Opinion: Telcos must embrace the new automated age of customer service

customer service, AI, automation

By Russell Palmer, Industry Solutions Director, Communications and Media, Pegasystems

Telcos are being confronted with the need to consider more advanced technological offerings to improve their contact centres, such as fully automated self-service machines, or automated advice from human-like avatars (or bots).

While it’s clear that we are still some way off that outcome, there’s no doubt that the appetite for these advanced services is growing.

A recent survey Pega undertook with Cognizant and Marketforce found that 76 percent of IT professionals suggested smartphone virtual assistants such as Siri, are making customers more willing to engage with automated assistance and advice.

Telcos who are not able to provide these services in the coming years risk losing not only customers, but also any sort of competitive edge.

However, it is important to balance the excitement about how AI and machine learning can affect customer engagement with how much customers also value personalisation.

Bots are going to be a new way for customers to be serviced, but it’s also worth remembering that customers will want to switch between them and other methods when interacting with their telecom provider.

It’s also important to consider how bots will play a role behind the scenes where bots run software processes that support and free up humans to better serve customers.

This field of technology is called robotic process automation, where software automates software, autonomously making decisions about how to support a customer service representative.

The emphasis here is on humanising robots rather than “roboticising” humans, so those who care most about outcomes make sure the end-to-end customer experience is continuously improved.

Essentially this is giving customer service representatives a personal assistant which can actually do useful work and align all other applications they need to use on their desktop.

It will take data from one desktop application to another, reducing the complexity of time-consuming inter-application tasks and give that time back to users.

That means customer service professionals spend less time struggling with multiple desktop technologies and more time serving customers.

These personal assistants, backed up with dynamic case management, mean that aging service applications can be extended to deliver successful service outcomes and drastically improved customer experiences.

Whilst there may be room to convince IT managers of the benefits of these advances, the challenge for telcos is generally clear; how can they integrate new technologies to improve customer service and deal with the demands of a new digital generation?

The IT manager may seem like an unlikely saviour in this scenario, but nonetheless an increasing number of telcos are turning to their IT leaders to meet these strategic objectives.

One of the principal reasons for this is that today, more than ever, the role of the IT manager has changed.

Where once their primary responsibilities were to install, maintain and repair, they must now accept that their role has expanded, thanks largely to the demands made by increasingly digital-savvy customers.

As a result, they have been moved out of the server room to a more strategic position in which they fulfil customer needs as a de facto business partner.

It’s a role that requires IT managers to go above and beyond what you might traditionally associate with their role.

Today, in addition to managing systems and processes, they must also diligently observe and interpret technological trends, customer behaviour and the solutions offered by competitors, and make recommendations based on how they can help their organisation to stay ahead.

The bottom line for telcos is that customer service is a problem that won’t fix itself.

A willingness to adopt, integrate and offer new technological services is pretty much a given and rapid fulfilment of ever-changing customer expectations is going to become a key battleground for these organisations in the coming years.

What’s clear is that those who are bold and decide to lead the technological charge will be those who benefit the most.

Those who don’t will lose customers, lose their competitive advantage, and fall behind.

 

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