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OP-ED: Balancing Automation and Human Touch For Good Customer Experience

Tech innovation has ushered in new tools that help businesses interact with their customers and metrics to measure success.

It’s easy for any business to tout away how it runs on a customer-centric approach and how the customer is king. Appreciating the value of the customer to any business is one thing but how an organization structures its interaction with the customer, and the measures devised to ensure these systems deliver value and satisfaction, is another.

As obvious as it sounds, it is important to understand that a customer is always drawn towards whether they get the most satisfaction. Satisfaction means a good product or service experience, having their issues resolved quickly, a friendly service, 24/7 access to their service provider among others. Not to mention, a satisfied customer is your potential marketer and no amount of advertising can match the power of an endorsement from a customer.

As the shrewd scramble for the customer evolves amid the cut-throat competition, inevitably it will be organizations that offer the customer the best experience and care that will take the day.

Customer service is not what it used to be. Tech innovation has ushered in new tools that help businesses interact with their customers and metrics to measure success. However, success stories have proven there have been far better customer satisfaction outcomes where tech and human tools are in equilibrium.

Chatbots and automated tools are fast and necessary, but their cognitive training must be influenced by the human psyche. Key to note also, customers have varying needs which ultimately determine their levels of satisfaction.

During the automation trend businesses were keener on the volume of queries responded to. Today, more and more focus is being given to how long it takes to resolve a particular query. Most brands communicating online today will tag names or initials of agents to every response made to a query. This gives the customer the confidence that there is a human touch to customer care.

There’s no doubt that technology will continue to influence customer experience and care, the next frontier being Artificial Intelligence (A.I). But businesses must get it right. These tech solutions should be built to learn from human interactions. That way, it allows the customer service team to be more engaged when they’re needed, provide better service and get the necessary support from technology —as part of the seamless experience.

According to Forrester’s U.S 2021 Customer Experience Index 2021, “the highest-scoring brands understood the key emotional needs of their customers and provided emotionally pleasing experiences. They also developed a core group of loyal customers or devotees: those willing to forgive these brands’ mistakes, pay a premium for the brands’ products, keep their business with the brands, and spend more with the brands over time”.

In times like these when the world is contending with a deadly Covid-19 pandemic, the importance of building customer experiences that help you as a business engage customers empathetically and evoke positive emotions cannot be underscored enough. Such emotions create and sustain customer loyalty.

As the market gets crowded by the day with new entrants and revolutionary innovations, what’s not going to change is the bearing that customer experience has on any business’ bottom line. This is because you cannot retain a dissatisfied customer.

Unfortunately, the process that goes into a customer deciding whether to stay loyal is as emotive as it is unpredictable. You might have satisfied them 99 times, but 1 experience could be nasty enough to drive them away. Yours is to be deliberate and consistent in ensuring they enjoy a great experience, buy more, be more loyal and share their experience with another potential customer.

As a Pay-TV business that offers a digital-tech-led service, MultiChoice Uganda has adopted several tech solutions such as self-service options, mobile and e-Payment points, and real-time response to customer queries across all social media platforms. At the same time, the business maintains the human resources that ensure the strategy and routine interaction is highly effective.

At the heart of our operation is an inbound and digital call center that relies on more than 80 agents to answer inquiries from our customers. This team undergoes a rigorous training process to make sure they aptly respond to the satisfaction of the customer and provide solutions in the shortest time possible so that there is no room for inconveniences. As the landscape within which our business operates changes, so does the skilling to the people in these call centers.

In greater measure, MultiChoice has invested in tech-led solutions including an AI-based chatbot. Our smart virtual assistant named TUMI (The Ultimate Master of Information) has enabled call center agents to quickly dig up the relevant information and answers relating to inquiries being asked by customers in real-time. Owing to the constant training of TUMI by our teams, the volume of separate customer queries that the virtual assistant is able to recognize and respond to has significantly shot up.

It is for these attributes that in 2019, MultiChoice Group was awarded the Best Customer Experience Award at the Customer 360 Africa 2019, for the business’ integrated approach to customer service from board level to call center.

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Patricia Kiconco, Head of Customer Experience and Care at MultiChoice Uganda, and provided to PC Tech Magazine for publishing.

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