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The role of AI, automation, and empathy in customer service this holiday

Customer service teams are critical to retail success. As the eyes, ears, and heart of customer care and operations, customer service representatives have the power to make or break your brand. The role of a customer service rep can be an emotionally exhausting one – especially during the holiday season when expectations and pressure are heightened. 

The emotional weight of customer service 

In a recent blog, Patrícia Loureiro, Global Director of Customer Service at Farfetch, shares a story about a customer looking for a pair of Ferragamo loafers for her disabled daughter (one of her feet was larger than the other one). She wanted to know if she could buy the two pairs and return the unmatched shoes, one size each. The Farfetch employee who answered the phone inevitably went from being a contact centre agent to shoe connoisseur to being a fellow parent who empathised with this mom and wanted to help. Quickly, the rep gathered different teams to find the right solution for the customer. This is a beautiful, and real glimpse of the many hats customer service representatives wear on a daily basis. 

Customer service representatives must be set up for success

To enable customer care that is human and empathetic, agents need to be equipped with the appropriate tools and space to succeed. If their day is filled with repetitive, manual, tedious work, it is understandable how they might not bring their best selves to customer interactions. But if retailers reduce the burden of manual work and complicated workflows, customer service reps will be able to provide a deeper focus on the customer. 

This should be top of mind as retailers head into the holiday season. Retailers must effectively leverage self-service and automation tools in their contact centres in order for agents to bring holiday cheer to every customer conversation. 

Contact centre tools for human and empathetic experiences

To improve agility, efficiency, and scalability in the contact centre, retailers must decide which types of inquiries don’t require human assistance for positive customer experiences.

If there is a customer with high emotional value tied to a specific transaction, it’s best practice for that customer to not go to self-service. In this case, human agents should have the opportunity to manage the customer interaction and improve their experience to avoid churn. Though chatbots or AI are capable of managing most transactions, customer emotion needs to be considered, especially during the holidays. Using tools such as sentiment analysis, retailers can strategically route interactions directly to agents. 

On the other hand, low emotional value interactions can be automated to provide the optimal customer experience. Inquiries such as “where is my order” should be readily available using self-service, automated tools. This enables customers to access the information they need, and also provides the option to engage with a human agent if desired. 

Retailers’ formula for happy customers during the holiday season is transparency + ease + empathy. 

With AI, automation, and other next-gen contact centre technologies, retailers will be set up for success. 

For more information about preparing your contact centre for the holiday season, review this checklist.

About the author: Andrew Antal is Head of Marketing at Talkdesk APAC.

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