How to Catch Up with Digital Customer Service Transformation


Recently, Brand Embassy, the technology company I founded seven years ago, won a $1M deal with one of the leading telecommunications providers in Europe. For over six years, we had unsuccessfully pitched them the idea of switching from their old-fashioned phone customer service to modern digital and social customer care. Suddenly, they agreed. Why?

Facing serious financial difficulties, the company was forced to admit that unless they fundamentally transformed, they might cease to exist.

Digital customer service is now the key solution for businesses seeking to multiply contact center productivity while increasing revenues. To do that, you’ve got to keep up with rapid digital customer service transformation. So this post is for executives who are wondering whether they’re doing enough to avoid falling behind.

Let’s first take a look at the current landscape, then think about what’s coming next.

What Digital Customers Want 

Although digital technologies that improve both customer satisfaction and company bottom lines are widely accessible and popular with customers, companies often fail to implement them.

Many well-established mobile operators offer a variety of digital products, but only 13% of all digital interactions processed by mobile operators are service-based. Although consumers frequently use digital channels for day-to-day activities, only 10-15% connect with their mobile operator on digital channels in order to resolve their issues. Out of those, the largest group (30%) renew and purchase new services, and roughly one in four consumers pays their monthly bills online.

Customers are poised to take advantage of digital customer service, but often they aren’t given the opportunity. Technology vendors are partially to blame, as some pretty smart niche technologies lack seamless integration into the wider technology stack, and large-scale technologies are not always easy to implement. But there are also limitations to current self-service offerings

The Problem With Self-service

Many consumers today use online self-service forums, publicly accessible web-based knowledge bases, or self-service mobile apps, but research by Youbiquity shows that 72% of banking customers rated this self-service as “not easy.”

Self-service is actually making many customer service-related issues costly and inefficient while also making customers dissatisfied. Businesses should utilize self-service in addition to human-based customer service and conversation-based bots that can use the same self-service resources.

This automation is part of a larger trend for the future of digital customer service.

First-level Customer Service Will Be Automated

It’s no longer a question whether customer service will be automated, it’s only a question of how much and when.

A recent Tata Consultancy Services survey shows that almost a third of major companies are now using AI in customer service. For example, Merchant Bank, a leading credit card issuer in China, handles nearly 2 million customer inquiries daily with an automated chatbot.

All customer service activities will be automated at some point, excluding only two categories of requests: complex requests that require creativity or interpersonal skills, and those requiring empathy and a high degree of emotional intelligence.

But companies also have to ensure this improved, automated service is available on all the right channels. Doing so will help the bottom line.

Protect Revenues Through Omnichannel Experience

Research from Gartner suggests that the right omnichannel approach can reduce customer frustration and improve loyalty. According to a study by Forrester, digital touchpoints affect approximately 49% of total U.S. retail sales.

Although implementing omnichannel customer experience can be a painful process for a business of any size, the positives are clear. With the increasing use of AI and machine learning technologies, the financial benefits of omnichannel are growing steadily.

New Revenues Through Service to Sales

Customers are moving from traditional to digital channels, so companies risk losing revenues that have been traditionally generated on upsells and cross sales via voice calls. For a telecommunications company in Europe with 10 million phone calls in the call center each year, this risk is as high as $148 million (€128 million), according to research by McKinsey.

For companies who take advantage of this transformation, it is estimated that an additional $83 million (€72 million) can be generated through the efficient use of digital channels for so-called Service to Sales opportunities.

What Is Service to Sales?

Service to Sales is a concept where customer service is considered a revenue-generating business unit.

Since customers now spend less and less time with brands, the opportunity to build long-lasting relationships is very limited. Customers who have an issue, however, don’t hesitate to contact the brand and have a discussion. This is an amazing opportunity for the company to turn a dissatisfied customer into a loyal supporter while recommending relevant products and selling more.

Service to Sales can be more efficient than marketing at generating sales.

Unlike an online banner that has been displayed to a customer based on her previous product interest during her last website visit, a customer service agent has the opportunity to speak with the customer with Service to Sales. They can ask follow-up questions, identify real interests and desires, and drive the conversation to the most relevant product or service offered on the most relevant terms for the customer. That’s more powerful CRM than ever before.  

Any company that wants to stay ahead of the curve and remain successful in the future has to take these technologies and transformations into account. If you’re interested in doing that, you might also be interested in my book Customer Service in the Transhuman Age. You can purchase it on Amazon.

Don’t have time for reading? Check out this exhaustive presentation with the key findings from the book.



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