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Transforming tech without alienating customers

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There’s an undeniable shift to digital within the customer service environment, but companies implementing new strategies while neglecting existing customers’ preferences do so at their own peril, writes Wynand Smit, CEO at INOVO.
The biggest growth market among customers is millennials aged between 18 and 34, and this is immediately apparent when consumer preferences on the whole are analysed. A recent study conducted by US-based firm Startek uncovered that 80% of those polled preferred to use digital devices when contacting customer service departments within companies. They said that using devices made it faster and easier to contact companies via social media channels, email or chat options.
Those aged between 45-69, the baby boomers, preferred to use the phone (voice option) as a means of contacting companies.
This disparity would indicate that the growing market must take precedence over the aging demographic, and that contact centres should focus primarily on introducing technology that enhances efficiency and productivity. While this is certainly true, it should be tempered with a broader overview that acknowledges that the older market segment are peak earners, so to exclude them from being able to interact functionally with a company could jeopardise a significant market share.
The answer isn’t as simple as it seems. Although the younger customers love digital-friendly technology such as multi-channel self-help options and chatbots, these emerging technologies are not yet refined within the local market, and do not always lend themselves to integration with legacy hardware and software.
A gradual transformation to digital is inevitable, already the old-school systems have become archaic, if not obsolete. Where previously agents in outbound contact centres used printed lists from which to work, this has shifted to intelligent lead management strategies and automatic diallers.
Across the contact centre industry companies have learned the value in improving how customer interactions take place. While the goal is a seamless interaction across any channel, whether it’s social media, chat, email, in-store, online or voice, or mobile, this remains largely aspirational. The shift has been gradual, so some of the more progressive companies have already torn down the silos to create omni-channel environments.
Even within an omni-channel environment voice calls play a role beyond traditional customer service – voice analytics can aid in performing market research by analysing word frequency and other metrics to gauge customer interaction trends or sentiment. Too many negative interactions can help to identify problems that the company can then address by adapting business strategies or processes to improve the customer experience and customer service.
Voice contacts can also aid in preventing fraud, if biometric systems such as voice authentication are in place, these can aid in identifying the customer far more efficiently than scripted questions.
The options deployed depend on the company’s budgetary and operational requirements. Business solutions implemented should be done so with a view to future efficiency, since the contact centre will grow and new tech will be invented. Systems need to have the option for updating, preferably in an ongoing relationship between the solutions provider and the company so that the building blocks are compatible and in place.
Ease of interaction, faster, efficient resolution of customer service contacts and, essentially, better service across all channels is the desirable outcome in terms of customer experience and for productivity within the contact centre environment. All demographics and their preferred methods of contact must be acknowledged and catered for.