By Richard Lawrence-Allen
We live in a world of automation. Payments are automatic, doors are automatic, and you can even buy gadgets that will automatically stir your soup for you! Technological advancements continue to take the human effort out of all manner of tasks. These automations also allow for people to take control of their own service experiences, avoiding the need for assistance. While the mass populace is devoted to social media, the technology is allowing humans to become less and less actively social in person on many levels with each and every passing day.
Take for example, in recent years, the strong reliance on self-service checkouts in major brand supermarkets. Self-service checkouts have now become the preferred method of paying for groceries in-stores for many people. The introduction of self-service checkouts has yielded many benefits. Self-checkouts have streamlined the transaction process, making customer wait-times generally shorter; they also take up less space in-store than traditional, manned checkouts as well as reducing labour costs for the company (as one employee call oversee multiple self-service checkouts at once). With self-service technology ever-improving, customers can often enter a supermarket without speaking to a single member of staff.
Moreover, services such as online banking allow consumers to handle their own banking transactions remotely, without needing to rely on a staff member to take them through the process. Online shopping services also reduce the need for direct contact with human staff members. Customers are able to browse, receive personalised recommendations based on their likes and previous purchase history, change orders, track deliveries, and make returns and reorders, as well as any number of other tasks.
Self-service options such as these have become popularised for a great number of reasons. First and foremost, from a business point of view, despite the oftentimes hefty initial investment costs, they are a money-saving opportunity, as they reduce long-term labour costs in many areas. However, this popularity would not have been reached if customers weren’t also on board regarding a self-service life; but they are, and for good reason.
Customers enjoy self-service options for a number of reasons. Firstly, self-service generally speeds up processes greatly. Rather than a customer explaining what they want done to a staff member who will go on to process any requests, the customer can skip out the middleman and get it done themselves. This kind of service also allows for customers to take complete control over their consumer experience. The more services options that a customer has control over, the more empowered that customer will be, removing the mystery and uncertainty of having to rely on another person to get the job done in the manner and speed to which the consumer desires.
Considering the overwhelming amount of automated services and self-service options available, and a trend towards relying on these service methods more and more, the question becomes, will these systems ever come to a point of replacing human workers entirely? Enthusiastic roboticists and AI experts may tell you that the day is in sight when computer systems, AI and self-service will completely replace humans in most retail and many service sectors. However, while technological advances will certainly mould industry causing it to adapt and change, human staff will always have a vital and irreplaceable position here.
In telecommunications a shift is already being seen, and this shift is sure to continue. As customers’ relish more the control that automation and self-service offers and as technology continues to improve, adaptation to structure is inevitable. Nevertheless, the need for human staff is still there, and always will be.
While customers may be able to go online for simple transactions such as shopping orders, bank transfers, and the like, as technology in the home increases so does the demand for more advanced technical support. Some things cannot be solved with automated troubleshooting; with more and more devise users and online systems the demand for tech support is increasing and this trend looks only to continue. This means that while telephony staff in basic support roles may not be as needed in the future, the call for highly trained agents will only grow.
Moreover, when we look to customer service there is one key element that no computer system, nor AI, no matter how advanced it may be, can offer. Empathy. If a customer has an issue that needs solving or a query that needs an answer, the cold and factual nature of machines, even those programed to behave in a more “human-like” manner, will never truly be able to replicate a human level of care and emotion needed to truly placate and help a troubled customer to a satisfactory level. It is a level of empathy and care that can really transform a customer experience into something wonderful. The personality of a centre agent is their strongest asset and no one-size fits all approach, regardless of the complexity of the algorithm will ever be able to compete.
This is why we feel here at RSVP we are truly the top of our game. Our staff are all trained entertainment professionals, and they are at their best engaging with customers at a personal and individual level, and as such are able to give the best tailored customer experiences around. Machines beware!
So, no matter how many post-apocalyptic films you may watch that warn about an inevitable uprising of the machines, rest assured that they will never be able to replace the human race. At least, not in contact centres anyway!