Right now is an incredible time to be involved in the world of customer experience. Companies and the consumers they serve are grappling with the pace of change and the continual demand for answers and information, and in many ways it’s the service industry that is helping us figure it all out.

Thirty years ago, Datacom had just begun offering its first Contact Centre services, and the enabling technologies that were wrapped around customer interactions were pretty limited. Customer service was widely viewed as a cost centre and creating an exceptional customer experience (CX) was not a priority for businesses.

In many industries, organisations have now worked out that experience might just be the last remaining differentiator available to them. And that’s meant leaders in charge of designing and executing on service strategy finally have a seat at the top table and a say in the decisions that shape the organisation and the experience being delivered to customers and citizens alike.

Those same leaders are also being looked to for advice around emerging technologies and productivity tools, because in its quest to transform customer experiences, the service industry has become an early adopter of emerging technologies.

Many of the topics currently making headlines and sparking conversations in mainstream media about automation and AI have long been at play within the service industry. If you’re seeking clarity amid this chatter, establishing a connection with your organisation’s service delivery leader could be a valuable and insightful first step.

Stacey Tomasoni profile shot
Datacom Connect Managing Director Stacey Tomasoni: "In many industries, organisations have now worked out that experience might just be the last remaining differentiator available to them."

The pursuit of a better customer experience is not reserved for commercial organisations seeking to increase customer loyalty and ultimately revenue – the leading government agencies have worked out that not providing a great customer experience creates a cycle of doom where failure to service a customer holistically in the first instance blows out demand in ways that are hard to recover from.

A lot of the conversations popping up in mainstream media and discussions around the opportunities for automation and AI have been in play for many years in the service industry.

Where some businesses are just starting to become familiar with the world of virtual assistants and chatbots, Datacom implemented its first way back in 2016. We’ve been reaping the benefits of simple AI tools for a long time and are helping our customers take advantage of the opportunities presented by generative AI.

Uses of generative AI can be as simple as asking it to come up with all the ways a customer might ask for their bank balance – a task that could take a Conversational AI architect hours and offer minimal job satisfaction, is reduced to a task that takes seconds and can produce a list of 50 variations. The information can then be used to train a virtual assistant and increase the likelihood it will understand customer queries and provision an effective response or take an action to support them.

Opportunities to apply emerging technologies aren’t concentrated directly on customer-facing activities alone. We are seeing these capabilities used to change the experiences of our customer service teams to not only remove a lot of the boring or tedious tasks but allow us to zero in on insights and turn our customer service functions from being reactive into proactive service hubs – driving real value and engagement with customers that realise the organisations strategy and customer service principles.

Whether that’s automating customer conversations to save a customer service agent time; using speech analytics to transform our Quality Assurance team into conversation coaches; using a conversational interactive voice response (IVR) tool to service the more functional, basic parts of customer interactions before a customer connects; using robotic process automation (RPA) to support ‘self-service’ options for simple requests like changing an order, or anticipating customer needs – and making that information available to the service team.

One of my favourite examples of how technology is improving our capabilities is using speech analytics in service delivery teams. This tool not only provides real-time insights into customer sentiment (in contrast to traditional satisfaction surveys with polarising results) but also helps teams identify high-risk areas, such as mentions of ombudsman, ministers, lawyers, or at worst, self-harm.

In our own customer operations, there’s a growing number of instances where we’ve been able to offer additional assistance to both customers and employees that we might have missed before speech analytics. It provides invaluable insights into the support our people may require, which is especially crucial in remote work settings where visual cues are limited. By setting up simple dashboards, leaders can easily identify team members who might need extra support, those who’ve handled difficult interactions, or those who’ve excelled with new processes. It’s a game-changer for enhancing our understanding and support across the board.

Working in the service industry provides an acute understanding of the interconnected relationship between employee satisfaction and customer satisfaction. Behind every great customer interaction, you can see one of your people with the processes, technology and care they need to get the job done.

In fact, drawing on my own career and Datacom’s decades of experience, the insight that stands out most clearly for me is that you can’t have a great customer experience without a great employee experience.

Stacey Tomasoni joined Datacom in 2008 and is Managing Director for Datacom Connect. She has been named as a top influencer in the APAC contact centre industry. Her team helps transform customer experiences using experience design, operational excellence and the practical application of emerging technologies, with a focus on creating enduring value and unlocking capacity.

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Professional services Financial services FMCG & retail Public sector
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Customer experience Contact centres Digital process automation Platforms & applications