Last week, Now Interact hosted the event ‘Disrupt: Customer Service and the Digital Revolution’ which established the current state of play for customer service providers. Speakers from Three, Barclaycard and Now Interact – with some of Glasgow’s finest minds in attendance – discussed the impact of technological advances, the digital developments that will most impact customer service in the future and how failing to react to change will limit opportunities.
A new world?
At the event, Three’s Gary Walker explained how traditional business models have been displaced, diminished and dis-intermediated by the digital revolution. Digital developments, along with disruptive new-comers, have forced businesses to re-evaluate their processes, strategies and operations.
This is something that is true across most sectors. Digitization, for example, has changed the way that consumers bank. For many, a world without PayPal, Apple Pay, bitcoin, TransferWise etc. is, if not unimaginable, not one worth celebrating.
Digital change is self-evident in telecoms. The iPhone has been all but immortalised as the official emblem of the digital revolution, worn in the pockets of the general public like badges on the lapels of rioting students.
Beyond actual physical product changes, telecoms giants are being forced to adapt to a new way of structuring their business. Just look at WhatsApp – a plucky five-year-old company with zero ad spend that can work on any available infrastructure and, despite being offered to users completely free of charge, has a company value of $19bn.
So, a new world? Absolutely. And the companies that will thrive in it will be those that acknowledge and adapt to the disruption.
The limits of a traditional business model
With change comes resistance. This resistance could either be purely reactive (note: not conducive to success against more digitally-minded competitors) or could be inadvertently felt as the result of sticking by traditional business models.
One of the main failures of the traditional business structure is the lack of integration between teams. At the event, Barclaycard’s Richard Atkinson lamented how, in many companies, social teams are still trapped in glass rooms away from the main floor. Similarly, he pointed to the fact that a lot of companies aren’t using consumer data to automate processes. That, although companies have access to tools that would make life easier for their customer base, they have yet to integrate channels and platforms together to deliver the powerful – personalized – experience consumers demand. Rather than have customers adapt to their model, businesses need to really focus on the experience they are actually delivering.
Now Interact’s Paul Ives also touched on how damaging working in silos can be for customer service providers, regardless of which industry they work in. The modern consumer doesn’t necessarily demand modern contact channels, but they do expect all agents that they come into contact with to have the ability to understand their journey – and resolve their issue – regardless of channels and systems.
The traditional model lacks flexibility. There’s no understanding of why customers are reaching out to call center agents nor any knowledge about where the customer comes from. A traditional model that doesn’t adapt to the modern customer and emerging technologies is destined to drive a firm wedge between business and consumer.
Into the future
If we believe Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly, we are edging towards a techno-utopic future. His idea of the ‘technium’ may seem slightly far reaching but is worth paying attention to. Kelly’s vision of the future reaches to the limits of technological development – it’s the potential that all technology could achieve.
It would be ridiculous to assert that we’re anywhere close to the day when man and customer service machine are going to be floating together symbiotically somewhere in the cloud. But the first steps on the path to utopia might not be quite so out-of-reach.
During the event, Richard extolled the increasing virtues of web self-serve, particularly if it can be measured in terms of the percentage of customers who were actually able to help themselves. He also pointed to a couple of channels that are currently leading the pack at bPay: Facebook Messenger and 2-way SMS. Consumers use instant messaging services and SMS every day. Some consumers love being able to communicate with brands in the same way. Just look at where WhatsApp’s heading. Smart companies are pre-empting this change.
Gary promoted developing talent alongside technologies as being fundamental to future successes. The employees that will benefit you in the future aren’t necessarily the biggest sellers or the highest achievers; they’re the most well rounded workers. He stressed the importance of employing people with a strong purpose, minimal ego, a motivation to get things done and a diversity in experience. Forget about where they are based; the age of the cloud is here and home-working is a common practice. He praised the organizations who are building ‘agile scrum’ teams within a traditional environment.
Predictive Intelligence technology is already helping to reshape the definition of ‘good customer service.’ Now Interact firmly believes that it will continue to do so, particularly as companies adjust to meet consumers’ omnichannel expectations. You can read more about how we believe customer service success will be defined in 2016 here.
It’s impossible to deny that we all operate in a digital world. What might be harder to acknowledge is if your business is not adapting quickly enough to change. Acknowledging the status quo, there’s no escaping the need to prepare, equip for and embrace digital disruption.