Data deluge a lifeline for service delivery

Simply responding to an angry tweet just doesn't cut it when it comes to improving your organisation's customer experience (CX) capabilities.

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The banking royal commission had the financial sector licking its wounds, and the aged care industry is poised for the same once the full extent of malpractice is revealed.

Meanwhile, both the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) continued to highlight issues in the telco industry as complaints remain high.

For years, the corporate world has been told to get its act together and provide customer service that aligns to the expectations of digitally-native users. Finally, in 2019, we saw customer experience (CX) put on notice, with consumers and regulators eager to expose the poor services on offer from the brands they engage every day.

Although many Australian organisations have made significant strides in enhancing their CX capabilities, there is an abundance of outdated processes and customer service functions at a time when responding to an angry tweet just doesn’t cut it.

‘Advanced technologies’ have been around for some time now. While solutions like artificial intelligence (AI) powered chatbots aren’t new, the road beyond 2020 will see organisations turn their attention to learning how to converge their CX capabilities and use the data from those centralised services to anticipate and serve consumer needs.

A focal point for the use of that data will be to empower employees to better understand, contextualise and therefore resolve issues.

Last year, Australia’s Department of Defence did that just by reinvigorating its contact centre through convergence, then topped with automation and analytics. The objective was to provide employees with visibility into accurate and secure data sets so they can deliver personalised interactions for even the more sophisticated issues related to Defence business lines.

In a more advanced case, a large Australian bank has been using voice biometrics to identify customers who call their contact centre to accelerate resolution times without all the pesky questions. Its customers can now have a natural conversation with an agent while the company has the peace of mind that an AI engine will authenticate the voice.

Further, airlines, digital banks and hospitals across Australia which have taken similar steps to transform their operations to provide succinct, data-driven CX by addressing the experiences of all stakeholders, including staff.

CX will continue to be shaped by the demands of customers, especially now that there is increased awareness around the potential use of their data. Australians have little interest in being taken for a ride by ‘the big end of town’. No one wants to be another The Great Hack victim, and governance will take centre stage in the mainstream, not just within industry, to prohibit a Cambridge Analytica clone.

We had a taste of this very recently when the ACCC said it is taking Google to court for allegedly breaching Australian consumer law over misuse of customers’ personal data.

According to ACCC Chair, Rod Sims, “Google has collected, kept and used highly sensitive and valuable personal information about consumers' location without them making an informed choice” or ‘opting in’.

While technological progress pertaining to CX will be steady, the next five years will see organisations augment whatever remaining legacy systems they have, such as large CRM suites and databases, as these inhibit the ability to analyse data to improve experiences.

New CX investment will come in the form of applications that use different forms of AI technologies as well as best-of-breed unifying platforms, to help organisations address their operational challenges so they can align to their increasingly demanding customers.

But don’t expect dystopia anytime soon. Research from Vanson Bourne released in August found that 42 per cent of Australian organisations don’t have the skills to adopt AI, while another 42 per cent lack understanding about what it is.

Both these numbers are higher than the global averages, so while we are an advanced nation, there’s still work to be done and examples will be nascent, with some likely to take a ‘wait and see’ approach before spinning up a bot.

With a converged framework in place, Australian companies will focus on getting to know their customers. While that sounds like customer service 101, a new age of customer centric engagement and accountability will see business leaders take a candid stance to avoid becoming the next big CX horror headline.

Peter Chidiac is managing director, Australia and NZ at Avaya.

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