IFS: Why humanisation is the future of customer service

Michael Ouissi, Group COO at IFS
Michael Ouissi, Group COO at IFS, says feedback and engagement is the holy grail for organisations as they strive to provide faultless customer service

Digital technology continues to play a critical role in customer service. 

There can be little doubt that, to engage effectively with customers and provide them with what they want and need, organisations must be able to orchestrate their capabilities across systems, customers, assets and employees.

This, says Michael Ouissi, Group COO at IFS, must happen at a critical “moment of service” when the business is challenged to deliver and knows it is under scrutiny.

However, Ouissi’s belief is that technology cannot, nor should not, do this in isolation. 

“People are innately social beings,” he adds. “Despite the ongoing advance of digitalisation, they generally still prefer to interact with another person rather than receiving an automated response.”

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest human interaction in customer service is more important than ever before. In a recent customer survey carried out by TCN, almost 70% of respondents stated that talking to a live agent by phone was their preferred method of communication with a company’s customer service department.

What’s more, a global survey by Genesys found three in five consumers prioritise empathetic customer service over a speedy resolution.

“When talking to businesses, customers want to interact with people who can identify with them and quickly demonstrate they understand their needs and preferences,” Ouissi continues. 

“In any complex interaction, the human touch can be crucial in making customers feel they matter to the organisation. It gives them the reassurance that someone is working hard to resolve their problem and is fully focused on achieving the optimum outcome. 

“Despite the ongoing advance of technology, customer-facing businesses always need to be aware that people and their expertise remain critical to the delivery of high-quality customer service today.

“That means organisations need to focus on humanising customer services – even if technology has been key in developing them – to deliver a value-based outcome for the customer at that moment of service.”

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Companies must listen and deliver 

To provide effective customer service, Ouissi says businesses must closely engage with their customers, listen to their feedback and capture the insights gained to better understand what drives them. 

He points out, however, that service should be differentiated depending on the individual customer that is being targeted.

“Some people like an automated approach to service; some crave purely human interaction,” Ouissi says. “But others prefer a combination of the two: sophisticated cognitive computing science with personal service.

“Getting that feedback and engagement is the holy grail for organisations in terms of ensuring they are delivering exactly the right service, to the right customer, at the right time.”

The question is, how do businesses ensure they can attain this holy grail? 

“What is ultimately key is that they are effective in capturing intelligence and knowing which customer is suited to which approach,” adds Ouissi. “To do that, they first need an engaging way of interacting with their customers while understanding and collecting their ‘voice’.

“That’s the principle, but the way in which it is executed is crucial. If the business is to attain valuable insight into what its customers are looking for from customer service, it needs to make it easy for the customer to provide that feedback.”

Use of design-driven customer feedback listening tools can help capture that customer voice and drive up engagement at the same time.

Moments of service matter

The next all-important stage for any business is to ensure they are delivering the aforementioned critical moment of service to help engage customers and prompt feedback. 

This can be supported by a range of modern engagement methodologies designed to help deliver a value-led engagement process. 

Coupled with this, there are a raft of use cases that help deliver a more humanised customer service to drive further engagement. 

Ouissi explains: “In terms of business initiative, this could include using installers as brand ambassadors to open new revenue streams. 

“With respect to the evolving ‘to-be’ customer landscape, it might incorporate everything from providing customer self-service portals and services to improving customer connection response times. 

“Key enablers could include enhanced customer engagement with AI-enabled chat bots, providing innovative remote assistance with augmented reality and delivering customer prioritisation for different tiers.”

When companies have a clear understanding of what is helping customers to achieve successful outcomes, they are more likely to build a close, trust-based relationship – putting them in a favourable position to attain feedback and ensuring their offering remains relevant to what the customer needs. 

The result is a virtuous circle, where each positive interaction enhances engagement levels, raises customer response rates and generates additional business value.

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