We want you to get the most out of us as vendors. This post has come out of an initiative to improve communications with our clients here at Vable. As a client you need to talk to us, and we want to make it as easy as possible. After all, everyone values an organisation with which they can communicate promptly and efficiently.
I recognise that your information service sits at the centre of the organisation, connecting with all departments to ensure the spread of knowledge. But as external providers of information, we are like a spirograph with an organised pattern of inter-connectivity as we revolve around you - as the client.
‘Language is constant’
A career in information services teaches you the importance of communication. Sir Tim Berners-Lee stated that ‘language is constant’, even if technology has evolved. Development of communication skills formed a large part of my 1999 CILIP Professional Development, with the focus being primarily on office based interactions.
Back then, there were few variables regarding working hours, and tech was unsophisticated. However, the world has changed, and now many of us have a global client base with high expectations. In order to maintain a strong market position - regardless of industry - clients expect a direct line of communication, with a prompt response through the appropriate channels.
Technology adoption for client communications
Technology has enabled customer support to be delivered via chatbots and other automated services. One customer relationship management (CRM) stated, ‘this is the era of personalised customer service and advanced customer experiences. To accomplish both, companies must rely on technology, artificial intelligence, and big data’.
Communication with clients is something that takes place every day and the basics haven’t changed, even if the technology has proliferated.
This frees up (human) specialists to deal with the more complex client/customer issues. In-app message pop-ups, chatbots and other AI-enabled technology in the background are able to redirect phone calls, and provide clients with an immediate acknowledgement or response. There has been endless discussion about these forms of artificial intelligence and whether they can benefit your business.
Maintaining the balance of human and AI
As I’ve already mentioned, information professionals have been designing and providing ‘AI’ for years around knowledge management and document organisation. But we could be making more of CRM to deal with some basic questions, such as online resource functionality, or whether something is in stock. This would give information staff more time to focus on the more complex questions.
Regardless of context, the most important thing to remember is the human client on the other end of the chat. As G Riley Mills recently pointed out, ‘the biggest lesson is, regardless of platform—in person, conference call, email, twitter, etc.—communication can be distilled to the same three elements: Speaker. Subject. Audience’.
My recent experience has taught me that achieving an appropriate tone in the messages, identifying ‘sticking’ points, and the rule triggering process is complex. The problem ‘how do I do x’ and the solution ‘this is how you do x’ seems so straightforward for a human brain, and yet the most ‘intelligent’ of systems requires many rules. The team is still working to get the right balance between human input and a technology based interaction.
Empathy for the audience
The focus of many legal technologists is on integrating the human with the tech. In order to achieve this we require a deep knowledge of what our clients want, as well as empathy and understanding for the way clients want to communicate. Otherwise we will end up alienating the very people we wish to assist - this is why I’m sharing my thoughts and inviting comment.
It is only possible to achieve a positive outcome if we have the ability to communicate with our customers using the above principle. We need to focus on our audience. Everything that I do, you do, and they do, revolves around communications with them. Technology is at the heart of information exchange, but effective communication between information professionals, end-users and clients is vital.
What experiences do you have with automated customer services? Is it something you’ll be introducing in your library and information service?