Parham SaebiParham SaebiFebruary 19, 2019


The popularity of smart speakers such as Amazon’s Echo and Alexa and Google’s Home Hub is increasingly rapidly.

A recent study by Adobe revealed that almost a third of US households now own at least one of these devices, with the global adoption of voice assistants predicted to increase 1,000 percent by 2023, according to Juniper Research.

While digital text-based platforms have been the focus of customer service channel shift in recent years, it’s clear that consumers are falling back in love with voice. This presents a real opportunity for brands. Executed well, voice assistant technology can offer a natural-sounding, speedy response to common customer service queries, 24 hours a day.

The challenge for businesses is to integrate it successfully with existing customer service platforms, in order to provide a seamless experience that is consistent across all communication touch points. 

The human touch

It’s crucial that voice technology is deployed in a way that is genuinely useful for customers – businesses cannot fall into the trap of the novelty of voice automation, rushing to roll it out without properly considering its use. To engage with customers meaningfully, companies must be able to effectively leverage the technology that underpins all automated platforms – data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).

AI is already allowing brands to deliver round-the-clock solutions to customer enquiries, using automation and data to process simple questions and provide responses via chatbots. The next step is to broaden the scope of queries that this technology can manage.

Delivering outstanding customer service requires personalisation, ensuring that responses are relevant to the customer’s specific situation no matter the channel they choose to make contact through. With a comprehensive customer management system (CRM) supported by AI, it’s possible to collate data from every customer touch point, to equip smart platforms with the information they need to deliver a more tailored, and ultimately more human, customer service.

Know your limits

Brands must also ensure they’re aware of the limitations of any automated platform. As voice automation technology becomes more popular, customers’ expectations of its capabilities will increase – if they end up trapped in a phone menu that’s unable to find them a solution or direct them to the right place, brands risk losing customers to frustration.

Ultimately, advances in AI will broaden the range of questions voice platforms can comprehend. Businesses looking to implement this relatively new technology now must make sure it is equipped to recognise complex requests beyond its scope, and to connect customers to a human when required. An example of this in practice is a voice assistant providing retail customers with information such as stock availability, delivery timescales, or store opening times, but deferring to an advisor for a personal query such as making a complaint.   

Augmented agents

As the capabilities of autonomous customer service channels become more sophisticated, so too will the roles of human representatives. The popularity of voice technology globally means that consumers will increasingly rely on this and other smart channels to find answers to day-to-day queries. But for those more challenging requests and judgement-based tasks, customer service representatives remain crucial.

Businesses must tailor their recruitment and training strategies to ensure that all employees are equipped with the digital capabilities they need to operate in this tech-enabled environment, as they work across multiple channels including voice, and manage complex CRM systems. However, as advisors will primarily be responsible for the highest-value and often most challenging tasks, an empathetic approach, strong communication and problem-solving skills must form a core part of their skill set.

Ultimately, the successful deployment of automated voice-based customer service channels relies on investment in employees as much as investment in technology, creating an experience that cultivates customer loyalty through convenience and quality. 

Parham SaebiParham SaebiJune 29, 2018


By 2028, the way brands deliver Customer Experience is going to look very different.

Support systems, powered by automation and next generation artificial intelligence (AI), will handle repetitive, high volume enquiries, giving consumers the instant, 24-7 customer service they are already starting to expect as standard. This leap forward will not, however, replace human customer service agents as many have predicted. Instead, employees will work with AI systems to resolve more complicated tasks that require judgement and empathy.

This will help brands provide more memorable, personalised experiences, but it will also present a significant skills challenge. To meet this head on, training and recruitment strategies need to evolve and the impact of technology must be planned for.

We’re already starting to see automation change the role of the customer service agent. Brands are integrating chatbots – text based computer programmes capable of conversing with a human – with their own web chat systems to provide fast responses to simple queries, giving employees more time to handle complex enquiries that require a human touch.

Now, in their current form, chatbots require a significant amount of agent supervision and linguistic expertise and are governed by a pre-determined set of rules. But as the technology becomes more advanced, through the integration of AI, the scope and scale of their applications will accelerate.

Eventually, this will give agents access to virtual assistants with sophisticated internal and external facing applications. These platforms will present useful information to agents, in a digestible, intuitive format, take care of increasingly complicated inbound enquiries without supervision and match representatives with the queries they’re best equipped to respond to.

An intelligent customer relationship management (CRM) system that automatically collates and disseminates customer data across an organisation will make this possible, giving agents the information they need to be more productive and deliver exceptional, tailored customer experiences.

To get to this point, brands will have to invest in new technology and lay the groundwork for its implementation. However, if they are going to realise the benefits on offer, they will also have to ensure their employees have the skills and experience to harness and manage the systems designed to support them and handle more demanding interactions that require discussion and negotiation. This will not happen overnight, but here are three strategies that brands can use to help them get there:

1. Train and recruit with digital skills in mind

In the future, customer service agents will need to have strong interpersonal and communication skills, be comfortable using technology and be agile enough to familiarise themselves with new ways of working quickly. To adapt, brands must start gearing their recruitment strategies to attract this profile today, but, in the long term, they will also need to make a greater investment in regular, targeted employee training that runs in tandem with new technologies, as they are introduced.

In addition, brands will also have to account for the broadening scope of job roles involved in the effective delivery of customer experience. Like today, customer service agents will make up the front line, but as the technology involved becomes more advanced, the provision of additional support staff will be needed to operate and manage systems.

New positions could include everything from data scientists and computer programmers, to content managers and linguistics specialists. Every brand’s individual requirements will ultimately be different, but what’s clear is planning for the financial and operational impact of an increasingly skilled workforce is now essential for any organisation that provides customer experience.

2. Use innovative training methods

When it comes to agent training, one of the biggest challenges has always been providing realistic scenarios that test employees without exposing customers to representatives that aren’t fully equipped with the right skills. In the future, as the customer interactions agents handle become more demanding, overcoming this will become even more important. The good news is emerging technology could hold part of the solution.

Virtual reality (VR), for example, can create engaging training programs that deliver effective, memorable learning experiences, by simulating realistic scenarios. Trialling VR in our own customer service teams has accelerated the development of empathetic communication and problem-solving skills, all critical competencies for the agent of the future. VR can be the perfect training tool for agents charged with handling technical queries, where they need to understand complex questions and offer step-by-step guidance.

This could be invaluable to the automotive industry, or to any other consumer facing sector where products are becoming increasingly technical.

3. Run pilot programmes

The true extent to which automation and AI will change customer experience is still evolving, but one-way brands can start getting is by implementing pilot programmes that test the impact of new technology on specific processes that only require simple, pre-determined responses to be automated. An online retailer, for example, can automate order tracking and quickly get a feel for what’s going to be required from an organisational perspective to access the wider productivity benefits new technology can offer.

On top of being a useful trial of the capabilities of different technologies, pilot programmes can also help brands see how existing customer service roles will be changed by innovation. This allows them to identify skills gaps that need to be filled through recruitment and plan training schemes that both secure employee buy in and prepare them for the future.

As we move towards 2028, technology is going to offer brands the opportunity deliver a whole new level of quality in customer experience, by looking at the skills challenge this will pose now, they’ll be well positioned to take full advantage.

Parham SaebiParham SaebiAugust 30, 2017


From chatbots to artificial intelligence, a wide range of emerging technologies are set to transform how brands interact with their customers. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are the latest developments to be heralded as game changing, offering companies the prospect of creating new, immersive experiences for both consumers and their customer service agents.

Because of their inherent differences, these technologies will provide diverse opportunities for businesses. VR, which uses a headset to immerse the user in a virtual world, holds the potential to simulate a specific experience for a consumer or employee, from driving a car to trying out a holiday destination. AR, on the other hand, superimposes a computer-generated image on to a user’s view of the real world, meaning it could be used to guide consumers when they’re using a product or service or as a new support tool in a customer service setting.

So far adoption has been led by the gaming and entertainment industry. According to Forbes, more than 100 million VR headsets were shipped last year alone and AR is making a significant impact on social media, with Snapchat lenses and Instagram filters as prime examples. But while the market is embryonic, its potential applications for customer relationship management cannot be ignored as brands strive to improve loyalty by creating memorable experiences for consumers.

The technology has four key future applications:

1. Workspaces of the Future

AR has the potential to enhance customer service agents’ workspaces. Specially designed glasses will enable employees to access numerous virtual user interfaces and activate them instantly or push them to the background with hand gestures – agents would control and make use of various virtual screens and databases with a simple swiping motion.

This approach would maximise the accessibility and usability of the resources available to agents during customer interactions and not limit them to what they can recall on a desktop computer or handheld device. This will enable them to solve customer issues more efficiently.

2. Try Before You Buy

VR could provide brands with the opportunity to let customers try products and services virtually before they make the decision to purchase. With retailers increasingly adopting an omni-channel approach to their customer service, agents could take a consumer on a virtual guided tour of a shop to look at items of clothing, for example, using a VR headset in one, seamless interaction.

The automotive sector is another industry that could see a significant change. With car dealerships increasingly linked up to contact centres, a customer service representative could take a customer on a guided tour of the vehicle and then on to a virtual test drive. While this won’t provide the consumer with exactly the same experience as actually driving the car, it still has the potential to significantly accelerate the sales cycle and decision to purchase.

3. Support for End Users

Both AR and VR have the potential to play a leading role in aftersales care, reducing pressure on agents so they can focus on more complex, resource-demanding enquiries. For example, if a consumer needs to change the toner cartridge on a printer or perform simple maintenance to their car, a VR video can show them all of the steps needed to do so to be able to self-serve.

AR could take this a step further and provide customers with real time support and guidance through an AR-enabled app on their mobile device. If they are assembling a piece of flat pack furniture, for instance, the app will track each piece electronically and provide a visual guide so a consumer can see each step they need to take.

4. Training for Frontline Staff

Providing the right training for agents is a critical component of delivering exceptional customer service. But the challenge for brands is how to create realistic scenarios that test employees, without exposing them to customers prematurely. VR has the potential to help here, providing immersive training experiences that can completely disconnect staff from the outside world.

Trialling virtual reality challenges in our own training schemes has accelerated the development of communication and problem solving skills – key abilities for customer service staff providing technical support, for example. VR adds a heightened sense of realism and the option to introduce gamification, which, even in its most basic form, creates a more memorable learning experience.

Eventually, the technology could also be used to develop bespoke, virtual training programmes that meet an employee’s specific development needs, helping them get up to speed and make progress in areas they need to improve. This would not only streamline the training process, but also ensure that employees are better equipped to deliver exceptional customer experiences.

Both technologies offer the potential to open up completely new prospects for brands – it’s not a question of whether they will become indispensable, but when. Now is the time for businesses to start considering application scenarios and how to integrate AR and VR into their customer service operations, to ensure that they are well positioned to maximise their value.

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