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The secrets to a customer-friendly self-service solution

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11th Jun 2007
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By Nick Applegarth, Envox

A recent industry survey indicates that on average, people calling into a customer service department will wait on hold for just 37 seconds before hanging up. This means that companies can’t miss any opportunity to connect with their callers, whether it’s a new customer or a loyal patron. With every hang-up, the company risks damaging customer loyalty and driving customers to their competitors.

The reasons callers get impatient and disconnect are many. One well-reported cause is having a frustrating experience – before they can even be put on hold – with an unhelpful, confusing interactive voice response (IVR) solution. Many legacy IVRs have an ill-designed voice user interface. Poor navigation, having to repeat information that has already been supplied, and the inability to get a live human when desired frustrates the caller decreasing their confidence in the company they are trying to contact, and causes them to hang up.

But, by taking time upfront to consider the following voice user interface design best-practice tips, it is possible to create a solution that stops frustrating customers and driving them to the competition. The goal is to design a contact centre experience that will retain existing customers, help win new ones and keep competitors scrambling to keep up.

Creating meaningful self-service solutions

Self-service solutions improve satisfaction ratings by providing customers with instant access to information and services. When self-service solutions are used in conjunction with live agent services, they reduce wait times, help balance call loads and reserve agents for callers that need extra attention. Adding speech is a proven method for improving self-service solutions by heightening caller satisfaction, increasing automation rates and lowering overall call time.

The first step in designing a great voice user interface is conducting a complete review of business processes and customer interactions. You want to be sure that you are addressing as many customer requirements as possible. If you automate things that people don’t call about, it simply creates a delaying interface which will be extremely frustrating. Once you have determined your overall service strategy, consider the following tips for creating a voice user interface (VUI) that will delight callers and maximise automation rates:

• Speak in a common language
Your customers don’t always understand your jargon, including the names of products or services created by well-meaning marketing folks. Save the abbreviations, acronyms and nicknames for company memos and speak plainly to your customers.

• Make it fast and easy
Don’t bombard your novice customers with too many options – you’ll just confuse them. Also, consider both novice and experienced users. This means you should enable 'barge-in' capabilities and give your 'power users' options for bypassing directions and prompts they don’t need.

• Make it easy for callers to reach an agent
There is nothing more frustrating to a new or existing customer than spending time figuring out how to speak with a person. Add a 'press zero at any time' option – it will lower call time and save you money in the long run. You can always add a friendly 'What product are you interested in?' prompt to get them to the agent that can best assist.

• Treat callers with respect
You’ll be amazed by the difference that a pleasant, trained voice and the occasional 'please' and 'thank you' will make in the caller’s willingness to use an automated system.

• Use silence
Well-timed pauses help novice and experienced users navigate your system more effectively.

• Make sure grammars carefully match prompts
To generate higher recognition levels and create a better customer experience, you should:
- Provide for all reasonable caller utterances, however, the grammar should cover only the phrases you expect the caller to use.
- Avoid multiple parses – words or phrases that match more than one rule.
- Avoid large grammars that take too long for the speech engine to process. Extended pauses in the system’s operation will confuse callers.

• Take errors seriously
Do not insult callers with 'invalid input' responses. That might make sense to your IT department, but it won’t to your customers. Be positive and say, 'I’m sorry I didn’t understand that…' Leverage confidence and n-best match data to offer possible responses to increase recognition such as 'Did you mean size 7?'

• Extend your branding when choosing your solution’s 'persona'
A fabulous experience with your speech-enabled self-service solution will re-enforce your brand and build customer loyalty. Select voice talent, or persona, that will project the image and style of your organisation. Persona goes beyond the voice talent you choose and includes the tone of the prompts. Options to consider include male/female, old/young, and happy/serious. Also, do not mix voices as callers move from one application to another; carry one persona through the entire self-service experience.

• Personalise the experience wherever possible
Dynamic scripting offers an opportunity to present self-service menus based on customer profile information. Carry personalisation through to live agent interactions and eliminate the need for customers to repeat information.

• Consider offering multiple languages
This will allow your system to serve your entire customer base.

Furthermore, be prepared to continually tune your solution – even after production – to ensure the best results.

User interface extends beyond self-service

Good user interface design needs to extend beyond automated services and should include ways to personalise the caller experience in all interactions. This means careful attention to how calls are sent to, and answered by, your agents.

First, it is very important for customer satisfaction – not to mention contact centre productivity – to send callers to the right agent with correct skills to address their particular issue – the first time. Here your design must reflect the fact that inquiries from potential customers may need personal attention. Consider adding computer telephony integration (CTI) capabilities to your solution to enable sophisticated call routing that finds the best possible agent to answer that call.

Getting the call to the right agent is just half of the battle. Providing agents with real-time customer data using a 'screen pop' is also extremely important. No customer who has just spent time providing their information to a self-service solution is impressed by a company whose agents say "Hello, please tell me your account number."

Providing agents with caller information along with the call eliminates this frustration. Including historical information enables agents to immediately begin an intelligent conversation. Imagine the positive impact on your customers when the agent says “Hello, John, I see that you are interested in upgrading your mobile phone service. I can offer you special pricing for six months if you select our Gold Programme.”

Contact centres using intelligent routing and CTI-enabled agent screen pops report faster call resolution rates, increased agent productivity, lower wait times and higher customer satisfaction rates.

Nick Applegarth is vice president of Envox EMEA

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By Neha Gupta
14th Oct 2016 11:18

Insightful post, Nick. Companies are, nowadays, considering the customer as the central part of their ecosystem. They want to meet customer expectations. For that, they are trying to provide customers the services they prefer and implements the services the way the user wants. But they are lacking somewhere, that part is the deployment of self-service solutions. Deployment of self-services requires experience, proficiency, skills, and efficiency. Self-service solutions should be implemented selflessly. They should lead to user convenience. If implemented properly, Self-service solutions can help the service providers to achieve the customer satisfaction, positive response, and loyalty. Companies like KocharTech, helps the service providers to improve customer experience by deploying robust self-service solutions.

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