Time to give the voice channel some va-va-voom

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Despite its importance, the voice channel has seen little innovation in the last 20 years from the customer's point of view. Here are three simple tips from Jonathan Gale, CEO of NewVoiceMedia to give it a boost.

These days, every business knows how important it is to be innovative and leading edge in the way they deliver customer service. With so much competition out there and reduced consumer spending in these uncertain economic times, poor customer service can literally sink a business. If a customer has a bad experience, they won’t spend more or stick around. They may well tell all their Facebook friends and Twitter followers about the poor experience as well, just to rub salt in the wounds.
When you ask most customer service managers and directors about how they’re upping their game to respond to this challenge, many will be worrying about social media or expanding web self-service capabilities. It’s certainly true that companies must be aware of what is being said about them in the social media landscape, especially when things turn nasty. 
It’s also true that by responding quickly to people who do use social media channels as their first choice they will surprise and delight some customers. But the vast majority of customers don’t start with a Tweet - they pick up the phone instead.
Voice is still the number one channel for customer service interactions, particularly when people are in a hurry.
Paradoxically however, given its importance, the voice channel has seen little or no innovation in the last 20 years, from the customer’s point of view at least. Instead companies have tended to focus on how they can handle the maximum number of calls with the minimum number of agents, regardless of what that does for the customer experience. They’ve often done this by burying the call centre number in their website, pushing you to the FAQ section instead and also by driving as many calls as possible through self service automated voice response menus.
Don't leave voice behind
As businesses look towards the future they need to ensure that their frontline call centres are just as good, if not better, than the support they offer in person or online. It doesn’t require too much effort to really make your call centre stand out, in a good way! In other words, don’t blow your entire budget on your social media strategy and forget your call centres.
By viewing your call centre as a contributory part of your brand building, marketing and sales strategy rather than an unfortunate cost associated with having customers you can really boost sales and reduce customer churn.
Here’s three simple ways that you could make big improvements in the way you handle inbound calls.
  1. Empowered, happy and available agents. Focus on training your agents as much as possible and then empower them with the information they need to resolve calls the first time. Don’t use scripting if you can avoid it, skill your agents up rather than dumb them down. Combine that approach with the use of technology which allows agents to work from home, this will give you the flexibility to have longer call centre opening hours and make your agents happier. When you have an urgent enquiry and you find that the call centre is still open and then you speak to an empowered and happy agent, you are much more likely to enjoy a good customer experience.
  2. Voice personalisation. Most people call from the same location or mobile all of the time and most companies keep records of all these numbers. With the new wave of cloud based CRM and contact centre solutions you can easily, quickly and reliably route and prioritise calls accordingly. It sounds simple, but very few contact centres do it, its worth the effort though, it really will make you stand out. Speaking to the same agents each time they call, feels like a miracle to the customer.
  3. Boost your voice, with social media. Presenting an agent with information about where a customer is, in that instant, along with a live feed of their social media presence and recent posts, plus all the details of their recent interactions is now off the shelf functionality if you pick the right solution. Furthermore if you opt to do this utilising public Cloud-based services, it can be achieved quickly and inexpensively. Don’t close yourself off to these new possibilities. Go down the public Cloud route and you’ll also save money in the long term, as you won’t be constantly updating software and hardware or investing in bespoke solutions.
Those companies who succeed in 2012 and beyond will be those businesses that put as much or even more emphasis on the innovation of voice within their contact centres, as they do into building their multi- and social media channels. Customers want the service they receive through every channel to be as fast, efficient and pleasant as possible, so don’t leave your voice behind!

Jonathan Gale is CEO of NewVoiceMedia.


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