COVID-19 has radically transformed how companies operate across the world.  More people are working from home and more business is occurring through digital channels than ever before. Many companies have taken critical steps to adopt digital tools and channels to market to survive and optimise. Datacom recently took part in a webinar which discussed how hyper-automation and conversational artificial intelligence (AI) will continue to push businesses to transform over the next 12 months. You can watch it here. 

Stacey Tomasoni, managing director for Datacom Connect — which offers customer experience operations and contact centres — explained that before COVID, business leaders were on the path to shifting their mix of customer interactions to digital. This is something that has become a necessity for businesses to continue to operate and connect with customers. 

“With the acceleration of digital transactions, we all inherently get that we need to be there, but it’s the spirit in which we need to be there that is up for debate,” Stacey said. “I’d argue that anything less than a wholehearted commitment to digital solutions, enabled by AI, being a core component to our service delivery is destined to miss the mark, both in the customer's eyes and at the bottom line.

“This year, organisations are seeing unprecedented pressures on their service delivery engines in terms of demand, complexity, immediacy and an absolute requirement for compassion. There is an inherent capacity issue here and trying to throw more people at it is just not sustainable in the long term.

“COVID has shown we can move fast and we can introduce AI into the mix at pace to help us deal with demand. Indeed, we had instances we, along with our technology partners, were forced to fire up the ability to interact in an AI-enabled way at scale in the space of a weekend.”

Moving into 2021, hyper-automation, which integrates and automates enterprise systems end-to-end, and conversational AI agents, with their ability to deliver personalised services, hold the key to addressing these business challenges. Many global brands have already taken advantage of these technologies to further optimise their businesses for revenue growth and expansion.

“We will absolutely champion the hybrid workforce and the shifting weight to the digital but at the heart of that is a very deliberate and measured mandate to enable it only as a means to free up the human contingent of our workforce to deliver to a higher purpose,” Stacey said. 

“While we have gone hard in the service delivery space when it comes to the CX (customer experience) automation space and the inclusion of digital workers into our customer-facing frontline, we are now turning that internally to enable our frontline. This ranges from induction to onboarding to real-time agent assistance and now into the long-neglected space of “user experience” as it relates to service desk or help desk interactions.”

After this period of necessary adjustment, companies must look ahead for ways to thrive under radically new social and business circumstances. Offshoring IT support and customer service, for example, is now a less attractive option, given the pandemic’s impact in traditional offshoring locations. 

Bringing that capability back onshore can lead to reskilling employees to enable digital services, but it can also bring resource and cost challenges. What’s more, businesses must continue to expand digital services to differentiate their brands and remain competitive, as those services will remain preferred channels for customers and employees for the foreseeable future.

“COVID has disrupted global supply chains — particularly when it comes to customer service. India and the Philippines have been significantly challenged to continue service delivery at scale during COVID, which has resulted in many services being onshored — particularly in Australia and New Zealand,” Stacey said. 

“This was good for all of us as it proved it could be done, even if only on a temporary basis. However, many large banks and telco companies have publicly declared their intention to maintain contact and customer service operations onshore.”

Building a hybrid workforce that leverages AI and automation makes these efforts not only economical but good for our customers, our customers’ customers, and our people.

“The hybrid workforce is our biggest chance in pulling this off, and where we can park to the side a fixation of race to the lowest ‘cost per FTE’, replacing that with some good old service and experience redesign, we can focus on the ‘total cost of service’ and how we’re using an optimum combination of human and AI to deliver maximum value,” Stacey said. 

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