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13th December 2016

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Is Your Digital Customer Service Just Skin Deep?

It’s been popular for a while now to talk a good story around delivering digital customer service. But most contact centres are ducking the real challenges and settling for a skin deep interpretation only.

Are you digital because you offer chat or engage over Twitter? Some certainly hope that the answer is yes. But in the light of true digital transformation, the answer has to be – not even close!

The evidence of how digital transformation changes things is much more dramatic that a few additional interaction channels.

For a start it allows activities to exist in real time. Digitally enabled customer journeys are open for business 24×7. They allow customers to complete tasks for themselves. Human assistance becomes a point of escalation. Unless needed for emotional, complex or relationship reasons.

Secondly, everything is achievable within the digital domain. A car accident claims workflow can be evidenced, managed and settled without any paper trail when digitally upgraded. Likewise, for house purchasing, swapping banks or energy suppliers. Skills and products can be traded at global, country and local community level via messaging apps to create self-contained trading ecosystems that entirely by pass the high street.

Digital transforms the old ways of doing things in terms of speed, effort and availability. It also opens up entirely new opportunities for connection and trade. Think Uber and Airbnb. Ever heard of 50cycles, Brand Gathering, Cahootsy, Cause4, Chaser, CommuterClub, Crowdcube or Flow Energy? They are all part of the same continuum that is reinventing value propositions.

What has this got to do with my Contact Centre?

The reason why so much investment and resource has been poured into digital transformation over the last decade is that organisations are still trying to catch up with their customers. They adopted digital lifestyles first and the balance of power was forever reset in their favour. Digitally native brands and the endless stream of start ups that nowadays come from a global network of incubators are trying to close that gap. Even legacy brands are waking up too.

To date contact centres have been a major touch point. In truth, they were vital as ways of compensating for pre digital workflows and journeys. Human glue held it all together. But what happens when AI powered intelligent assistance takes over and service design finally makes those clunky interactions so simple that they either disappear or become one touch simple to execute?
In other words, are contact centres strategically viable in the long term once all the digital transformation work is done?

One thing is certain. They will have diminishing value as sources of human assistance once digitally competent journeys become the norm. Although the issue of how to keep the human touch in a digitally enabled world is still open for debate and suggests one ongoing role that digital customer service will need to provide.

But contact centres are due for change. Their leaders need to be ready for a different way of adding value to the customer relationship. With that comes the need for a new mindset and set of skills more suited to experimentation than conformance.

We think this is the next big challenge for contact centre leaders beyond decisions about any individual item of technology.

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