During the annual members’ summit of the Consortium for Service Innovation (CSI) in Boston in April, discussions and presentations focused on data, automation, machine learning and collaboration. It’s clear that the service and support industry is deeply affected by the changes posed by new technology. As data becomes one of the most valuable assets organizations have, and as machines take care of customers to a greater and greater extent, we must realize that little will stay the same moving forward.
The members’ summit was sold out for the second year in a row, with 100 participants from the US, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, Norway, Poland, France, and several other countries. No matter the size of the organization, everyone had something to offer in discussions and during sessions. Besides discussing the work of the Consortium, presentations and workshops focused on the challenges and opportunities faced by the industry as a whole. These can be summarized using three words: data, automation, and collaboration.
Data is the foundation for everything
Many sole focus of some member companies is predictive support – i.e. detecting and solving problems before the customers experience them. However, data collection and analysis vary considerably between organizations – some are advanced while others have yet to start, which they realize is their biggest challenge in the near future.
To enable predictive service and support, we need data on everything from customer interaction to customer behaviors. The roles within service and support will change from centering on people skills to centering on data analysis skills. At the same time, since support staff will do less problem solving (thanks to issues being eliminated before they occur), they can be more involved in sales and activities that focus on customer success– something that machines are not as good at. It can be assumed that this will affect organizational structures in the years to come.
Automation, machine learning, and chatbots
Everything that can be automated will be automated. That’s nothing new – it’s the way it’s always been in all industries. But some things are for machines and some things aren’t. And in terms of customer support, the general conclusion of the CSI members’ summit was that machines are great for detecting dissatisfied customers and/or predicting dissatisfaction, but we need humans to engage in actual dialogue with the customer.
My guess is that this is true today, but I wonder if we’ll think the same in five years from now? And by that time, instead of asking how we can best use machines to complement humans, we may ask ourselves “how do we best use humans to complement machines”. Food for thought.
Gartner predicts that by 2020, most interactions will start by a chatbot, which emphasizes the focus on knowledge as a key enabler for chatbots to work well. But what happens when we become more predictive and less reactive? What role will knowledge articles play then? In a way, you could actually say that scripts for solving issues are knowledge articles for machines.
Social support and collaboration
A great question asked by one of the presenters was, “do you provide social media support as part of a strategy or did it just happen?” Both may work but why shouldn’t you have a strategy for social channels when you have it for the others?
Social support and collaboration are in the spotlight at all large organizations that attended the meeting. Simply because “support happens where the questions are”. This requires open Google-indexed knowledgebase content where strategy and structure are fundamental. And this puts extra pressure on the tools and the possibilities for integrating social support channels with collaboration tools and knowledgebases. Related to this topic, the consortium announced the release of the Intelligent Swarming Architect certification this summer. We look forward to that!
Thanks for reading and don’t hesitate to contact me if you want to discuss anything further.
About the Consortium for Service Innovation
The consortium is a nonprofit alliance of service and support organizations focused on innovation in relation to customer engagement, productivity, and success. Members create innovative operational models through a process of collective thinking and experience. The consortium’s work integrates academic research and emerging business trends with members’ operational perspectives. The results are new strategies and models that improve the customer experience. www.serviceinnovation.org