Building customer engagement: why a mix of automation and the human touch works best

Mar 29, 2022

woman on a phone

Customer engagement solutions cover a wide range of different technologies and help to manage the customer journey in a number of ways, for example by engaging with customers through multiple marketing channels, delivering targeted relevant and timely personalized messages, and analyzing customer behaviour. They can also be applied to different business functions, using AI and machine learning to adapt and improve processes based not only on the customer experience but on the employee experience too.

Customer engagement solutions: reducing pressure on call centers

Customer-centric software solutions can offer an enhanced digital customer experience – they help to make interacting with businesses simple, fast and effective. And for the organization it makes complete sense. Automating manual processes means fewer staff are needed to do the same work, resulting in greater efficiency and cost savings. This approach also provides greater flexibility for organizations that are moving away from live person-to-person contact in traditional call centers, and introducing new hybrid working patterns supported by digital self-service operations that can run 24 hours per day, seven days per week. 

The ability to do more digitally takes the pressure off call centers, particularly when dealing with the increased traffic volumes and staff absences that we have seen as a result of COVID-19. For example, the fact that a call center employee can only answer one physical phone at a time, but could, depending on the complexity of the query, manage multiple digital chats, allows hard-pressed businesses to achieve more without compromising on customer response times. 

 Companies still need to treat customers as individuals, and the more advanced automated solutions allow them to do just that. Business processes and customer communications can be adapted in the moment, depending on how individuals respond. Business intelligence frameworks can capture information from applications, solutions and processes and be used for reporting and analytics, for example, using behavioral data to better understand customer needs and predict future demand.

More customers than ever are ready for digital engagement

And what do customers think? The good news is they have become more open to interacting digitally since the pandemic.  As life starts to return to normal, let’s not forget that it was a major factor in accelerating the shift to digital: more and more customers are not only embracing self-service and digital interaction but also now expect to deal with companies online as standard. In fact our new report 'Giving UK Utility Customers A Voice' reveals that 61 per cent of UK utility customers have become more used to interacting with companies digitally on their website, apps and other online channels since the pandemic. This suggests there are clear opportunities for companies to meet this demand by expanding their digital offering.

To deliver a great customer experience it’s important to know when it’s time for the human touch.  Alongside digital engagement, you must also ensure person-to-person contact is available when required, at the right touch points, during the customer journey. For example, simple queries such as “Where is my order?” are obvious candidates for the use of automated chatbots underpinned by AI. But it is also important to be able to understand the mood of the customer, and know when it’s time for a real person to intervene. If the query is more emotional, such as, “This is the third replacement you have sent me and it’s STILL not the correct one!”, then sentiment analysis, combined with AI, can help to interpret the emotional cues in the statement and establish when to handover to a real person to stop the query escalating.

Customer engagement solutions: automation can bring employee empowerment

In our previous blog Macro 4 :: Our 2022 technology predictions we mentioned the great resignation: large numbers of employees leaving their jobs after experiencing burnout or re-evaluating their career choices during lockdown. Moving to a remote-based customer engagement work model brings a range of benefits including home working, reduced travel, flexible hours and a better work/life balance.

Hybrid working is here for the foreseeable future so it’s important that customer engagement solutions meet the needs of home workers and give them the tools and information to do their jobs well. Flexible automated processes empower customer service employees to adapt processes to the customer and use their initiative. At the same time, automation can handle more of the simple, low-level tasks and queries, freeing up employees to add greater value in their customer interactions and achieve a greater sense of satisfaction in their work.

As with customers it’s important to recognize when employees can benefit from human interaction and support, for example from their peers, management guidance for difficult queries or emotional support after challenging customer interactions.

Customer engagement solutions: there’s still more to do

Having a complete picture of the customer – understanding what they want and need, and how they are interacting with your business – is still work in progress for most organizations. It’s important to use flexible technology that allows you to plug the gaps between different teams, processes and systems and deliver a more connected customer experience.      

At the same time, organizations should blend automation with person-to-person interaction at key points throughout the customer journey to get the best of both worlds and ensure a positive customer experience. It’s those human moments that can turn a good customer experience into a great customer experience.

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