Don't undervalue the human touch in live customer chat

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There are times when a contact center person can deliver a real human touch… an invaluable opportunity to make a connection and exceed the customer’s expectations.

Go on, Google “chatbots and contact centers.” I dare you. It’s like Skynet out there. If you believe the internet, we in the contact center world are at risk of being wiped out by the Terminator-like “chatbot.”

But, to paraphrase the heroic character Sarah Connor, I think we can fight back. After all, we survived the IVR and the Robocall. We found ways to actually improve the customer experience, delivering “better, stronger, faster” service (a nod to the Six Million Dollar man and his technology). The time has come to improve live customer chat, as well.

Even with all the automated CRM technologies available to today, there is still a place for the human contact center person.

There are conversations that we can have with a customer that transcend the transactional, that are more than button clicks and recorded robo-scripts. There are times when a contact center person can deliver a real human touch that provides the customer an interaction with humanity – for example, to share a story, good or bad. It is during this contact that the business has an invaluable opportunity to make a connection, to bring to life the organization, and exceed the customer’s expectations.

In fact, our recent survey shows that 49% of consumers think chatbots are useful for asking basic questions, but 65% of consumers still prefer a human at the other end of a chat.

So, how we do make that happen? How do we balance the convenience and cost-efficiency of automated technologies like IVRs and chatbots with the need for highly personalized customer experiences?

To make live customer chat better, we need artificial intelligence and case management to work with bots. Our AI needs to recognize when a human can do it better.

Feeling the irony yet?

AI and sentiment analysis should be able to recognize an incoming call where we may have an opportunity to enhance the customer’s experience by connecting them through to a real human being. For example, if recent shopping indicators predict the arrival of a new baby, the incoming call to a bank for “savings account opening” might allow for a happy encounter about the new arrival, a discussion on the best college savings plans, or just sharing the joy with a free gift or two. Have you seen what TD Bank does on TDThanksYou day? Go Google that, too!

Similarly, if we are notified of a death in the household, a call into the bank’s call center might automatically be routed to allow for a conversation to offer support beyond the specific need the customer may have identified in the inbound call.

Sometimes the desire to deliver the speediest and most cost-effective response to a customer’s needs could be an opportunity to listen to a customer and, perhaps, offer more than was asked. So in a world where “being the fastest” may be one goal, perhaps there is an argument that just because we can do something faster, doesn’t mean we always should. Knowing when to take a slower more human approach, and having smart technology to help do that, is important, too.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: In her role as Pega’s Global Director and Industry Principal for lending, Michelle (Mitch) Mitchell applies more than 25 years of experience in risk management and operational optimization to help global financial services and telecommunications organizations streamline operations, grow revenue, and provide outstanding customer engagement.