Viewpoint: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

Read time 4min 40sec
The driving power behind innovative customer service is the millennial generation.
The driving power behind innovative customer service is the millennial generation.

It can be argued that the notion of excellent customer service is the same now as it was many generations ago, says Pommie Lutchman, CEO at Ocular Technologies.

Indeed, the principle of fulfilling customers' needs has not changed since the first product or service was sold or bartered. What has changed significantly, however, are the expectations of today's customers.

While it's true that customers on the whole come from a diverse pool of ages and generations, the real driving force behind innovative customer service is the very specific requirements of the millennial generation. Millennials now form the bulk of consumers and are an unmistakable force in both moulding new customer-brand behaviour, as well as pushing technology to evolve at breakneck speed to brilliantly fulfil their needs.

They are the selfie, Instagram and Snapchat generation. Point, shoot and post instantly and receive immediate validation or feedback. It's a generation that embraces the idiom 'a picture speaks a thousand words' and, at the same time, those words better be concise as attention spans are shortening too.

Herewith a brief example: a 29 year old female graduate from the US tours South East Asia and decides on the spur of the moment to visit a brow salon in Bangkok. Visiting the large city for the first time, she's overwhelmed by the many salons she passes, and is looking for the best. Coffee in one hand and smartphone in the other, her search goes something like this: Google, read reviews and view Instagram posts, message virtual assistant, chat with virtual assistant to set up appointment, download Grab app, be notified driver is at the door, driver follows his navigation app, payment is done electronically, brow service completed, customer leaves Google review and recommendation - "What a fantastic experience! Five stars". These stars will sway the next person to Google, and so the salon's reputation as the best in the business grows even stronger.

The reality is, there is more than likely a superior salon out there. Yet, it's hidden. Not physically, but more detrimentally, digitally. And as we all know, the virtual world is simply enormous. Everyone wants a byte, but only the ones ready to fully embrace digital transformation will stay ahead of the competition.

One way of staying ahead is to focus your efforts on this new customer behaviour. There's that age-old saying 'if you can't beat them, join them'. It should become the motto of every business.

And nowhere is this more relevant than in the customer contact centre.

You need to emulate and mirror your millennial customers - it's the greatest form of flattery. What makes it doubly exciting is that as the contact centre, you are this mirror. You are now at the wheel of the company. Steer it succinctly and make it a grand experience for everyone. When the customers figuratively stand in front of your mirror, give them the best version of themselves. Represent both their intent and yours.

The first move towards this accomplishment is throwing the old contact centre out and emerging as an 'experience' centre. You are the aspirational Instagram posts, so to say.

Be aware, however, that you are dealing with savvy digital consumers who can easily see through smoke and mirrors, so you need to make sure that you are authentic, support innovative technologies, can manage complex enquiries, and take responsibility for customer interactions by fully meeting their expectations.

Yes, it's a tall order. Yet it is more than possible and doable, especially if you implement artificial intelligence in your customer contact centre. In a recent webinar, Art Schoeller, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research outlined these five benefits of introducing AI into the contact centre:

1. Improved matching of agents with customers using predictive analytics based on artificial intelligence.
2. An agent assistant - one that sits on the agent desktop, takes information for when the bot tries to self-serve the customer and advises the agent of what's the next best thing.
3. Helping the quality assurance team to plough through tons and tons and hours of calls and texts with customers, being able to better advise and coach agents instead of just spending time listening and learning.
4. Workforce management, tackling that intra-day fire fight that many contact centres get into and being able to predict that there is going to be a spike of traffic - and recruiting agents in real time.
5. Finally, journey analytics; looking at those patterns of customer interactions, where are those hotspots and the potential places for improvement.

Remember, it is no longer a for-general-queries-please-hold-for-an-operator scenario. The contact centre has transformed and this means that infrastructure, software, people, language and behaviour need to modernise too. Having a #whatever attitude to this radical change is both na"ive and dangerous. Today's technology truly is for everyone, use it to your advantage. #AIisthenewUI #voicefirst#experiencecentre #ultimatecustomerservice #artificialintelligence #godigitaltothrive

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