It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,  it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness… it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…

Those are the opening lines of the Charles Dickens’ classic, A Tale of Two Cities, which was set in a time of revolution—when technology drove mass change (some good, some not so good) in the lives of people. Today, we see a technological revolution that is greater than what occurred at the end of the 18th century.

In December 2016, physicist Stephen Hawking wrote in The Guardian “…the automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining.”

Digitalization, artificial intelligence, robotics and the internet of things (IoT) are fundamentally changing our daily lives. From speech enabled home automation, through self diagnosing and fault reporting machines, to chat bots and auto-responses on web sites the simple and straight forward is being automated.

We are in another age of revolution that will affect customer service.

Can new technology fix the broken customer experience?

In the age of foolishness, too many organizations have viewed the digital revolution as simply a way to reduce costs, especially the cost of customer service personnel. In the previous self-service revolution, or the age of IVR, businesses used self-service to build barbed wire and walls—methods that kept customers away from assisted service, instead of creating processes that supported and enabled customers to successfully, simply and quickly complete their transactions. This also happened in digital age 1.0, where phone numbers were hidden on websites.

AI, underpinned with data analytics and ever-improving user interfaces—voice or text based solutions—will bring another revolution to customer service delivery

Yet new developments could be an age of great hope for customer experience. We may once again see some of the values of a rebirth in Dickensian customer service. We’ll experience a “spring of hope” for the beleaguered consumer-facing frustration and isolation in this winter of self-service despair.

Here are some examples of Dickensian customer experience:

  • You visit your local store and you’re recognized;
  • Personalization is actually personal when the staff knows you;
  • Store clerks tell you what is new and what would interest you;
  • The marketplace is physical—you can test products or ask about fit, features and freshness;
  • You are reminded, in person, when items needed to be collected or paid for.

I cannot imagine the Old Curiosity Shop ever failing to recognize regular customers or not knowing what new items in stock would interest them.

There is an opportunity to recapture this true spirit of customer service—to bring back real, personalized customer service and to be pre-emptive again. Wise organizations recognize that their goal is to deliver experiences that are relevant to the customer at that moment—whether self-service, assisted service or preventative service.

Writing a new Dickensian customer experience

Starting with the customer, their needs and their journey creates a better human experience. By combining the strengths of AI with a compelling user experience (UX) design across both phone and digital, we can:

  • Understand individual customers’ needs through context and insights;
  • Become personal again;
  • Let customers control how we communicate with them;
  • Make suggestions and offers that are hyper-personalized;
  • Proactively notify and support customers;
  • Offer the right kind of service at the right time—self-service, assisted service and preventative service.

This brings us back to the days when customers were treated as individuals—not numbers and records. In these times, services that were offered matched the needs of individuals. And companies were proactive to deliver the best experiences.

We have the chance to move from delivering the worst of times to delivering the best of times for our customers, to deliver a revolution in improved customer experience and greater job satisfaction for customer service staff.

To find out more on how Genesys can help you to become proactive when managing customer experiences, check out this video Great customer experiences require proactive communication.

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Brendan Dykes

Brendan Dykes

Brendan has over 25 years of experience in the customer service industry, in both business and technical roles. This broad experience has allowed him to see first-hand the importance for both customers and organizations of delivering consistent omnichannel customer experiences....