The Phone Is Dead – Long Live the Phone

By Jeremy Starcher

As consumers go, we’re a self-sufficient bunch. If we can figure out how to hook up streaming media services to the dozen devices in our homes, get a refund on an online purchase through a chat session, or troubleshoot our Wi-Fi network through online support forums, all without requiring the help of live voice resources, we’re likely to take that option. And if you’re part of the mobile-first generation, you may not even remember a time when the 800 number was your only option.

So why do some customer interactions still require a live conversation? In Forrester’s December 2015 Customer Lifecycle Survey, respondents indicated that use of the voice channel increasingly evolves as an escalation – not a primary – service channel.

Often this means that consumers have exhausted their digital efforts. It can also mean that the interaction may be a complex inquiry, an emotional reaction, or a time-sensitive issue.

Regardless of the reason, these types of interactions provide a unique opportunity to learn more about customers’ behavior and can give insight into the kind of content customers need to stay online.

These interactions also present a new problem. Customers are tech-savvy and familiar with online personalization. How do you help them cross the digital divide when they need to speak with you and still maintain that personalization they’ve come to expect? More than ever before, it’s critical to transition these interactions the right way to protect the customer experience and your company’s efficiency.

Rebooting Customer Service: Businesses have focused on creating great digital experiences in response to the ubiquity of smartphones and the growing adoption of consuming content digitally. As a result there is the potential to view the voice channel as yesterday’s solution and the last resort.

Guess what? Customers feel the same way. But nevertheless we continue to see the need for supporting voice interactions.

The key is to break out of traditional thinking: Change the way we view live voice service. Reboot the idea that the voice channel is dying. Embrace the opportunity that speaking with someone using our digital channels provides us.

What could we learn if we connected a customer’s online experience with a voice interaction and, better yet, resolution? What insights could be acted on if we had a complete, end-to-end view of a customer’s online efforts and the resolution required and received inside the contact center?

The best way to accomplish this is to seamlessly transition customers from an online interaction to a voice interaction when and where appropriate. When implemented correctly, a well-placed “Call Me” option can create immediate value to customers and your business.

For the customer, it removes the hoops and hold time associated with a live call while increasing overall satisfaction. For the business, the data associated with the “Call Me” request can be transformational regarding efforts to understand how the customer ended up on the voice channel, providing new insights into how to optimize the digital experience.

Consider your customers. An increase in tech-savvy customers means an increase in the customer types who have already tried to solve their own issue by using your online FAQs, Googling possible fixes, and logging into the support community.

If these customers have an unresolved issue, they are less likely to follow your service 101 template. This includes IVR, on-hold messages, and agent scripts. These customers want a personalized experience designed to take into account all the options they have already tried.

They expect you to know their history, both from a CRM point of view and a recent activity point of view. If they visited your website, logged on to their account, surfed your FAQ page, text chatted with a rep, and still weren’t able to solve the issue, they want you to understand the entire context. They certainly do not want to repeat any of those steps with a live resource.

IVR cannot help solve this problem. A well-designed routing platform with hooks into CRM, billing, and other systems cannot help. You need to intentionally transition these customers to a voice channel in order to provide the key to understanding their entire experience. You need to tie their online, digital experience with the resolution they received from your contact center.

With a simple click of a button, you can give your customers the experience they desire while linking together their digital and voice paths to resolution. This provides you with an omnichannel view of the customer’s entire journey.

Omnichannel, Uni-View: The primary issue facing organizations isn’t how to capture customer data. Rather, the challenge lies in how to use this existing information to create a positive customer experience and to learn how to optimize the digital experience.

Information is already being collected from nearly every imaginable system: CRM systems, purchase interactions and transactions, POS data, websites, loyalty programs, mobile devices televisions, digital and social media, subscriptions, and gaming systems.

To effectively use information to create a positive experience in the voice channel, data associated with customers and their recent activities need to be accessible to the agent. To enhance their experience in your digital channels, you need visibility into problem areas where content may need to be edited or page mapping may need to change to optimize the likelihood of customers resolving their issues.

Imagine an agent who is empowered to help customers based on their personal experiences with the brand. Personalized information – such as which Web pages a customer recently searched or how long he or she spent on the mobile app before calling – are valuable data points that can create a richer and faster interaction.

Understanding customers’ past interactions and timelines are also key to accommodating each customer’s unique situation. The easiest way to provide that data is directly between systems. Transitioning a customer from your online channel to your voice channel allows you to link the two experiences together.

For example, sending the session ID associated with the customer’s online visit allows your data scientist to link these two experiences together. This bridges both worlds and gives a view into customer behavior you never had access to before.

Rather than view the voice channel as a last resort, the way many consumers do, companies that see the voice channel as an opportunity to learn more about customers’ online patterns of behavior are in a position to maximize the effectiveness of their digital channels.

It may seem counterintuitive, but placing a “Call Me” button in your digital channels might be the best option to lower your customers’ overall need to use the voice channel.

Jeremy Starcher is vice president, callback cloud, at Virtual Hold Technology.

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