Customer support is the point of contact for many companies with customers, but while DX is attracting attention, there is not much talk about DX in customer support and the importance and potential of customer support.
In this article, we invited experts from SDI, who are at the forefront of customer support, to ask about the future of customer support.
Table of contents
- What is SDI?
- Must migrate as customer support changes
- From efficiency to improved customer experience
- Possible future changes and future predictions
What is SDI?
At the Support Digital Association (Support DX Initiative), companies and volunteers who lead the promotion of DX in the customer support industry gather to share and discuss advanced DX cases.
In addition to using advanced knowledge from experts as training materials, we aim to develop digital human resources throughout the industry and revitalize the market through the Support DX Summit.
Must migrate as customer support changes
ーーFirst of all, please explain the initiatives of each company.
|Mr. Mobilus Ishii: Mobilus’ business is more manned, and we are developing services to meet the demand for text-based communication operators who respond by chat instead of telephone. Recent efforts include capturing trends in conversations and issuing alerts to higher-ranking personnel first so that operators can respond efficiently.
We provide original technology such as detecting and masking when it is detected.
Primeforce Sawada: Primeforce is a consulting company, not a technology company. Originally, I was an auditor for a call center quality evaluation agency.
However, about five years ago, we entered the digital era, and felt that contact center consulting needed to change, so I started the company four years ago. At SDI, we are planning a qualification system similar to digital channel designers, and we would like to promote human resource development that will change customer support.
Mr. Mukaigawa, SDI: We decided to hold a summit dedicated to DX for customer support, and we launched SDI last fall as the core organization.
There are about 1 million people working in the customer support industry, but as digitalization progresses, it is difficult to break away from the telephone-centric world.
There is also a mission to advance the careers of such people, and the background to the establishment was that I thought that it would be better to work together with the lead companies.
As for activities, in addition to educational events such as the Support DX Summit, we would like to create a DX-related qualification system related to customer support, hold study sessions, and create communities.
Mr. Yoneyama, AI Shift: AI Shift is a company that is working on converting dialogue into AI, aiming for a world where humans and AI coexist. As a business, we mainly do chatbots and voicebots.
Mr. Shimizu, Relia Digital: It’s been about a year since I assumed the post of representative of Relia Digital.
At our company, rather than selling individual chatbot products, we are working on how to combine chatbots and AI into the parent company’s contact center services and how to create value across omni-channels. is.
–Please tell us about the current state of customer support and the background issues
|Mr. Sawada, Prime Force: A big wave is coming to the customer support industry right now. An unprecedented change is taking place in three dimensions. (Figure 1)The first is historical change.
The period from 1980 to 1995 is the pioneering period of call centers and is called the “Era of Manners.” Then, in 1995, when Windows 95 was released, the helpdesk industry rose to prominence, and it entered the “age of precision and efficiency” in which a large number of correct responses were efficiently handled. From around 2015 until now, we have entered an era of effects, where we see what kind of effects and influences customer support has had on customers and companies.
For example, did the customer’s actions, such as continuing a service such as a subscription or buying a new one, have any effect? Etc. We are now in an era in which it is not necessary to recommend something other than what the customer wants, but rather whether the customer’s needs can be met smoothly and effortlessly.
The second is the chronological change in services. Until now, the flow was to respond and analyze after a call came in at the call center or when a customer came to the store. However, since we live in a digital age, it has become important to ask questions on the Internet and what kind of support we provide directly to customers “before responding”, such as using chatbots. .
The third is a change in service personnel. In the past, it was considered correct for operators to respond to a large number of calls in the same way, but now the importance of communities has increased, and we are in a social era.
The definition of customer support has changed dramatically.
Mr. Karakuri Oda: In order to move to the era of effectiveness, it is difficult to see results immediately after the transition, so instead of focusing only on the benefits and profits that will bring to the company, have an ideal of “this is how customer support should be.” I think we have to change.
The transition is a high hurdle because the order is to look at the data collected after the transformation and realize that it is meaningful.
For this reason, even if there is opposition from customers and the company, I feel that it will be difficult if the president and other top management cannot make bold decisions.
Mr. Mobilus Ishii: In addition, there are currently few companies that are conscious of the problem of transitioning to an era of effectiveness, and from an overseas perspective, it is quite slow.
I think the reason is that the contact center layer is the driving force for reform, even though cases and technologies are emerging. It is also difficult to do things from the bottom up, such as contact centers having to involve other departments and change security policies.
Looking at overseas, we have created a position to innovate CX in the executive layer and are promoting it with the direction of customer contact = branding. Currently, less than 3% of companies in Japan are using this system.
–I think the problem is that the contact center, which was a cost center in the era of accuracy and efficiency, has changed to a place to generate sales in the era of effectiveness, or that it is impossible to change the way of thinking. But what do you think about that?
|Mr. Shimizu, Relia Digital: Ideally, we would like to aim to improve LTV (customer lifetime value) through customer support, but there is still a clear score to reach that point.
I think that the lack of it is the reason why the transition is not progressing. It is also true that it is extremely difficult to promote customer support and CRM (initiatives to improve LTV) in conjunction.
On the other hand, CDP (a data platform that collects, integrates, and analyzes the attribute data and behavioral data of each individual customer) has recently been created for customer support, so I feel that it is just starting to move.
In a situation where reform is difficult, what we are aiming for is to shift from the idea of how to handle users efficiently to the idea of “improving the customer experience.” . Doing it with only people would be costly and time consuming, so I feel that at the current stage we are trying to do it using AI.
From efficiency to improved customer experience
ーーSo far, we have asked about the background issues and the current situation, but please tell us how customer support has changed in the last few years.
|Mr. Yoneyama, AI Shift: Broadly speaking, I feel that things have changed from three perspectives: data, channels, and operations.Regarding data, what was previously managed in analog is now being managed digitally and used for forecasting and forecasting.
As for channels, more and more people are using chat rather than email or phone, so customer support is also moving to chat.
In terms of operations, AI is replacing image confirmation and identity confirmation, which used to be done by human eyes.
Until now, the focus has been on how to process things efficiently, but I feel that the trend toward using AI and other technologies to improve the customer experience is accelerating. .
Mr. Karakuri Oda: Also, as an example of data utilization, chatbot data is analyzed in real time and an alert is issued when there is a sudden increase in inquiries with unprecedented trends. I think that such real-time performance is one of the strengths of AI.
Mr. Shimizu, Relia Digital: In the past, we analyzed customers using the response history entered by the operator.
With this method, the subjectivity of the operator comes into play, but with the advancement of speech recognition technology, it is possible to directly convert speech logs into text and use text mining to find out the essential user needs and needs. Problems can be discovered, which leads to the advantage of using AI.
Possible future changes and future predictions
ーーI think the accuracy of AI is improving year by year, but what do you think about future changes due to this?
|Mr. Karakuri Oda: For example, if the accuracy of AI character analysis is 100 times higher than it is now, I estimate that the impact on customer support will be about 20 to 30%. Even if the AI for natural language processing classification gets smarter, it will only be able to answer frequently asked questions.
It is necessary to complete cooperation with systems other than AI, such as backyard data. For example, even if we were asked to change the delivery schedule from tomorrow to the day after tomorrow, AI alone would not be able to do anything about it, so we would not be able to solve the customer’s problem.
So, in addition to the development of technologies other than AI, I think it is necessary to deepen the linkage between AI and data such as CRM.
Therefore, I believe that we will be in a world of division of roles, in which the dialogues that should be conducted by humans and the dialogues that should be conducted by AI will be separated, and the most appropriate person will respond.
We believe that the ultimate customer support in customer experience is personalization, and I think that it is possible for humans to respond according to the person, but for example, the tone of voice, the way of speaking, the timing, the channel, etc. can be supported by AI. I think you should aim for it.
ーーWhen it comes to chatbots, what kind of changes do you think will happen in the future?
|Mr. Shimizu, Relia Digital: Currently, text-based conversations are the main focus, and depending on the case, I think the company will provide support with images and videos through the chatbot UI.
A world will come in which AI other than natural language processing technology, such as image recognition and emotion recognition, will be incorporated into chatbots, in which the current state of affairs is conveyed through video, and chatbots judge this and provide appropriate support.
I feel that it is interesting.
In order to reduce it, we have to match the channels that users want and that are easy to use, so I think we can gradually make that flow.
ーーLastly, please tell us about the future of the industry as a whole.
|Mr. Mukaigawa, SDI: Until now, we have improved work efficiency by using AI and technology, but the population is gradually decreasing. In that case, there will be a demand in the industry to “want to talk to people” rather than “let’s reduce inquiries”, and I think that in about 10 years’ time we will shift to creating points of contact.
When that change comes, I think that AI will reach a level that exceeds the amount of information that humans can handle, but it will not only interpret what customers say, but it will also be able to perform full-fledged analysis of emotions. I don’t think you can replace it unless it becomes like this.
However, there are still a certain number of people who are really in trouble and want to call, so there is a problem that such people are more difficult to access than usual.
Therefore, I believe that call centers will change if AI can judge the urgency and importance of customers and connect them with priority, or if operators can navigate by analyzing customers from the response up to communication between humans. increase.
Mr. Karakuri Oda: I think that call centers and customer support will be the top differentiating factors for companies when looking at a time frame of about 10 years. At present, technological capabilities are competing in every field, making it difficult to differentiate with products alone, so customer support is the only way to differentiate, and a position that will not be imitated by competitors soon.
I don’t think so. For example, people won’t choose services that can’t solve problems without making a phone call, so when today’s young digital generation becomes the mainstream, they won’t be able to survive in the industry if they can’t solve problems either by phone or digitally. I feel that
Mr. Mobilus Ishii: If we think in 10-year increments, I think that AI will be better at what is written in the text and whether there is an answer there. So I think AI will increasingly be entrusted with the task of listening and answering.
In fact, companies that are ahead of the curve at the moment originally used 90% phone and 10% email, but now the phone is less than 25%, and they are all shifting to text-based communication.
And half of it is automated. In that case, I think that CX, which is a customer contact point, will be recognized as a more efficient investment than advertising and sales.
So what do humans do at that time is to respond to things that have no answer. The impression given by an AI that says, “This suits you,” is different from that of a person. I believe that human beings will come to deal with such unanswered things and plus alpha parts.
This time, we focused on customer support DX, but we realized that the importance of customer support and its role in the first place are changing more than we imagined, and we are wondering whether we can ride this trend or not.
I felt that it would not be an exaggeration to say that it would decide the fate of a company.
At SDI, I was impressed by how firmly they dealt with the language of AI on a rule-based basis.
Why don’t you take this opportunity to review the way you think about customer support?