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Is it Time for the Evolution or Revolution of CX? - It's Our Choice
Over the past 60 years, the contact center industry has undergone numerous foundational technical enhancements, each altering our operational landscape. I think fondly of technologies like computer telephony integration (CTI) that allowed agents to know who they were speaking with. Infrastructure changes like SIP and CCaaS revolutionized the on-premise landscape.
While advancements like outbound dialers, IVRs, and natural language understanding pledged enhanced customer experiences - a happy world where customers were able to get what they needed quickly while balancing the staffing needs of an organization providing service - the reality has been starkly different. We’ve trained customers not to answer their phone if they don’t know who is calling. From an IVR and natural language standpoint, Customers have been conditioned to press the zero key repeatedly or angrily yell “agent” at an IVR. A 2023 study by the Northridge Groupfound that only 1 in 10 customers report that it’s easier to get help from a self-service IVR than a live agent.
This is not an obloquy of any of these technologies - none of them are inherently evil - but we have built them in ways that focus on organizational benefit over customer experience. Customers have responded in kind, removing or fundamentally reducing the benefits that they promised to deliver.
We sit on a precipice of a fundamental evolution of technology - generative AI and large language models. Dubbed by some as the Black Swan Event of our industry, it has incited projections of significant agent reductions across global BPOs and expectations of profound impacts within CX executive circles. On the other hand, it provides opportunities for upskilling and enables human agents to focus on complex, meaningful interactions, adding value where it’s most needed.
Every CCaaS vendor has a revolutionary slide full of forward-looking statements about their views and coming soon implementations of GenAI. In our first ten yards of the GenAI marathon, while we’re learning and formulating our approaches, there are a few things we’re going to need to do to get it right. And not to over-simplify it, but they’re the same things that make up a good customer experience: personalization, empathy, efficiency, accuracy and reliability, customer-centricity, and privacy. IVRs that never say, “I’m sorry I didn’t get that, can you please try again.” Human-agent augmentation through finely tuned suggestions, replies, and knowledge.
With new hope, new challenges arise. Take data privacy and security, for instance, which are crucial in maintaining customer trust. Then, there’s the issue of ensuring absolute accuracy in the information these systems provide. What happens if it provides inaccurate information to an agent or caller? Addressing these challenges extends far beyond vendor marketecture – it demands real dialogue and collaboration across our industry.
The future of customer experience hinges on our ability to integrate and refine GenAI responsibly and empathetically. Will we use the potential to enrich our service, prioritizing a balanced implementation that values customer-centric outcomes? Or will we just replicate our past mistakes? This technology could make either easier to do at scale. At the end of the day, it’s up to us - and the time is now to be thinking about it. The opportunity to catalyze a truly revolutionary evolution in our industry is in our hands. So, let’s each reflect on our role and responsibility in ensuring that this evolution is marked by empathy, customer-centricity, and sustainable innovation.