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Can we embrace AI to achieve transparency across all communication channels and deliver a world-clas

As the UK edges closer to 'Freedom Day', it appears the work from home mandate will be dropped or at least relaxed. Café, bar, restaurant owners, and rail providers, can all breathe a collective sigh of relief. The dark, lockdown days may finally be over. Or are they? How many of us are going back to work in the office full time? While there are valid arguments for both sides, that is not the purpose of this blog. Instead, I want to explore how AI can help to unite people and processes better - wherever they are. 

We have always known that a lack of transparency and consistency across teams, departments, and geographies exists in organisations of all sizes. This causes a whole host of problems, and the bigger the firm, the more damaging these can be. COVID-19 was the catalyst for many things, and one business function very visibly impacted by the pandemic was the customer contact centre. Unfortunately, most firms were unprepared for the tsunami of inbound 'virtual enquiries' they were about to receive and thus, they were (and are) unable to manage the complexities caused by unstructured communications, including voice, text, email, and fax, etc. All too often, the outcome of highly inefficient, inconsistent communications is an increasingly disgruntled and disenfranchised customer base. 

The knock-on effect of poor service at the front-line very quickly ripples down throughout the business. In our experience, when people and processes are not fully aligned, employees will constantly make the same mistakes or mishandle incoming enquiries, the consequences of which can be devastating. Admittedly, this was an existing problem when everyone was in the same facility, but the challenges have increased exponentially with the expansion of remote working.

In many cases, service managers are almost wholly in the dark about what is going on and can only rectify errors after the fact. In an age where the customer calls the shots, this is an unacceptable situation. Equally, without an easily accessible audit trail, it is virtually impossible to measure either team or individual productivity levels. A supervisor can probably identify the numbers of calls handled but can they accurately view and measure the quality of the service their teams have delivered?

Within financial services, this is immensely relevant, particularly when handling high value, sensitive data; coupled with the impact of increasing regulatory scrutiny, there can be no room for error. Add to this squeezed margin across the sector, and the race is now on to dramatically improve customer service – not just attempt not to get it wrong!

A recent KPMG paper suggested, "In the current environment, banks around the world typically will need to reduce their cost-income ratio by ten percentage points or more." The same paper stated that some 61 per cent of respondents said that cost reduction is a strategic priority. However, achieving cost savings at the expense of an excellent customer service experience is a high-risk strategy and raises the question: Can technology enable both?

The first step to transforming customer service capabilities is to gain complete transparency across all communications channels throughout the business. Just imagine the business development opportunities and increased customer satisfaction goals you could achieve by equipping your managers with a real-time dashboard that enabled them to view what was said or what actions were taken throughout the entire customer interaction. The possibilities are endless. For AI to be truly effective from the point of view of cost, automation, and improved service, it needs to be handling 90 - 95% of the requests accurately. Anything less is counterproductive.

Judd Caplain, Global Head of Financial Services, Partner, KPMG in the US, commented, "Cost optimisation should not be seen as restricting activity or innovation, but rather as a commitment to continuous improvement. A continual asking of how things can be done better and more efficiently." 

A view that is totally aligned with our vision as to how a well-trained AI model can continually improve the overall customer experience.  

Despite all the changes over the last 18 months, one thing is clear: the modern, highly mobile customer wields power in terms of whom they work with, and if service levels fall short, they will very quickly vote with their feet. But the good news is that with AI, organisations can be both customer-centric and cost-conscious for the first time simultaneously. Come freedom day or #Lockdown3, it's a win-win situation. The tools are available today, don't let fear or a reluctance to change leave you behind.

 

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