There is a clear move to digital communications and to conversational interaction across every industry. This series of posts will explore some of these changes broadly, and then in some finer detail. If that’s too long for you, here’s the TLTR: “For conversational interaction to scale you need great orchestration supported by finely tuned conversational AI”. If you still feel like reading on, let’s get into it.
Change in work patterns and expectations:
- WFH: Working from home and remote working is an obvious and visible change in our industry. Companies are likely to have some blend of working from home and at the office, and different types of agents are going to want different options. Most companies now realise that being digital is central to being able to support this kind of business infrastructure and that different types of supervision, mentoring, and management will be required in this new environment. How agents, supervisors and other staff are able to communicate and collaborate within applications, and around applications, will become more important.
- Voice: an early casualty of the move to digital has been the use of all voice phone-based interactions, use of IVRs, outbound diallers, even simple softphones. This might have been due to the availability of broadband for home workers, the quality of headphones and hardware, or even the ability to make voice available in a compliant manner in this new context. Voice interaction although intimate can also seem not private if it has to be conducted in a semi-private space, i.e., from the agent's home office, or the customers home environment.
- Systems: whatever form of digital is adopted by your organisation it is going to also have major employee-based impacts. Systems, processes, and patterns that help these employees do their jobs remotely will be in increasing demand. Scheduling, forecasting, and all the support processes are going to need to be adjusted for new working patterns. An increased capability in cybersecurity, and compliance, will also be required for remote work.
Consumer behaviour is changing:
- Digital channels: The rise of messaging as a customer support channel accelerated post-pandemic, rising from the 5th most important channel to the 2nd most important channel according to Forrester Research. Some companies relied upon their existing email capability, most tried some form of messaging, but in person and telephone-based interactions took the biggest hit. Digital interaction has obviously increased but over half of companies still feel that they do not have the technology stack in place to support these volumes. There is a need for automation as these solutions scale, and they need to support the agents who must log into multiple systems to get information, respond to customers, etc. As volumes rise there comes a point where you need real actual automation in place, with guide rails, to support the process.
- Payment behaviours: post-pandemic payments are following the move to messaging trend with payments in general up on all digital channels. Research and Markets report that 50% of UK consumers are using digital payments more than there was pre-pandemic. We would expect companies to continue to see rises in the use of digital payments over webchat, SMS and messenger technology over the coming 24 months particularly when orchestrated in support of a customer service portal and the overall digital self-service payments strategy.
- Rise of Chatbots and Digital Assistants: Capgemini expects that in the next 5-9 months that the size (in terms of volume of interactions) occurring over voice and chatbots will match all the activity that takes place in physical bank branches. That's something to think about. As consumers experience better and more useful chatbots in their various digital interactions it will become an even more natural action for them to take, and financial services players will have to up their games as a result. Webio would expect to see a similar, but not the exact same pattern of adoption occurs in credit and debt collection departments.
- New users and heavier users: There are also now a cohort of people who had to try digital services for the first time and by and large they have been happy with this experience. The rise of online banking and financial services such as Monzo and Revolut are indicative here. It is thus entirely likely that the volume of credit and collection customers seeking to digitally self-serve will continue to rise, according to Sukand Ramachandran from BCG's article Redefining Customer Service for the future.
- Many self-employed, retail workers, and independent contractors were also hit with the pandemic and will now be moving off the support payments offered by Government. This will create a whole new type of debtor that will require very careful management. These are new types of customers, and their preferences, particularities and contexts will have to be quickly learned and responded to. One thing we learned from the pandemic is that those with flexible software and processes were able to respond better. We expect to see the same in the next 12 months as companies react and adapt to all the different types of customers that need to be self-served, and agent-assisted.
The Shift to Digital and the Rise of Messaging During the Pandemic was perhaps predictable but it clearly also accelerated trends that were already in motion. Self-service in all its forms received an incredible boost. However, with everything from tap and pay to click deliver services penetrating all demographics customer interaction has become even more “digital”. While self-service, payments, chatbots and automation may have received the attention above, the real trend that is happening is that of Digital Transformation. Webio think that companies have given a sneak preview of the future, and now they have to work hard to bring the future forward or be left behind.
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