The Rise and Fall of the 0800 Number

The Rise and Fall of the 0800 Number in the contact centre
Alan Ranger, VP Global Market Development, LivePerson

“The customer is always right.” It’s a ubiquitous adage that businesses flourish and flounder by. In recent years, however, the customer services industry has sunk into a rut. A shift in what constitutes success has seen quantity prioritised over quality, with customer service representatives pressured to end calls as quickly as possible to maximise volume. Naturally, the corresponding quality of the customer service itself has declined as a result.

Customers are more frustrated, dissatisfied and fickle than ever before. In an era where establishing brand loyalty and putting the customer experience at the heart of business is paramount to success, brands are competing harder than ever for loyalty and customers are faced with more choices than at any other time in consumer history. When brands get it right, it’s gold dust. But when they don’t, brands are quickly forgotten.

Forward-thinking businesses looking to solve this issue have begun to invest in AI-powered conversational solutions to bring themselves closer to their customers and drive key business outcomes. With ever-increasing adoption of conversational AI, the evolution of the 0800 number – and the very nature of customer engagement – is inevitable.

Man vs Machine

Whether you’re operating a small business or a large conglomerate, conversational AI can often trump its human counterpart. Two of the biggest challenges facing SMEs, in particular, are cost and speed.

Hiring more people is, in some cases, an impossible solution due to budgetary constraints, but it’s also inefficient. Not only must time be spent in recruiting the right talent – and subsequently training them – but a human is often slower than a chatbot, with the latter able to handle millions of enquiries simultaneously and with an average response time of under 2 seconds.

It would also ignore the fact that 62% of customers expect live chat to be available on mobile devices, and if available, 82% would use it. In an age where access to anything and everything is expected to be immediate, establishing brand loyalty is harder than ever before. Failure to deal with queries in both a comprehensive and timely fashion leaves businesses open to competitors that are primed to catch disgruntled customers.

As a result, businesses are looking to invest in solutions that will allow them to reach a wider audience than previously possible. One of the key benefits of conversational AI is its ability to plug into multiple platforms, including the likes of Apple Business Chat, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Not only does this provide quick and efficient customer service, but it also opens up different demographics as potential customers, more so than phones or email alone; in fact, 40% of millennials say that they chat with chatbots on a daily basis.

For larger businesses that already have the staff on hand, it’s a problem of resourcing. Many workers are misallocated, dealing with queries that are often simple and don’t require human hands. Staff who might be better placed handling more complex service issues, or even upselling, are wasted completing menial tasks – harming efficiency and ultimately revenue – and are also more likely to leave due to the lack of meaningful work, challenge and growth opportunities.

This is to say that conversational AI will not necessarily replace humans, but rather free up businesses to retrain their best talent to expand their skill sets, benefiting themselves and the business. Time normally wasted on menial queries can instead be spent on analysing conversations, leveraging other AI tools such as automatic speech recognition to gauge the sentiment of conversations or gain a greater insight into the customer journey. Ultimately, the end result is greater staff retention and a workforce that is optimised to work smarter and more efficiently.

Maturing Technology

With each passing year, conversational AI continues to improve. Unlike phones and email exchanges – whose room for growth is severely limited – AI continues to mature, handling greater and more complex tasks, with previous barriers to entry – such as cost – becoming less of an issue than they once were.

By 2020, it’s estimated that 85% of consumer interactions will be handled without a human agent***. With forward-thinking businesses looking to put conversational AI at the heart of their CX strategy, the entry of a new decade ushers in an evolved version of an old friend.

Additional Information

Alan Ranger, VP Global Market Development, LivePerson

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