The arrival of new digital channels and the global pandemic brought about new operational methods. A need for immediacy, transparency, reactivity…the different lockdowns revealed a real need for a human connection between customers and brands, but not at any price. Digitalization shuffled the cards, giving power back to customers. Companies must therefore adapt themselves and create seamless 360° customer journeys if they wish to earn customer loyalty.
Interviewed at the Vocalcom stand during the “Stratégie Clients” customer service fair (which takes place in Paris at Porte de Versailles), Eric Dadian, President of the AFRC, Karine Palacios, CPO, and Ombeline Bernard Manusset-Allant, CRO of Vocalcom, shared their views on the future of customer service and the need to evolve the product and business strategy of the company.
See their testimony in a series of articles on the changes to customer service, product innovations, and development of Vocalcom.
A connection within the customer experience is a recurring theme—and for good reason! This search for a connection is one of the new topics of customer service that has developed during the pandemic. Today, it is a major point of reflection for customer service professionals. Eric Dadian, President of the AFRC, notes especially the impact of the technologies behind them. “We have noticed this change (of connection?) across different technologies,” he states.
In the span of a few years, the world of customer service shifted from a binary one, based on simple channels—the physical (in person) and the telephone—to a much more complex and supplied one. Progressively, new channels were added. Brands have moved from two, to four, and then eight channels.
And then, everything stopped. « In 2020, with the lockdowns and COVID-19, everything stalled,” reminds Eric Dadian. All activity is stopped, « customer interactions are interrupted. » Faced with this unprecedented situation, companies were able to bounce back quickly.
The pandemic gave meaning back to customer service. How can you keep this connection with your customers and your employees, while each person is remote?
Contact and customer service centers shifted in just a few days to 100% remote working, thanks especially to the cloud.
« Tens of thousands of employees made the shift to try to support the public, to inform them, place orders, make home deliveries…we definitely saw this change beginning in April 2020,” recalls Eric Dadian.
All of this was possible thanks to digitalization and contact center solutions. This period showed the importance of support technologies to customer service, but also the impact of cloud solutions. Indeed, the cloud became the « new normal » for ensuring the continuity and the performance of companies. It was more than crucial for maintaining the continuity of business activity and facilitating remote working during the different lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
At Vocalcom, many of our customers can testify to the importance of having chosen a CCaaS solution for their contact center. Engie Solutions Industries, an expert in cooling solutions, moved its contact center to a remote working model in 24 hours and was thus able to guarantee the maintenance of its critical tasks. “Thanks to the flexibility of the Vocalcom cloud contact center solution, we were able to quickly ensure the continuity of customer service while preserving the health of our colleagues,” states Cyril Roustan, Director of the Retail & Logistics Customer Service Center. Engie Solutions Industries is not the only company to have moved all of its agents to remote working thanks to the cloud. Beter Bed, SABESP, Experta Seguros, Fravega, PMC Treize Generali, and Comdata were also able to protect their employees by fostering access to remote working for all.
Eric Dadian, President of the AFRC, summarizes this situation well: “If there had not been digital contacts, if there had not been technology, we think the economy would have shut down.”
During this difficult time, new channels were added and, little by little, enriched interactions.
Social media channels changed the direction of customer service starting in 2007, giving customers power over brands. The brand-customer interaction thus evolved.
In 2017, it was the turn of artificial intelligence to enter into contact center technologies, specifically by integrating bots. These bots reinforced asynchronous interactions. AI has come to support human relations, giving agents work with more added value. Indeed, AI has given back meaning to an agent’s work. Thanks to self-service, customers save time by getting quick answers, and agents take over if the request is too complicated. Chatbots increase customer satisfaction by 12%. It is a hybridization of customer service that Eric Dadian finds important. “We believe deeply in this hybridization between digitalization and the autonomy given to the customer; to the point of passing the torch to the person, who reassures the customer, shows his feelings, his empathy.” Empathy remains, and will remain, a cornerstone of customer service. Indeed, in spite of the increase in automation and AI in customer service, customers still want human relations. Empathy allows companies to establish a true connection, respond appropriately and with the right tone to a customer’s request, to reassure him, and above all to win his loyalty.
Then we see the appearance of omnichannel technologies that also use artificial intelligence. “Brands still have difficulty offering seamless journeys on all channels,” says Eric Dadian. “You go on a website, then you visit a store, and then you are going to use the customer service center. Unfortunately, information does not circulate. We can see that we are treated differently.”
The more we add channels, the more we will have interactions, and the more we will have pretexts for knowing and better serving customers, but above all anticipating their needs. Customer journeys need to be more creative, and above all, with proactive or even predictive engagement, offering interactions on the preferred channel at the right moment and with the relevant message. It is then, and only then, that the customer will have an irreplaceable experience.
Smartphones have also changed the direction of customer service. “The customer wants to have power over the brand, he wants to make decisions, he wants to co-build, he wants to create journeys, he wants to make products. Brands must understand this and give the customer the chance to do it,” concludes Eric Dadian.
There is one point that Eric Dadian comes back to: the awareness that a brand cannot exist without customer service. “We are convinced that customer experience and customer service are becoming a discipline that companies recognize—a strategic tool for knowing, satisfying, and winning the loyalty of one’s customers,” he states, before adding, “without customer experience, companies would disappear.”
On the contrary, digitalization can no longer disappear. Companies, just like customers, can no longer live without it. It allows, among other things, for companies to preserve this connection which has become vital during the pandemic. “Customers will perhaps go less to stores, and they will certainly use remote customer service more,” says Eric Dadian. This is why, across all channels, companies must create this seamless and consistent journey. Thanks to these efforts, customers will recognize that the brand is evolving, that it is trying to anticipate their needs, and better serve them. Brands must shift from a reactive customer engagement mode to a proactive one. “What customers want is more simplicity, more closeness, more transparency. They wish to be ‘unique’ and have personalized customer service,” Eric Dadian explains. And this applies to customers, but also to employees.
You can also see the video here.
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