Europe is on the cusp of an unprecedented shift in the customer service sector, with a new law restricting waiting times in contact centers to a maximum of three minutes. Businesses are being required to provide efficient, personalized, and cohesive customer support across all interaction points.
Spain is leading this radical transformation with its Customer Service Law. The law enforces rigorous regulations that oblige companies to deliver immediate customer support, limit hold times, decrease misrouting, and ensure swift issue resolution.
Unveiling the Law: Its Scope and Implications
Set to be enforced in 2024, the new law requires companies with a workforce exceeding 250 employees or a turnover of over 50 million euros to establish an effective customer service system. Companies that deliver essential services such as water, gas, electricity, and internet must maintain a round-the-clock call center during regular business hours, operational every day of the year. In addition, they are obliged to resolve all customer complaints within a window of fewer than fifteen days, underscoring the importance of expedited problem-solving.
The core of this law focuses on businesses’ customer interactions over the phone. Businesses are now obligated to offer “personalized attention,” which means having a human agent always available for customer interactions if a customer is not served to their liking by an AI system. Furthermore, businesses are expected to ensure that 95% of personalized attention requests receive a response within three minutes. Disconnecting calls due to extended hold times is strictly prohibited under the new regulation.
This law is set to transform customer service, compelling businesses to reassess their strategies and adapt swiftly. It presents a unique blend of challenges and opportunities, encouraging businesses to remodel their customer service with a more empathetic, human-centric approach. Spain is boldly paving the way towards more efficient customer service, which will necessitate that businesses reduce wait times and route customers to the right agent effectively. While traditionally, costly, proprietary hardware has kept businesses locked into existing suppliers, new open and cloud-based technologies make it possible for IVRs to be transformed into a conversational interface, providing a more welcoming experience and reducing misrouting.
Focusing on the Impact: US and UK
This reform is particularly relevant for American companies, given that the US is the primary investor in Spain, accounting for 27.7% of the investment that flows into the country. The UK (17.8%) and Germany (14%) follow closely.
All businesses face mounting pressure to align their customer service operations with the mandates of the new law. Achieving compliance could require a substantial revamp of existing systems and procedures, challenging businesses to reassess their strategies and implement swift modifications. Despite the significant hurdle, it also presents a golden opportunity for businesses to restructure their customer service to offer superior, more personalized experiences. For example, a global tech company noted a projected ROI of $39M, a 30% reduction of misrouted calls, and a 2 minute reduction in average handling time.
As Europe pioneers a more human-centric approach amidst a rapidly digitalizing world, this marks a pivotal moment for the future of AI in customer service for several reasons:
- Businesses will have to reassess call routing in customer service operations, ensuring that systems are capable of connecting customers to the right agent.
- Technology investments will have to move from call deflection to satisfying customer requests and providing better service so that customers do not demand speaking to a human. Statistics show that if a bot provides faster service than a human it is a preferred way to get resolution.
- AI technology must better assist live agents, providing real-time insights and relevant data during a call, thereby improving efficiency and meeting the requirement of resolving issues within the three-minute window.
The new law could inspire more regulations in customer service, not just in Europe, but globally. This new regulation marks a turning point in customer service, encouraging a shift from AI as a replacement for human agents to AI as a tool to enhance the human touch in customer interactions.
About the Author
Per Ottosson is CEO at www.teneo.ai.