DX & The New CX Frontier

By: Matt Edic

Ever eager to cut costs, Frontier Airlines became one of the first major airlines to transition to fully digital communications. Instead of connecting with a representative via a call-based customer service line, flyers will interact with Frontier agents through digital options, such as live chat, WhatsApp or social media. Frontier believes that this move will allow customers to get the information they need quickly and efficiently. Likewise, its decision to go digital reflects customer preferences (or lack thereof) regarding phone calls.

Frontier Airlines’ transition raises questions about the viability of an all-digital virtual assistant environment. While the company claims its customers prefer digital methods over voice, this transition may alienate those who still want to speak with live agents. Plus, some flyers, especially older ones, are not proficient with self-service technologies and will undoubtedly become frustrated. Moreover, the move leads to speculation concerning the future of customer experience, not just for airlines but also for other industries.

The current state of the contact center

In the current contact center space, Frontier Airlines represents a minority, and there isn’t a significant groundswell of companies following its lead. Most agencies and businesses are still utilizing legacy, on-premise models or gradually transitioning to hybrid. It will take time before these companies fully modernize their customer experience, whether by leveraging communications automation or solutions from their cloud provider. In fact, many brands are in the process of defining what omnichannel communications actually is for them—namely, which channels are most important to their customers. And while there is a considerable amount of groundwork that must get laid before other businesses are confident to transition their contact centers to digital, the COVID pandemic accelerated years of advancement into months. With consumers stuck at home with access to every conceivable business at their fingertips, brands had to improve their customer experience to stay competitive.

Now, companies in every industry, from retail and financial services to healthcare and consulting services, are reevaluating their contact centers to cut costs, become more efficient and—most importantly—deliver a superior customer experience through digital approaches. Specifically, many companies are working out which of their calls can get automated quickly to drive ROI. Self-service communication solutions, for example, like chatbots and virtual assistants, are game-changing, helping customers solve their inquiries and allowing the contact center agents to focus on more pressing and difficult challenges. Nevertheless, though more use cases are solvable in a self-service environment, there are limitations to these digital channels, which still require human intervention.

Limitations and considerations of digital communications

Although as much as 90 percent of customer interactions are transactional and can be fulfilled through self-service channels—for example, activities like checking a balance, tracking a package or confirming an appointment—the other, more complex interactions require a human assistant. Furthermore, at some point in the customer journey, there may be a need for a human agent because of technological limitations. Even though AI has progressed significantly in the past few years, it is still far from making every digital use case independent of a human agent. Similarly, automation is a double-edged sword. While it can drive new levels of efficiency not possible with a purely human staff, never having the ability to defer a caller to a human agent represents a considerable roadblock to particular customer inquiries.

The decision to go completely digital depends on an industry-by-industry, company-by-company and even channel-by-channel basis. Likewise, brands must determine which channels are most important to their customers and digitize accordingly. Unfortunately, many companies have tried to modernize by automating as many channels as possible, but, in the end, the customer experience becomes mediocre or even worse. Contact centers are highly sensitive and complex environments, and there is a significant amount of technical sophistication that goes into digitizing or automating, especially for larger businesses with hundreds of agents and multiple interactive voice response trends. The contact center is so daunting that it can’t simply get fixed through a hasty rip-and-replace procedure. The evolution to digital will not happen overnight.

Before digitizing, businesses must also assess the demographics of their customer base to determine their level of digital savviness. A survey asked various age groups what solution they would prefer to use if they were experiencing an issue with a company. Almost half of Gen Z participants and 41 percent of Millennials said they


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