Customer Service in the Digital Age - The Future is Hybrid

Sachin is a IIT Kharagpur alumni, he began his career as a product manager at Oracle, he is a firm believer in the power of technology and its potential to build large scale businesses.

In today's digital age, customer service has become more important than ever. With so many businesses competing for customers, it's no longer enough to simply provide a product or service. Customers expect a high level of customer service and businesses that fail to deliver risk losing those customers to competitors who can. Unfortunately, many businesses still view customer service as a cost center that they want to eliminate as much as possible. This is a short sighted view that fails to take into account the long term benefits of exceptional customer service. As customers become more informed and have more options available to them, businesses that fail to invest in exceptional customer service will struggle to compete.

The answer lies in following the QRC framework. It stands for ‘Query-Redundancy-Complexity’, and it is a method for streamlining customer service interactions. Essentially, the QRC framework involves categorizing customer queries by their level of redundancy and complexity and then using automation to resolve the most common and simple queries. The first step in the QRC framework is to identify the most common customer queries and to eliminate any redundancies. This means looking for patterns in customer queri and consolidating them into a single query so that the same answer can be provided to multiple customers.

At Swiggy, the implementation of automation techniques has led to significant cost savings. By adopting the right automation and productivity planning tools, Swiggy was able to save between Rs.300 to Rs.350 crore (approximately $40-47 million)

Next, the queries are categorized by their level of complexity, with the most straightforward queries being the easiest to automate. These queries can be handled entirely by an automated system, freeing up human agents to handle more complex queries. By using the QRC framework, companies can improve their customer service while also reducing costs. Automation can help to resolve simple queries more quickly and efficiently while freeing up agents to handle more complex issues that require human expertise. However, it's important to note that automation should not be forced. Instead, businesses should acknowledge that the future is hybrid and that agents will still play a crucial role in customer service. In this future, agents will focus on high-value customers and high-impact conversations, while automation will handle the more routine queries.

The benefits of exceptional customer service are clear. Studies have shown that customers are willing to pay more for a product or service if they receive excellent customer service. In fact, a report by American Express found that 33 percent of customers would consider switching to a different company after just one instance of poor customer service.

On the other hand, businesses that provide exceptional customer service can enjoy increased customer loyalty repeat businessand positive word of-mouth advertising.

At Swiggy, the implementation of automation techniques has led to significant cost savings. By adopting the right automation and productivity planning tools, Swiggy was able to save between Rs.300 to Rs.350 crore (approximately $40-47 million). This is a clear indication that businesses that invest in exceptional customer service can see real, tangible benefits. However, it's important to note that customer service is not just about cost savings or even customer loyalty. At its core, customer service is about being in service to others. Providing exceptional customer service is not just a way to retain customers or increase profits, but a way to show that your business cares about its customers and values their satisfaction.

In addition to implementing automation tools and techniques, it is also important for companies to invest in their human workforce. While automation can eliminate redundant queries and automate certain tasks, it cannot replace the value of a skilled and knowledgeable customer service agent. In fact, according to a study by Accenture, 83 percent of customers prefer to interact with a human over a digital channel. This means that companies must find a way to strike a balance between automation and human interaction. Rather than completely replacing agents with automation, companies should focus on using automation to enhance the capabilities of their agents. For example, automation tools can provide agents with real time insights and data thereby freeing them up from mundane tasks and allowing them to make more informed decisions and provide better service to customers. Additionally, digitalization allows for better tracking and monitoring of agent performance, enabling companies to identify areas for improvement and provide targeted training. This not only benefits customers but also improves the job satisfaction and efficiency of agents.

Furthermore, companies should prioritize the wellbeing and job satisfaction of their agents. This can be achieved by ensuring that agents are not overworked or overwhelmed, and by creating a positive and supportive work environment. Happy and satisfied agents are more likely to provide exceptional service to customers, which can ultimately benefit the company's bottom line.

In conclusion, exceptional customer service is essential for businesses to succeed in today's competitive landscape. While automation can certainly play a role in improving customer service, it cannot replace the value of human interaction and skilled agents. Companies that find a way to strike a balance between automation and human interaction, while also prioritizing the well-being and development of their agents, are likely to excel in delivering exceptional customer service and building long-lasting customer relationships.