Real breakthroughs are rare in any industry, as is true innovation. It takes certain experience and fresh thinking to come up with original ways of doing things. And often, these new ways use existing means, just re-arrange or connect them differently, to create something fresh that has value.
Ebrahim Dinat, chief operating officer at contact centre solutions provider Ocular Technologies, asks: “How hard is it to innovate? Not once but over and over? How can you repeatedly implement great new products, processes or services?
“Continuous innovation is not easy and if you keep using the same method you will experience diminishing results. One sure fire way to effectively innovate is to adapt an existing channel to a new use. Find an entirely different application for an existing product,” he says.
Aspect Software – whose fully-integrated consumer engagement, workforce optimisation and back-office solutions are distributed and implemented in southern Africa by its partner company Ocular Technologies, believes it has done that with its ideas around leveraging age-old technologies in new ways to improve the mobile customer experience, increase customer touch points, while saving cost for the enterprise. So, what are the technologies that we are re-connecting?
Over 20 years old, this “by-product” of mobile network communication is being re-discovered by businesses across all verticals and across the world for customer (and internal) communication.
“An interesting development is afoot and it is forcing everyone to rethink simplicity when it comes to design and communication. The SMS is one of the simplest modes of communication. It was almost forgotten and definitely overlooked, but today it is regaining prominence: after all, if our customers are talking to each other over this channel, why can’t we talk to our customers over this channel? Texting is familiar. It is as simple as it gets and it doesn’t change. Unlike going through an app, whether you’re texting on an iPhone or Android device, there is essentially no learning curve,” adds Dinat.
The Web was built with openness in mind – standardised access to information with no barriers. The return to the “software download” model with native apps was a step backward of sorts, but we are seeing new signs of the re-emergence of “Web” models lately.
Dinat continues: “The good old telephony network is not something to be overlooked.” Being able to reach any and every endpoint on this planet still ranks among the most impressive technological achievements of the last century. The extent of our connectedness is simply amazing.
* Interactive voice response (IVR): To take something uniquely human – communication through purely acoustic signals – and teaching it to a computer to improve accessibility of information holds inordinate potential.
* Call/contact centre: Technology to centrally manage the experts of a company and give them access to knowledge bases and let them communicate with customers on the channel of the customer’s choice is still the foundation for any business that deems customer service important for their success.
Natural language understanding (NLU)
Natural language understanding is the ability to understand complex expressions spoken in a more natural, free-style manner. Other, and way more predominant use cases for NLU today, are text and sentiment analysis as well as machine translation.
If knowledge is only in the brains of your employees, you have a problem; today’s organisation need software to manage and maintain its knowledge.
So now the big question: How exactly are we re-connecting these existing technologies to create something new? And why do we think this is innovative? Let’s take a look at an example of a telecoms onsite installation interaction. This scenario highlights the power of texting for outbound notifications that turn into 2-way, conversational engagements, and contextual handover to live agents when needed, demonstrating the power of integrating data and delivering customer experience continuity across communication channels, including ITR (Interactive Text Response), disposable apps (mobile Web), and agent callback.
* Stage 1: You are a new customer of XYZ Telecoms. An engineer is scheduled to come to your home and set everything up. XYZ notifies you of the upcoming appointment via SMS to make sure you’re at home. But, this text message is more than a mere notification or reminder. It invites you to respond and engage in a conversation to ensure you’re at home for the installation.
* Stage 2: Unfortunately you are not available at the time that XYZ have proposed, so you SMS them back to say that the appointment will need to change.
* Stage 3: A fully automated interaction ensues, but looks and feels like a conversation with a person. The responses from XYZ come within seconds, as you propose a new date and they accept, offering you a choice of slots.
* Stage 4: After a short on-the-spot interaction, you have rescheduled your onsite installation appointment. The system confirms everything with a final message.
* Stage 5: You have a query about the installation which you send to XYZ via an open question via text. To your surprise, you receive an answer instantly. The system integrates with a knowledge base to answer common questions. When it doesn’t know an answer, it can involve a live agent from the contact centre to help out. Integrating with the contact centre, finding out waiting times and setting the right expectations is key in providing excellent end-to-end customer service.
* Stage 6: When it’s time for the ultimate “personal touch”, you shouldn’t hold back. Always offer the option to escalate to a voice call when needed. The agent calls you directly. After a few seconds, your phone rings and an XYZ agent is on the phone, helping you with any remaining questions you might have.
As you could see, we turned messaging into the central hub for the customer experience. Without the burden of learning new user interface, the customer was able to change appointment, read up to prepare for the installation, get access to their account through a disposable app, ask general questions, get help from a live agent, and request a call to close the circle.