Customer Connect Blog
Rethinking customer support in a connected world

Technology and the Human Art of Support

We are here to helpContact center operations have improved dramatically over the years, and several significant advances stand out. Features like interactive voice response, intelligent call routing, agent screen pops via integration with CRMs, ticketing systems and Web-based self-service are helping us reach the Holy Grail of service—making customers happy and doing it at lower cost.

The theme uniting all of these great leaps in efficient support is the use of technology to inform the very human art of providing service to people seeking assistance. Technology serves us best by automating the process of linking users to the best resources available.

Problem is, we lose many of the benefits of technology at the moment that the human-to-human interaction starts. What we’re left with is a hit-or-miss process that’s difficult to control, monitor or meaningfully affect before there’s still time to do something about it.

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In an attempt to remedy the situation, we sometimes turn to “solutions” of dubious merit because they sound good on paper or are couched in obscure, pseudo-scientific terminology. “Real-time sentiment analysis” sounds both futuristic and sensible, but even if the analyses were accurate and instantly delivered—and it’s not a given that they really are—it’s not clear that a support agent can actually use any of that information in a way that matters.

Read more: CEO on Support Interaction Optimization

Sometimes we give up altogether on trying to use technology in the support interaction. Instead, we hire better, smarter people and give them better, more intensive training. We know for a fact that these things make a difference in the quality of service delivered. The only problem is that it’s a near certainty that a large majority of the people in whom we make such a major investment are going to be gone within a year. If we then employ the same strategy with the next crop, our costs will rapidly spiral out of control.

Read more: Delivering Support in a Connected World

The trick is not to hire smarter, better people and spend boatloads of money training them. The trick is to use technology in ways that let ordinary mortals, with only basic training, provide higher levels of support. The way you do that is to take the hard-won knowledge and experience of your best agents and bake it into procedures that can be delivered to all of your other agents. That way, they can provide support that is consistent, repeatable and not dependent on memorization.

Even better, technology-driven support solutions can be optimized over time. When problem resolution is automated, it can be monitored, measured, tweaked and re-measured, even though it’s occurring as a conversation between two living people. The analytics are wired right into the support process. So if a particular ten-step procedure to fix a slow PC has a tendency to fail at step six, we don’t have to wait for support agents to chat with each over cubicle walls in their spare time to discover it. We’ll know about it even as it’s happening, and we can quickly implement a change to fix it. In short order, we’ll know exactly how effective the fix is and whether further tuning is needed.

The benefits of automating the support interaction process are obvious, significant and proven in practice. Handling time drops, first-call resolution rises and customer satisfaction soars as every agent solves problems the way the contact center’s best agent would solve them.

This is all a result of providing automated assistance during the single most critical process in the entire support chain—the conversation between two human beings.

Technology and the Human Art of Support
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Technology and the Human Art of Support
Technology serves us best by automating the process of linking users to the best resources available.
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Lee Gruenfeld

Lee Gruenfeld is Vice President, Strategic Initiatives at, responsible for shaping’s groundbreaking approaches to supporting the Internet of Things. He is a former management consulting Partner at Deloitte, where he was national director of education for the firm’s Strategic Information Systems Planning service line. Prior to joining he was SVP/General Manager of a SaaS product division he started for a software company serving the gaming industry.

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