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Industry 4.0 Calling: Emerging Tech Transforms Customer Service

Guest Blog by Neil Hammerton, CEO and Co-founder, Natterbox

Industry 4.0 Calling: Emerging Tech Transforms Customer Service

Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, was the first to coin the phrase “the fourth industrial revolution”. Over the past 150 years, automation and mechanisation have been the instigating force behind a handful of rapid and seismic shifts in the global labour market.

Steam power first transformed agriculture, transport and simple manufacturing tasks. Within 50 years, electricity revolutionised more complex manufacturing, ushering in the age of mass production. Then, in the second half of the 20th century, electronics, information technology and simple robotics appeared, automating production lines to such an extent that just a handful of supervisors could oversee as much work as was previously fulfilled by hundreds of employees.

Now, we are thought to be living through the fourth age of technological change, where disruptive technologies and trends are rapidly changing our everyday lives. The Internet of Things has changed the way we interact with ordinary objects, while Artificial Intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly capable of replicating human-level thought. Numerous headlines have suggested that technology is on the brink of replacing human labour, causing potentially huge ramifications for the job market of the future.

One industry that has become particularly synonymous with the use of AI, and is therefore thought to be at risk, is customer service. But just how accurate is that assessment?

Technology in customer service

Technology is now at a stage where the lines between what is real and artificial are indisputably blurring. For example, as machines get better at natural language processing and semantics, they become more adept at mimicking human speech patterns. As such, many businesses have implemented chatbot products in recent years to provide 24/7 basic customer service through their websites. And now, this technology has advanced enough, and reached a low enough price point, that it has become the best option for most large consumer brands.

Meanwhile, some brands’ sales and marketing departments are already moving on and adopting a new and more advanced stage of AI-supported technology – sentiment analysis tools, that create measurable data points around customer feedback. To begin with, sentiment analysis was a crude metric based on the quantity of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ keywords present in emails, reviews or social media posts. But more recently, it has grown increasingly sophisticated at interpreting the nuances of language and offering a more accurate assessment of audiences’ feelings in relation to the brand.

Despite concerns around the future of AI, customer experience is vital in maintaining brand loyalty. The technology is undeniably already changing the way we communicate with brands, allowing historical and contextual data to effectively tailor the customer experience and deliver increased brand satisfaction. But the future advantages of emerging technologies are potentially endless when it comes to helping consumer-facing companies continually improve their offering and remain competitive.

To the future of comms and beyond

Around two-thirds of respondents to a recent Natterbox survey expressed a personal interest in emerging innovations, adding that such technologies might prove useful in their role. This indicated that AI and machine learning, in particular, could be of huge benefit throughout the customer-facing supply chain in the future. For example, AI will enable communications professionals to collect crucial insights and act on them more efficiently.

Furthermore, AI technology is now being developed that enables service providers to automatically direct customers towards the agent best equipped to deal with their query. These systems feed the agents with information about the customer’s current situation, previous purchases and interactions with the brand. Equipped with this information, calls could be completed more efficiently, reducing waiting times for other customers.

The next big move for the telecoms industry, when it comes to AI, will be towards integrating the technology into telephony platforms in order to help companies figure out what the immediate benefits of the data they have access to, is.  As a result, in the future, an algorithm could analyse the tone and content of the call, enabling managers to act on the analysis and offer more targeted training.

Embracing the fourth industrial revolution by integrating AI into conversations with customers is the answer to the challenge of creating more meaningful relationships that keep customers coming back. But there are limitations to implementing technology for automating processes – whether that’s a result of implementing too much or not implementing it in the right way. So, it is ultimately up to companies to find the right balance between humans and machines to ensure their customer offering remains competitive.

 

Neil Hammerton

Neil Hammerton

Guest Blog by Neil Hammerton, CEO and Co-founder, Natterbox
Neil’s career started with BT where he obtained an HND in electronics. A serial entrepreneur, he has since led four successful business ventures having co-founded Natterbox in 2010. Natterbox enables organisations to deliver class-leading service levels to their customers through efficient and effective integration of voice into their digital customer communications.

 

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