Remember Tom Cruise in Minority Report? On a big screen, all the information about the future murder is displayed. His job is to make sense of it, enlarging or reducing pictures, conjuring up contact details and other personal information, dragging in or discarding elements with a wave of his hands. He is under pressure. The clock is ticking. Now imagine customer service agents behind that screen.
Instead of preventing a crime, they oversee automated conversations: enlarging or reducing automated chats, taking over an exchange if needed, conjuring up all the information required to help the customer, redirecting the conversation back to an automated solution if possible. They are under healthy pressure. AHT is at stake here. Typing? They are not. This is the customer service of the future. And the future is near. Hyper-automation makes it possible.
This blog is about hyperautomation: how did it develop, what is the difference with (hyper-less) automation, and what are some of its consequences for customer service?
Hyper-automation and customer experience
Hyperautomation is - in part - an answer to growing customer demands. For us, good customer service is not a nicety anymore. It is a fundamental right. This mindset slowly blurs the line between purchase and service since we expect companies to be there for us before, during, and after our purchase. My phone, my television, they all have to keep working; otherwise, my supplier fails. And I’ll simply go to a competitor.
Companies struggle with this trend: how do you provide service to your high-maintenance customer - who isn’t necessarily brand loyal - while still keeping it profitable? Well, by automating.
The vicious circle of automation
The irony is that the ever-increasing customer expectations themselves are the result of rapid automation. Emerging tech companies play a significant role here. They are organizing their business model around the customer experience. In this way, automation and customer expectations mutually reinforce each other. Automation creates expectations, and those higher expectations can only be met by more automation. This creates a vicious circle, at least, for companies that cannot keep up with the fast developments. But it is also an opportunity, as industry leaders show.
Of course, automation is already everywhere in customer service. The seemingly ubiquitous deployment of conversational bots - or chatbots - is only one example. Repetitive and predictable conversations, customer onboarding, and database searches are all rapidly being automated. In addition, companies can now closely monitor customer preferences and behavior.
But we have seen nothing yet.
As the 2021 NTT Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report states: we have to prepare for hyperautomation. It is a term you often hear these days. But what exactly is it?
What is hyper-automation?
Hyperautomation, of course, is a form of automation. But it does not mean: even more machines. Instead, it means: existing machines talking to each other automatically.
Let me explain.
Companies now work with all kinds of automated tools in customer service: a chatbot here, intelligent CRM there, an algorithm somewhere else. And companies keep adding them. Hyper-automation is building something on top of automated solutions to make sure all information is connected. Gartner gives the following definition of hyper-automation:
What problem does hyperautomation solve?
Automation has produced some great tools. The problem is that those automated tools often stand alone. For example, a chatbot can have a conversation with you and solve your problem. But chances are that the bot will never share that information with anyone else in the organization. For this reason, the help desk employee will ask you to describe your problem one more time after you run into a conversation loop with a chatbot. Annoying as it is for you, the company suffers as well since valuable information gets lost in the process.
Another example: today, customer service agents still consult several applications simultaneously when chatting with a customer. This means that they have to switch between tools and screens. Hyperautomation will bring all those applications together in a user-friendly interface - thus boosting concurrency and reducing handling time.
Consequences of hyper-automation
Hyperautomation has significant consequences for customers, companies, and customer service agents. The 2021 NTT Customer Experience Benchmarking report warns that hyper-automation might become an ‘extinction event’ for some companies: hyperautomation requires priority setting and heavy investments, and many companies might lack the culture and funds needed.
But for successful hyperautomation, a clear strategy is critical. Hyperautomation will not automatically fix everything. Gluing all your tools and applications together without discipline or purpose will only make things worse. It all depends on a design built around the customer service employee and his ‘flow.’
In our next blog, we will explore the subject of design and flow. From there, we will focus on the impact of hyperautomation on those working at help desks.