Customer Experience: Maximising our limited intelligence against the abundant intelligence of AI within the contact centre
Dear Contact Centre Industry,
Well, this is something new for me. I’m writing a short open letter on a subject I’m incredibly passionate about but rarely talk about.
I’m not an ‘industry voice on CX’ but better described as a simple lad from Yorkshire who has dedicated his working career to Contact Centres, being a voyeur of human behaviour and, maybe, most importantly an everyday consumer.
As a result, you’re probably considering whether you read on or get back to something far more entertaining, TikTok perhaps? But for those who do ‘gi’ it a go’, please share your thoughts, feelings and feedback on what you read.
Let’s start with a basic question, what’s the definition of Customer Experience? At a high level it’s the perception a customer has of your brand. More articulately it is described on Wikipedia as ‘a totality of cognitive, affective, sensory, and behavioural consumer responses during all stages of the consumption process’. Fancy.
So, with that slightly hedonistic description in mind, what emotions would we want a customer to associate with the experience a brand delivers?
Joy? Awe? Pride? Satisfaction? Contentment? Happiness? Dare I say, love?
Here is where I run into my first quandary with our industry and where it’s heading. In a world in which we believe AI holds all our answers – efficiency, cost control, improved Customer Experience, et al — will we enter ‘Consumerism Utopia’ with the energy and bright lights of that meteor in Don’t Look Up? Or are we missing some balance? I believe we are at a crossroads that will allow us to finesse our thinking.
Now I should be clear at this point, I am an advocate of technology and AI. I would even go so far as to say I’m a champion and implementor of it. I mean, how can you not be. It is completely immersed in everything we do. Every day you will interact with some form of AI – that makes the day to day easier – it isn’t all Robocop like the movies. However, what history and certainly the last two years have taught us is that humanity craves connection, purpose and at the risk of losing a good percentage of readers, spirituality.
How can we build Customer Experience hubs of the future to satisfy the customer?
As humans we have limited intelligence. Incredible though it is, our intelligence has a limit. A basic example is, we’ve figured out a supply chain that allows me to go no further than five minutes from my home to buy a banana. In Yorkshire. We only grow tea here. Magnificent. Yet our limited intelligence meant that we couldn’t find a way of doing that without single use plastic and understanding the consequence of that action (better late than never, mind). However, the abundant intelligence of AI will mean that it runs all the variables and gets the banana to where it needs to be without creating a wake of negative consequence. It will be able to comprehend life in totality. Scary but exciting.
As a result, we’re in a technological transformation race across the Contact Centre space and the sexiness – and by ‘eck it’s sexy – of AI opening our minds to endless ideas and possibility. But do we have the intelligence to understand the consequence or whether it will really satisfy us? Are we weaving in enough of us – humanity – into our future state?
On a human level, our eyes are being opened generation by generation to the fact consumerism doesn’t create happiness, so why do we think tech induced sorcery alone will be the answer to Customer Experience nirvana?
The focus of our industry should be for AI to enable humans to connect on a personal and meaningful level. Now I’m sure many will say, “we’re doing that already – pipe down son”. However, I implore you to really, I mean really, ask yourself if you are. Or are we immersed in the idea of contact deflection and sub-par bots imitating that human touch? Are we building meaningful and lasting relationships with our customers? If you are, I take my hat off to you. As a customer, I feel we can do more.
That leads me on to my second predicament for our industry, our people. Is there a department with more energy, perseverance, determination and talent than the Contact Centre? Yet where have we allowed this job, the voice of our brand, to end up? More often than not, it’s seen as the entry level role to a business and often pays little more than minimum wage. With the expectation that they delight our customers, the most important people to brands, everyday. Not to mention all they have to remember about process, product and service – “remember to actively listen folks”.
We look to AI as the answer, and it will give us many. But how much more can we get from the melting pot of ability in our people? How can we further engage them in creating connection and moments of joy with our customers? Human to human. It is a thing of beauty to behold when it happens.
In the most recent Willis Towers Watson Employee Experience Survey it shows that organisations who are putting their people are the centre of what they do are 27 percentage points more likely to be better at helping people develop their full potential. Imagine. That untapped potential at your disposal right now.
Thousands of people work in our industry in the UK and what they deliver is nothing short of remarkable at times. We should take pause and sense check how it is valued and what it is already bringing to the party.
The number one trend in 2022 for Contact Centre Customer Experience should be to elevate, empower, develop and encourage our people to deliver that touch of magic that only they (as humans) can do. Yes, we all continue to work on technological transformation, and we will deliver some incredible innovation but don’t forget what you already have before it is too late.
To our industry and the future!
Dan Cohen – just a simple lad from Yorkshire
Connect with Dan by Email