Issue 7 2022

Acquisition International - Issue 7 2022 5 According to recent research from the Institute of Customer Service (ICS), customer service complaints have hit their highest level on record and are costing British businesses more than £9bn a month in lost staff time. This issue has been caused by a confluence of factors, including global supply issues, a major staffing crisis, climbing cost of living prices, and some remaining infrastructure issues following the turbulence caused by the pandemic. Suvish Viswanathan, Technology Evangelist for Zoho Europe, and an expert on customer service and the technology required to improve it, commented: “In recent years, business operations and internal infrastructures have inherently changed to adapt to the pandemic, supply chain issues, inflation and staffing problems. Many have failed to adapt in the right way, leading to a drop in the quality of service provided, and a failure to meet customer expectations. “Bolstering customer service is the first area businesses should address to resolve these issues. Transparency and ‘always-on’ communication services will go a long way to ensure disgruntled consumers are at least being answered, and made aware of the situation, making it much more likely that they will be forgiving and understanding of the issues afflicting businesses. “Artificial intelligence is an obvious solution to this problem. Chatbot technology is sophisticated enough to deal with basic customer requests, and can free-up staff time so they can focus on much more urgent issues that require in-person service assistance. Machine learning algorithms can simultaneously help customer service teams prioritise requests and streamline how they deal with complaints.” Recently, several organisations have boosted chatbot spending in order to capitalise on these benefits. In fact, the HMRC spent over £1bn on IT, with a large fraction of it being used to bolster chatbot services. Similarly, the DVLA saw their chatbot interactions soar by nearly 1,000 per cent in the most recent financial year. While AI is one part of the potential solution to improve customer service, customer experience should be treated more holistically to promote longer term customer relationships which drive advocacy. Viswanathan continued: “At a recent customer experience focused event in London, Forrester announced findings that saw customer experience efforts had become less effective this year. Businesses still Industry Expert cites AI as one ‘obvious solution’ to tackle record UK customer service complaints need to learn how to operate at maximum efficiency in this new post-pandemic climate, and AI-enabled tools and other business applications which tightly integrate are key to this effort. Customer experience is a huge differentiator in today’s increasingly competitive markets. “The right technology enables teams to operate seamlessly regardless of location, prevents knowledge silos from developing in spite of distributed workforces, and enables workers to become far more adept at managing workloads in a digital environment, delivering superior customer service. Siloed customer information can result in a poor customer experience, and many customers have experienced frustration as a result, having to explain their enquiries several times throughout their service journey with a company, for example. Businesses need to improve efficiency and make better use of data and must use the right technology to achieve this, before their brand is irreparably damaged. £9bn per month in lost staff time is a big loss, but if nothing is done to improve customer experience, the greater resulting loss will see many going out of business for good.”