Oliver Carlsen, Arvato CRM Solutions, on successful customer service: Combining People and Technology
What trends will shape the future of customer dialogue? What opportunities does digitization offer? A conversation with Oliver Carlsen, CEO of Arvato CRM Solutions Germany, about the success factors and challenges of customer communication.
Oliver Carlsen, CEO of Arvato CRM Solutions Germany
Customer Dialogue Is an Important Success Factor for Businesses. What Trends and Developments Are You Seeing in this Field?
Oliver Carlsen: In my opinion there are three main themes in the area of customer dialogue, under which you could summarize all the current trends and keywords of digitization. Firstly, there is automation. Artificial intelligence will be able to answer more and more customer queries, and a number of back-office processes can be automated using robotic process automation. Secondly, you have analytics: Intelligent analysis processes improve the service experience for the end customer by tailoring the choice of products and the advice given to the needs of the individual customer in real-time. Thirdly, you have the provision of multiple channels. When they interact with a business, customers want to be served via the cutting-edge digital channels they already use in their day-to-day lives. The industry has been discussing a seamless multichannel experience for a long time – but it has still not been achieved in practice.
These topics form a triad that is shaping the development of customer communication. I think that digitization will lead the CRM industry to completely reinvent itself over the next five to ten years.
How Is Arvato CRM Solutions Positioned with regard to these Topics?
Oliver Carlsen: We are very well positioned. As a market and innovation leader, we offer a broad portfolio of digital solutions in all three of the areas I mentioned, behind which stands a team of more than 1,000 in-house technology experts. But development is sometimes so dynamic that even that number of experts isn’t enough. We therefore work with various scientific institutions, for example ERCIS – the European Research Center for Information Systems at the University of Münster. We are continuously developing these collaborations because the external point of view is very valuable for our strategy, our portfolio of solutions and ultimately for our customers.
What Are the Biggest Challenges in terms of Customer Dialogue at the moment?
Oliver Carlsen: Technological changes obviously present every company with challenges. But I’m going to mention another aspect here, namely the quality of customer communication. Expectations are rising steadily in this regard because the consumers of today are well informed and are already taking care of simple issues themselves through self service. This increasingly leaves our customer advisers to deal with the really specific, complex issues.
What Role Will the Traditional Service Center Be Playing in the Foreseeable Future, Bearing in Mind Digitization and Automation?
Oliver Carlsen: I’m convinced that traditional customer service will continue to play an important role. And that is not despite, but because of the digital revolution. As I’ve already explained, standard queries can now increasingly be automated or answered through self service. The more complex issues not only require expertise, but also personal contact and empathy – and technology is still a long way away from being able to convincingly imitate human rapport.
Digitization is, of course, a central element of our services and we have developed the relevant expertise, for example by expanding our teams of experts in the fields of automated interaction and analytics. However, that does not result in competition for our employees, but rather in an expansion of our service offering. Recent studies such as the one by Frost & Sullivan show that a harmonious combination of people and technology is the key to successful customer service. The number of customer contacts will continue to rise, and we will only be able to deal with this volume if people and technology work together in synchrony.
Almost Every Industry is Undergoing Transformation as a Result of Digitization. How Can Arvato CRM Solutions Help Companies to Face up to the Current Challenges?
Oliver Carlsen: By applying our experience and expertise from two directions. Firstly, we have been working for well-known companies in various industries for decades now and we have developed an extensive understanding of the respective sector-specific demands and challenges. Secondly, we have invested heavily in the transformation of our service offering over the last few years and we are already successfully implementing a large number of digital solutions for our clients.
On this basis we can assist every company with the digitization of customer dialogue in an advisory capacity, as well as offer them the right solution. To give just one example: a number of leading German banks are implementing our digital account switching service for their customers. The service ensures that all payment partners are automatically informed of the new account details, thereby complying with the provisions of the German Payment Accounts Act. Should the customer wish, they can be put in contact with a bank adviser in the branch via video chat. So in this instance, we carry out the whole process digitally and we expand it into an omni-channel service upon request.
I could give other examples but in the end we always combine our industry expertise with our technical knowledge to create customized solutions for individual businesses or whole industries.