“Ask the Expert” is a series where RingCentral interviews key influential consultants from around the world as part of the RingCentral Consultants Relation Program. During the series, we will examine key areas in customer experience and unified communications (omnichannel, voice, AI, analytics and more) and explore what experts see as the key imperatives for organisations. If you are an independent consultant, simply register your interest here and we will add you to the free program.
Let’s get started with the first instalment, where we ask, “Is voice the new king?”
When you think of customer service, what comes to mind? Is it tapping away on chat? Or listening for your long-awaited option on the line? How about booking a delivery pickup through an app? Regardless of where your imagination takes you, it’s likely that a memory of talking to an agent on the phone crops up.
That’s because voice communication is part and parcel of our lives and continues to be a lifeline for many.
Something RingCentral explored through research recently was just how much of a vital role voice plays in organisations. Even in a world full of endless contact options, voice remains vital. It is no surprise that it continues to be a primary communication tool for decision-makers and workers alike. We also found that it’s still such an important part of the customer journey. Here’s a snapshot of some of the stats:
Gareth Johns, Senior Director of Vertical Solutions at RingCentral, sat down with one of our expert consultants, Don Haddaway, Founder & Director at Artisiam, at the Call and Contact Centre Expo to discuss customer experience trends and why voice reigns supreme.
What customer experience trends emerged in the past few years?
“The rise of service automation, where companies have effectively brought in a lot of different bot type technologies. We’ve also seen companies routing calls or routing interactions based on intent.
AI continues to grow in importance. Organisations use it to try and smooth the path of customer interactions, both in chat and in voice driven services, or as a way to navigate people to a particular agent. For example, voice AI that spots ‘intents’. You would have seen this before, when you place a call and you’re asked the reason why you’re getting in touch. This method uses a degree of AI and word matching/word spotting to figure out what that person needs. AI is also used in chat, but not all chat is AI. A lot of chat is hidden scripts or menus that make it feel like it’s an AI bot, but it’s only cleverly worded, rather than being conversational and responsive.
We’ve also seen the proliferation of ‘as a service’ platforms. It is now easier to deploy highly complex platforms in almost a heartbeat. So what you used to have to do in terms of physically building infrastructure, setting up your data centres, you no longer have to do that. All of that is done ‘as a service’.”
Why have these trends accelerated?
“We all know that the pandemic accelerated change in so many different areas. We’re literally talking about biblical change. There’s BC (Before COVID) where things were done on-premises. Everybody was in the office or in the contact centre. Then there’s AD (After Digitalisation) because COVID sparked digitalisation across a number of companies. This made people look at how they could be physically innovative and how they could automate. All of this really accelerated service automation and service distribution.”
95% of decision-makers say phones are critical to customer engagement. What do you think?
“Voice is unique in the way that it enables people to communicate emotionally. With voice, there’s usually so much more than just the words you’re saying.
Especially considering the time we are living in now (After Digitalisation). What we see now more than ever is the need for agents or companies to understand emotion and the need to understand vulnerability. 95% seems low, if anything. This could be higher.”
Are digital channels surpassing voice?
“As humans, we communicate naturally in so many different ways. If you go and meet somebody in the real world, how do you engage with them? How do you greet them? You don’t just talk to them and say a bunch of stuff; you communicate with your facial expressions, and general body language, in so many ways at that particular point in time. In the digital world, we’re trying to replicate what happens in the real world. And to do that, we need more than one channel.
So radio didn’t replace print. Television didn’t replace the radio. The internet didn’t replace television. The future will involve looking at the capabilities of each of these different channels (voice and digital) and weaving them together.”
What are your predictions for the future of voice?
“We will see a new type of service come to the fore; I’ve coined this as ‘self-healing’. Currently, when you call customer service, you have AI bots asking you the reason for your call. The bots collect a load of information, which organisations then map to a number of delivery points controlled by a person. There’s a lot of manual work sitting underneath that routing journey.
In the future, I see this becoming what I call ‘self-healing’ or ‘self-creating’ services. Think AI embedded in the customer journey end-to-end. These types of services will adjust themselves to match what clients are doing. They will interpret what that customer needs, serve up the right information, complete the transaction and potentially route to a person if required. Or it will fulfil the query end-to-end. All of this is without human intervention. I wouldn’t be surprised if this happens in the next three years.”
That brings the first in the series to a close. Thanks to Don for sharing these insights and emphasising the important role that voice will continue to play in all customer experiences. Please visit this hub to learn more about the RingCentral Consultants Relation Program.
Originally published Dec 05, 2022, updated Dec 21, 2022