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The Shift towards a Proactive and Personalised Contact Center Industry

Nigel Piper, Executive GM - Customer Experience, Xero
Nigel Piper, Executive GM - Customer Experience, Xero

Nigel Piper, Executive GM - Customer Experience, Xero

Driven by recent technological advancements, the contact center industry is undergoing a majorshift towards proactive and personalised support.

Developments such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, have prompted many companies to go ‘out with the old’. The likes of telephone support and chatbots are being replaced with online help centre models, allowing customers to solve their own problems through a personalised experience based on data insights. The vision is when customers seek help online, the insights of machine learning and authentication will already know who they are, what their likely query is, and can anticipate roadblocks in their journey based on what others have experienced at similar times. They can then be provided with a contextual solution to these potential blocks through data insights and machine learning.

Inbound telephone support just isn’t scalable for high growth companies growing to millions of customers—you need to have a lens of what the next five to ten years will look like and build to serve that customer base. The resource that would be needed to support the growing customer base in a telephone support system wouldn’t be sustainable or affordable, so you have to think differently about how you can support your customers. Sitting in queues and waiting on hold aren’t a good customer experience. Outsourcing telephone support can look attractive but is likely to be risky due to the lack of oversight of the customer’s brand experience. The customer experience you provide will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator in just a few years. Luckily, the cloud and Internet has changed the way the world thinks about support. The question all companies are now asking is ‘how can we use technology to enhance the customer’s experience whilst becoming more efficient?’

From the very first day, Xero never had a dial in number. Being born in the cloud meant it was easy to continue researching and developing an online method of support, to aid our vision to be 100 percent cloud based. I’m not saying we didn’t meet any roadblocks. One hurdle in particular was that our support agents needed to have a level of accounting knowledge—such as a degree—and they needed time to figure out the accounting problems for our customers, before responding. This meant an inbound telephone support centre wouldn’t be time or resource efficient. Additionally, explaining accounting concepts is difficult to do on a telephone call.

People often want step-by-step instructions supported by beautiful content so that they can learn how to use the software, and have something to refer back to. Learning is a key element to how we designed our new help centre, Xero Central. The algorithms in Xero Central will soon draw from our customer’s data insights to create a personalised learning experience where they can solve their own product problems - usually without the need for a customer experience specialist.

We want to create a model shift from reactive support, to being more proactive and reaching out to the customer before they even know what their issue is. With the help of data insights and machine learning, companies can proactively support their customers rather than waiting for them to raise a case. A system like this is not to be confused with self-service. Rather, it’s a personalised support experience which is unique for each customer, based on AI picking up on the context and source of their problems. For example, if the technology can deduce that a customer is spending more time than average creating an invoice, we can proactively provide them with help articles or a video guide on how to do this faster, before they even raise a case. This way, the customer benefits by getting this information before a problem arises and allows them to have more time running their business. Many companies still wait for the customer to contact them, but that’s no longer the way thanks to the capabilities of data insights and AI. While companies that were born online have this competitive advantage, it’s never too late to switch up your support system to better serve your clients. Research shows that a customer is generally able to find answers to their queries through online content. By the time they reach the point of having to raise a case, they are already dissatisfied that they haven’t been able to find this information. Customers want to have access to information, so they can solve their own issues in real time, eliminating repetition and manual processes. They want easily accessible content to learn from, and a community where they can engage with one another. There’s still a bank of specialists available for urgent queries or if a customer cannot solve their issue alone, however their time is now utilised more efficiently. If companies can combine education and personalised learning journeys as part of the support centre through new technology, this improves the customer’s experience and the company’s efficiency.

 Despite technological advancements, it’s important not to forget the human element of customer experience. It’s still about people, and that means engaging with and delighting our customers.

At Xero, we’ve harnessed technology to enable this by having our customer experience specialists add a photo and bio of themselves, and encouraging our customers to do the same. This way, the human connection comes to life and the experience feels more engaging rather than faceless, which is a risk with online support centres. With these advancements coming in to play, it’s so important not to lose touch with the human element - this could be the pivotal point of difference between you and your competitors.

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