as an option in many customer service scenarios,” explains Dave Capuano, global vice president, integrated marketing, Verint.
“This dynamic means that businesses considering more cost-effective, digitally-driven channels need to ensure they understand customers’ channel preferences and the influence they have on customer behaviour and engagement. Those organisations that tip the balance in favour of digital at the expense of traditional service may risk not keeping their customers happy in the long run.”
These thoughts were echoed by customer service expert, Martin Hill-Wilson, in a recent MyCustomer post, arguing that businesses needed to establish pain points in customer journeys before determining whether or not a channel can be automated:
“The reason why we need to think about journeys is that it forces us to adopt an outside-in view of what matters. In contrast there are still too many organisations who think about the channels at their disposal and internal motivations for using them such as cost reduction.
“While this is understandable, we all know that customers will adopt the line of least resistance to get what they want: subvert an IVR menu in order to talk to a person, escalate an issue onto social, try to use SMS to text a business. It is all motivated by a desire to find the best option given their needs. So rather than try and out design that instinct, it’s smarter to work with it.”
Chris was an Editor at MyCustomer from 2014 to 2022. He is a practiced editor, having worked as a copywriter for creative agency, Stranger Collective from 2009 to 2011 and subsequently as a journalist covering technology, marketing and customer service from 2011-2014 as editor of Business Cloud News.