A decade ago, smartphones did not exist; 14 years ago Social Networks like Facebook and Twitter were not thought of; only 3 decades ago no one had a personal computer. Today we live amongst rapidly accelerating advancements. As each generation of technology is improved, the rate of progress from edition to edition speeds up exponentially. We are bystanders as Cloud, Big Data, Virtual Reality, Drones, AI (Artificial Intelligence), Robotics & more change the world around us and get more powerful, affordable and ubiquitous. In the 21st century we won’t see 100 years of progress, it will be more likely 1000 years or more!
The role of technology innovation is to make our lives easier. more productive, more efficient, more informed and quicker, to do things better or achieve things we could not do previously. Innovation should create better lives and experiences for the user or interactor with that technology.
So, taking this all into account I have to ask, do you not think one technology has been left behind? We have had phones and switchboards since the late 1800’s, soon after which the PBX (Private Branch eXchange) evolved. So why has the phone experience stagnated for the last 15 years when other technology has accelerated ahead? Think about the experience you get when you call an organisation, standard long IVR’s (Interactive Voice Response) menus. Being transferred from I’ll-informed agent to agent, repeating your story, sitting in call queues and then living the pleasure of this again when you call in the next day to chase the call back, promised, but that didn’t come!
Web site journeys have long been personalised, linking to customer data (CRM) and to live choices and behaviours to keep the customer engaged and enjoying the experience. Money and time is spent making sure that a user’s web interaction, is not bland or frustrating, that it does not push the customer away!
Yet, when it comes to the good old phone interaction, one that has been around far longer we find ‘85% of prospects and customers are dissatisfied with their phone experience.’ (Source: Salesforce). In the world of customer service, we have seen the game changed by the likes of Amazon who emerged quickly to disrupt, delivering an experience of volume and efficiency. Unfortunately, this also set the bar for the consumer of what to expect and demand from others.
When it comes to customer service and interaction, a vast breadth of firms with margin pressures and a need to sell and service more effectively, have taken to changing customer interaction models to utilise the technologies now available. Businesses have fast moved to online self-service, web forms, live chat and automated phone systems in order to serve more with less and aim for the 24*7 service to anyone, anytime on any device, the omni-channel panacea!
Unfortunately to achieve the level of self-service of the likes of Amazon is costly, difficult and most do not have the resources and skills at hand to achieve it. Thus, the poor customer even when self-serving often falls between the cracks, finds exception cases and needs help. Needing to speak to someone the hunt for the phone number starts, you should be able to choose to speak to a company if you wish, let alone when you need to!
The commonest choices of a customer when seeking help are to speak to someone on the phone (61%), email (60%), live-chat (57%) (Source: LivePerson’s Connecting with Consumers report).
Once you have achieved base camp and found the number, the climb begins. Anyone called a company to hear the message, ‘Unfortunately we are experiencing a particularly busy time right now’. Why? Because they have cut too deep and pushed customers to the self-service approach to the level that they cannot support traditional methods of interaction, hence blocking customers from it.
How has the medium that has been around the longest become the worst to engage through? We call through, expecting to get a IVR (Interactive Voice Response) menu. You wade through these to be put in a queue or be told ‘all our agents are busy please call back later’ or ‘your call is important to us please hold’ (for the next 25 mins, so not that important I guess), Leading to the classic buzzword bingo winner of ‘Sorry I can’t help, you should have pressed 5 not 4 on the options. I’ll put you back into the queue for the right person’. What world have we created, where companies want you to self-serve, as they cannot serve you themselves!
It’s no wonder customers get furious, ranting on social media to their friends and anyone that will listen. Has anyone who has set any of these systems up actually acted as a customer, realising the lack of good experience they are delivering?
Why can we not have telephony, that when needed is efficient, personal and helps, not hinders us. What a pleasant surprise that would be gaining great customer Sat. or NPS scores. Customer agents would have less disgruntled and impatient callers to deal with and businesses would not be afraid of receiving calls and start publishing their phone numbers once again.
Why can we not be presented with a personal greeting, from knowing the phone number on our account or that we have called recently. For example, “Hello the Moyse family, thanks for calling back. If you are calling about the Boiler issue logged yesterday please press 1 to go right through to your agent, if not press 2 for other options” Immediately making me feel served and also shortening my phone journey on the likelihood that is why I am calling back.
This is possible today and far more, the cloud technology is available, affordable and easier to configure than older systems. Businesses need to up their Phone games refresh their telephony and align it to customer experience and centricity, integrating to live CRM data to allow them to deliver the personalised shortened phone journeys that their customers are shouting out for!