High customer satisfaction is key to winning and retaining customers. Without superior service, customers sense immediately when they’re not getting the value of something that they’ve paid for. So, what does this mean? The risks and rewards of customer satisfaction are rising.
At Orange Business Live 2012, Eric Stioui, Head of International Presales, Contact Center Solutions, and Dan daCosta, Solutions Marketing, presented the future of contact centers and how new technologies can improve service to end customers and benefit the business. The breakout session also included a customer case study from a financial services company.
According to Mr. Stioui, 92% of consumers form an opinion about a company through their interaction with a contact center. For the here and now, this means companies need to ensure a high level of quality of service for their customers. And, in the world of customer contact, every interaction is an opportunity to better consolidate information and data from across various sources and interactions in order to better understand your customer and what he or she wants. When this data across internal and external sources is combined, companies have a wealth of data to work with.
Mr. daCosta focused on the near-term need for companies to integrate social media into their mix of customer service. This includes monitoring and analyzing customer sentiment – determining what customers are saying about a company or brand at a given point in time across all the different social media channels.
Half the battle will be monitoring customer sentiment, as there are a plethora of websites and social channels where customers are sharing their opinion of a company or brand; the other half of the battle will be leveraging that analysis by sharing it with support staff so they can better serve customers who are reaching out to customer support, regardless of how they choose to do so. Much of what Mr. daCosta said is confirmed in a recent report by BrandWatch.
Contact center technologies continue to move toward automated self-service (IVR, or interactive voice response), but this doesn’t mean that IT and customer support staff are off the hook. In fact, Mr. Stioui stated that technology equals only about 15% of the total costs of a contact center. So, if investments in the infrastructure and an intelligent interactive voice response allow a company to reduce the size of their agent pool, the return on investment for upgraded infrastructure can be reached fairly quickly.
IVR and chat costs are a fraction of voice and email costs. Chats can be done simultaneously and are generally more productive as support staff are able to interact and reach a conclusion sooner than the back and forth of email. In my personal view, chatting is especially useful because it also allows the customer to multi-task, which isn’t always possible with a phone call into a support center.
Other tools that contact centers are integrating into their support infrastructure are virtual assistants, such as IKEA’s Anna or the National Rail Service’s Ask Lisa. Virtual agents are definitely part of our future as they’re getting smarter and are able to remember information they’ve already been given. Customers often give virtual agents higher marks than human agents in many cases.
The second portion of the breakout reviewed benefits of moving a contact center infrastructure to the cloud, including:
- allowing agent to work more flexibly and from anywhere
- ability to establish small, distributed centers, as there’s minimal on-premise equipment
- a consistent global architecture, but also with the ability to customize as necessary, for example for different countries
- sharing data across different multi-channel interactions
- providing new and diverse tools to agents, such as chat or email, or even unified communication tools or applications like a mapping app for interaction that might result in a need for driving directions
The financial services customer shared their own experience with multichannel contact center services, integrating social media into the customer support mix, and moving to a cloud-based platform. These shared experiences gave real-life examples of the challenges of adapting customer contact platforms and channels to customers’ changing expectations.
In conclusion, the message from the session was clear: customer care is critical to businesses today, and IT needs to be more proactive and play an integral part to helping the business leverage technology to their benefit. It’s not just about cost – it’s about how the investment can help improve customer satisfaction at a time when customers’ expectations are changing by the minute.
What do you think about how customer support is changing, whether you work in IT, or as a customer yourself? Do you like the option of using chat, social networks, or even virtual agents when interacting with customer support?
I've spent more than 17 years in global telecommunications, and was formerly responsible for international social media activities at Orange Business Services. I enjoy making technology accessible to non-techies and I'm a strong supporter of flexible working.