Read our Q&A with Ryan Lester, Director of Customer Engagement Solutions at LogMeIn…
What do you see as the single biggest challenge the contact centre/customer service industry has faced over the past 12 months?
One of the biggest challenges facing the customer service industry today is how to meet the rising expectation of today’s customer without putting additional strains on the contact centre. According to a recent study we worked on with research firm, IDC, 67% of consumers said that customer satisfaction was more important than price when doing business with a company, yet nearly 30% of companies still say that reducing the cost of support is more important than customer satisfaction. Rising costs and customer expectations along with stagnant budgets is setting companies up for a negative long-term impact.
What do you think is the biggest priority for the contact centre/customer service industry in 2018?
For a while now, brands have known that they need to be thinking about customer experience, but in 2018, we will begin to see the full effect of companies that have not acted on it. Amazon is disrupting industry after industry through a hyper-focus on disruptive business models and sustained growth. However, a concerted focus on improving customer experience and customer loyalty – like Apple’s model – can be a better path to long-term profitability.
Regardless of the path taken, businesses need to break through the status-quo of customer service to create more consistent, personalized customer engagements. Part of that strategy is to move beyond the human-led / technology assisted norm and instead focusing on a technology-led / human assisted model which allows technology to be at the front line of customer interactions, handling the low-value repeatable questions and leaving human agents free to handle the high-touch, high-value engagements that create value and build durable customer relationships that will grow over time.
What trends you are expecting to see in the market in 2018?
I think there are a few things that will come to light in 2018. First and foremost, we will continue to see new engagement channels emerge – not less. There is a lot of talk in the market about the death of the call center or “email killer” channels coming to light, but the elimination of those channels is far off…if ever.
Consumers choose communication channels depending on their own convenience and for some that means live chat or self-service and for others that may still be the phone. With big brands like Apple and Google growing digital customer experience by announcing new messaging channels this year, we can only expect that more will be released in 2018 – but none will be completely eliminated.
Secondly, we will see a more rapid adoption of A.I. technologies as more successful use cases come to light and pilot programs start showing ROI. As the path to success will be more clearly paved, the confidence in investing in the technology will grow. In addition, the technology will also see its next big step in maturity.
We’ll see reactive automation move to proactive use cases that will help turn service engagements into sales opportunities and see deeper contact center integrations. And finally, A.I. in the contact centre won’t replace humans. There will always be a need for human-to-human interactions – it’s just that agents’ job functions may change. Their roles will become more challenging and require different hiring, training and retention processes.
While bots will be able to offload lower-value, repetitive queries, companies will still need to staff a contact center where agents can focus on higher value, more complex customer engagements. Companies that have implemented AI solutions quickly realize that while AI can help streamline work processes and take some of the burden off overloaded agents, the most successful ones will take a hybrid approach.
What technology do you think is going to have the biggest impact on the market this year?
A.I.-powered self-service, like chatbots and virtual assistants will have the biggest impact on the market this year. These technologies are proving successful in delivering immediate and consistent customer outcomes without adding additional cost or burden on contact centre employees. AI technology empowers both the customer and the agent. Customers have the power to self-serve where they see fit, while agents use AI insights to offer a more personalized experience when a human connection is valuable.
Which customer interactions do you think cannot or should not be automated?
Pretty much any situations where a bot may slow down the engagement or be ineffective. While we are firm believers in A.I.-powered self-service being the first line of defense, there is always situations where working with a chatbot may not be the most appropriate channel for customers. For example, high-value interactions – whether that be completing a purchase, closing an account or salvaging a customer relationship – often times are best handled by human agents. Chatbots are good at many things, but there will always be situations that require empathy and emotional intelligence that only a human agents can provide.
Do you see any new technologies on the horizon?
The technology behind A.I. will continue to evolve and mature and the ability to implement conversational bots into the customer experience will become more mainstream. Meaning that the experience will move away from scripted / task oriented interaction-based interactions – which has been the historical way of developing bots. What we are going to see very quickly on the horizon is the ability for bots to have more contextual and intelligent conversation with customers and as they do that – they will truly become a key part of the overall engagement.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your career?
Do something you’re passionate about. If you’re passionate about the work, it feels less like work and makes going through the hard stuff easier and details become more opportunities and challenges.
About Ryan J. Lester
Ryan J. Lester, Director of Customer Engagement Technologies at LogMeIn, and his team own the strategic development and implementation for the go to market plan for IoT, Chatbot and Augmented Reality products at LogMeIn. He is passionate about making new technology easy and helping companies unlock new value through things like IoT connected products and bots. Prior to his role at LogMeIn, Ryan held various sales, marketing, and product positions at Intel Corporation, Cisco Systems, and Eaton Corporation.
LogMeIn, Inc. simplifies how people connect with each other and the world around them to drive meaningful interactions, deepen relationships, and create better outcomes for individuals and businesses. One of the world’s top 10 public SaaS companies, and a market leader in communication & conferencing, identity & access, and customer engagement & support solutions, LogMeIn has millions of customers spanning virtually every country across the globe. LogMeIn is headquartered in Boston with additional locations in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia.