In a survey conducted by the AI LAB research center at IULM University in 2020, involving a sample of 230 Italian companies across 6 different sectors, there was talk of immaturity in adopting technological solutions for Customer Service.
Today, aiming for fast, efficient service that meets customer needs, the business section of the European Commission's portal associates the quality of Customer Care and Customer Experience with a combination of technology and human interaction.
Furthermore, in the United States, 75% of executives aim to invest in a customer service that combines robotic assistance and human contact (Deloitte, 2021).
But what drives this trend?
Is it the customer who can't do without human interaction, or is it the technology that doesn't yet have the capabilities to deeply understand their needs?
The Hybrid Approach in Customer Service: Aiming for Long-Term Knowledge
Even though virtual assistance software like chatbots, voice support, and AI can handle large volumes of requests, companies still struggle to adequately meet customer needs.
According to McKinsey, the gaps lie in the process that transforms dialogue between agent and customer into reusable insights and knowledge.
Shifting focus to this aspect, says the American consultancy, would trigger an improvement in Customer Experience, addressing a top challenge for Customer Service leaders.
From: State of customer care survey in 2022, McKinsey
In an attempt to achieve this, a hybrid approach today is the solution that best meets customer needs. To understand why, it's crucial to analyze the two constituent parts: people and robots.
Examining a sample of 9,700 customers from retail and banking sectors in Europe (of which 1,320 are Italian), Capgemini highlights that people seek an interaction as human-like as possible when using virtual assistants like voice bots and chatbots.
Thus, looking at well-equipped customer service departments, but immature in "humanizing technology", agents still hold an essential position.
But the role of people in Customer Service is not just about empathy.
Consider scenarios where specialized skills are indispensable and must be creatively combined to solve a problem:
For an airline, for instance, some flight changes must be forwarded to an agent who knows how to combine specific fares according to international aviation regulations.
Or consider a scenario where assistance becomes sales:
In the banking world, imagine a customer requesting a credit card, and an agent leveraging the conversation to offer a related insurance plan.
"Empower Customer Service agents to create personalized and scalable experiences"
On the other hand, providing quality customer experiences and efficient service would not be possible without robotic and automation systems for Customer Service.
Indeed, self-service automation technologies are now considered a top investment priority for European companies.
But to transform customer interactions into useful knowledge for the future, one of the biggest challenges is increasing the adoption of these technologies by customers themselves.
This aspect isn't just linked to the type of tool chosen. Assuming the use of flexible virtual assistance software set up to meet the most common sector needs, the ability to solve specific problems impacts adoption.
Deloitte hits the mark when discussing the Customer Effort Score (CES), the KPI that is becoming among the most observed metrics, standing alongside First Time Resolution, C-SAT, and the Service Level Agreement.
CES measures the ease with which the customer can contact the department and communicate their issue.
It determines the barrier between agent and customer, which can be narrowed in various ways. First and foremost is giving agents visibility into more than just basic data, such as annual spending volumes, loyalty level, and NPS score.
The Hybrid Approach: A Case Study
Swiss Post is an example of the correct combination of technology and human assistance.
Serving 2.5 million customers a year, the Swiss postal service couldn't achieve satisfactory support performance.
Thus, they decided to add an additional channel, Whatsapp, to their existing chatbot and live chat tools.
Combining these channels with their CRM capabilities, Swiss Post increased personal communication with their customers, gathered more specific information, achieved a 70% FCR (First Contact Resolution), and reached an AHT (Average Handling Time) of 7 minutes.
For a high-performing Customer Service department, humans and technology must collaborate to collect information that remains valuable over time, improves service personalization, and strengthens the customer-company relationship.
1: IULM AI LAB, UMANIA 2020: automazione intelligente per aumentare la soddisfazione del cliente nel customer care
2: Commissione Europea
3: McKinsey, The vision for 2025: Hyperpersonalized care and ‘care of one’, 2022
4: Capgemini, 2019
5 : Deloitte, 2022
6: Deloitte, 2022