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Part three: call centre technologies

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30th Aug 2007
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photo of Stuart Lauchlan

By Stuart Lauchlan, news and analysis editor

The other important question is whether firms are investing in the right call centre technologies to improve their customers experiences. For example, will self service technologies be appropriate for your customer base? Or will you drive them away by exposing them to litany of ‘press 3 for this, press 4 for that’ type of options when all they want to do is talk to a human being.

According to one voice solutions provider, the answer is that UK adults are embracing self service in the call centre when querying services and buying products. Vicorp reckons that over half of UK adults are willing to use an automated service, with twenty two per cent preferring to use the self service option immediately rather than going to a live agent.

Now the first reaction here is to say, "well they would say that wouldn’t they, what with being a voice solutions firm and all that." But the firm goes on to categorise the type of applications that can be self-service provisioned efficiently. Buying cinema tickets was the most popular use of automation, with 56 percent. Checking bank balances came in second place with 52 percent, followed by paying bills at 48 percent.

But significantly people still want to talk to somebody if their day-to-day lives are being inconvenienced or if something is likely to leave them out of pocket. So don’t think about an automated self service option for technical support or resolving billing complaints. You’re just going to end up with a customer who’s even more enraged by the end of their ‘interactive’ call than they were when they first picked up the phone.

The frontline of customer interaction

On the other hand, an effective queue management system would be a good investment. The overall biggest issue that callers have with queuing is not knowing how long they have to wait and being told that they’re being held in a queue every two minutes with no indication how how much further on they’ve moved.

Analytics is a key technology in improving customer satisfaction levels. In a recent survey conducted by Aberdeen, 68 percent of best-in-class (BIC) companies utilise online searches for customer data to allow all facets of the business to have access to the most dependable, correct and timely data on customers and their inquiries. There is work to be done. Only 38 percent of BIC companies currently use business intelligence or analytics tools to identify areas in need of improvement, but 41 percent plan to do so.

For more sophisticated companies, speech analytics technology can also be used to provide a better understanding of their customers. This technology can now be used to analyse emotions and other underlying information about a customer’s attitude. Speech analytics searches unstructured audio data to find metadata, such as the reason for the call, agent politeness and more to the point the customer’s anger. This metadata can be analysed and used to improve processes and increase customer satisfaction.

Overall, there’a clearly a lot of work to be done to improve the customer experience of using the call centre. It is the frontline of customer interaction and as such needs solid and well-thought out investment in appropriate technologies, not just being offloaded to a cheap foreign location.

”As the call centre is often the first point of contact between an organisation and its customers, every effort needs to be made to improve the experience for both customers and staff,” warns Lee Cottle, chief operating officer at Vicorp. “Organisations have to get the balance right and if automation is the preferred option to keep customers happy then it creates a win-win situation. For customers, their queries and needs can be met in a hassle-free manner in a timeframe that they control.”

This month's stories:

Costs or assets?

A brief history of contact centres: from costs to value

Contact centre as an asset: the new breed

"Don’t take that tone of voice with me!"

Offshoring

Changing shorelines in the call centre sector

Switching on to offshoring

Do customers think calls are too east of centre?

Staff training and recruitment

Coming up roses: getting the most from your call centre staff

Calling for dedicated agents

Lives on hold: call centre staff answer back

Service providers

Signed, sealed and delivered?

To outsource or not to outsource: is that even the question?

The changing face of the call centre outsourcing sector

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