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Artificial intelligence is a good helper, but people are at the core of customer care

4 min

With more than twenty years of experience with contact centre solutions, Fredrik Lemming advocates human-centric customer care. “AI improves self-service only if it has been designed based on the customer’s needs.”

“The customers today expect they can contact the company at any time using the channel they deem most suitable. To provide available and good service 24/7 with customer care agents is a costly approach that doesn’t necessarily add value to the customer. An alternative with high potential is AI, or artificial intelligence, seamlessly integrated in self-service applications,” Telia sales director Fredrik Lemming explains.

Lemming points out that AI can help companies provide their customers with accurate, personalised and timely responses. “The traditional approach in the business is to provide the customers with generic information, for example, in the FAQ section of a website. However, this approach no longer cuts it, but a company needs to be able to give the customer a precise answer they need right at that moment. AI can help meet these expectations.”

According to Lemming, artificial intelligence will not completely replace customer care agents. He explains that AI, for example in the form of a chatbot, is far more efficient in responding to the customers’ recurring and simple questions but people are still needed for complex interaction or when emotional intelligence is required.

AI needs to be looked after

“With respect to its intelligence, AI is at the level of a small child. It needs constant guidance, training and supervision,” Lemming pictures. For example, an AI solution must be trained to understand the questions presented by people using their natural spoken or written language in the right context. 

“If, for example, a customer were to ask, ‘How much is it?’ the AI application must understand the context in which the question is presented in order to respond to the query in a sensible way—whether the customer has just put a bottle of shampoo in their cart or whether they have just been shown a haircut advertisement,” Lemming explains.

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According to him, artificial intelligence solutions today should understand speech as well as writing. Says Lemming, “People always tend to use the easiest possible way, and dictation is highly more efficient than writing. A person can speak 150 words per minute while only typing 40 words in the same time.”

In addition to conversational skills, the AI must be taught to analyse the customers’ questions over a long time span. “If a certain question repeatedly occurs, there are probably unfilled gaps in the company’s communication and, for example, its website. With the gaps found and filled in, a common cause for customers contacting the company is eliminated, reducing frictions and customer care load,” Lemming summarises.

Technology alone will not take you far

Lemming looks at the way companies approach customer care development and considers it often too technology-centric. “The customer’s issues with a contact centre are rarely resolved by just a technological solution, especially if the solution doesn’t offer a good user experience. Rather often most frustrations a caused by of people—the biggest customer dislikes are having to repeat oneself, being transferred and impolite customer service agents.”

He emphasises that when a company obtains AI or other customer care solutions from Telia, the state of customer care culture will also be surveyed during the roll-out. “Often customer care does not reach its full potential because the contact centre staff, the IT department and marketing do not work sufficiently closely together. We help companies integrate the technology solution with their customer care processes and provide training to the staff.”

He also considers the short-sighted development a challenge where cost savings are sought by increasing the proportion of self-service in customer care as quickly as possible. “If a self-service solution is poor, customers will not use it,” Lemming reminds.

According to Lemming, Telia can provide extensive insight into customer care with its long experience with the business and a market share of up to 30% in the Nordic Countries. In addition, Telia has its own customer care that covers all Nordic Countries for both its consumer and business customers alike. “If a company wishes to improve their customer care with us, we will first lay out a roadmap on the objectives, starting point and path to the objective. There is no single cure for customer care. Finding the right solution requires an open dialogue,” he concludes.

Telia’s customer care in digital channels was deemed the best in Europe in the Digital Leaders in Finland 2019 survey. Read more >>

Text: Satu Ekman


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