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The future of customer service

Technology is changing the way businesses communicate with their customers. Mark Gait, Head of Customer Service at O2, has seen the future – and he likes it. A lot.

The nature of customer service is changing. And the way that people want to talk to businesses is changing too. It used to be that you had to phone a number, listen to recorded messages, wait in a queue – and quite possibly request a call back before you could get your question answered.

But the internet has vastly changed people’s expectations. Now, we expect convenience. We expect instant access. And whenever possible we expect instant fulfilment too. People want to be able to contact a business at a time that suits them (even if that time happens to be when most of us are asleep) and they expect to be heard. They want to find answers as quickly as they can look them up on Google, or ask a question on social media.

 

A glimpse of the future

At O2 we’re at the forefront of building the next incarnation of customer service. Last year we ran a trial with our development wing, O2 Labs, for 250,000 of our users involving Facebook’s Messenger platform integrated with a ‘smart bot’, programmed to deal with a range of queries using its own artificial intelligence capability. We also launched voice recognition-based contact routing, and use this to drive deeper analysis of customer needs and their feelings when they contact us. It’s just the latest step in the search to find the most convenient, easy-to-use customer service systems possible.

In the not too distant future, our customers could be contacting us directly through the My O2 app that already gives O2 customers access to their account. The difference is that they’ll be using the kind of ‘messenger’ style features they already know from social media tools like WhatsApp. They only have to sign in once to My O2 and after that the system will know who they are whether interaction is with a smart bot or a real person, to make it easier for us to identify issues and give a more personalised service.

Voice recognition will help us understand requests upfront (we’re already trialling Amazon Alexa linked to My O2), and feed it through the most appropriate channel. Simple queries will be answered instantly by artificial intelligence bots. And with more complex enquiries, customers will immediately be put through to a real person. At each stage, customers will know exactly who they’re dealing with and can opt to speak to a real person at any point.

When contacting us via My O2, advanced webchat features will let people dip in and out of the conversation as it suits them. No going to the back of the queue each time someone gets in touch, they can just carry on where they left off.

In fact, customer may not even have to ask. We’ll use predictive data analytics to identify potential issues and get in touch with customers directly (if they’ve said that we can), to help them, before it becomes a problem.

It means that customers can contact us in whichever way they prefer, at whatever time suits them, and get the answers they need as quickly and easily as possible. That’s the future of customer service – and it’s just around the corner.

 

 

Find out more about My O2 Business