No longer a nation of queue lovers
Given that excellence in customer service has been touted as the key big differentiator in pulling out of the recession, it’s unsettling that the UK still suffers from a relatively poor reputation in this regard, says Ian Turner, General Manager Northern Europe at Nuance Communications. One manifestation of this customer service failing is the public’s aversion to ringing call centres.
One manifestation of this customer service failing is the public’s aversion to ringing call centres. Our own Customer Self-Service Preferences Report found that 60 per cent of respondents are less than satisfied with their interactions with customer service departments. However, the secret to delivering a superior customer experience is actually quite straight forward; here are just a couple of basic truths that we would benefit from keeping front of mind.
Firstly individuals are by nature task orientated; they just want to get a job done quickly and with minimal fuss. It therefore stands to reason that those companies that give their customers the tools and flexibility to complete the tasks themselves will prosper.
Secondly most people share the same pet hates, which nearly always include waiting in line. In this time poor society, people no longer want or expect to have to hold on a phone line and listen to some bland instrumental music before they speak to an agent about a transaction that only takes seconds to complete.
Thankfully technology has evolved with such pace that the majority of call centre transactions can now be successfully automated. With projections that by next year over 70 per cent of interactions into the call centre will be via mobile phone, mobile self-service is also now a compelling proposition. The shift towards mobile working puts pressure on CIOs and CFOs to make their organisations even more nimble, more virtual and more available. This trend will accelerate the number of people relying upon self-service solutions.
Mobile self-service intercepts an incoming call before it even reaches the traditional Interactive Voice Response and presents the user with a visual self-service application on the handset. The software enables customers to automatically resolve problems directly on their mobile phones by providing intuitive real-time instructions – all without requiring a call to the service centre. This delivers the added advantage of avoiding ‘agent burnout’ by freeing-up call centre employees’ time to focus on more complex problems.
To further illustrate the increasing demand for these services, a survey by market research company, Added Value, revealed a huge consumer appetite for customer service delivered directly on a mobile device and provided evidence that empowering customers to resolve problems themselves reflected positively on the brand delivering the service. In a trial with Nuance Mobile Care – its patented call capture technology which circumvents the contact centre in this way – over half of respondents (59 per cent) said that mobile handset self-service would be their preferred channel of self-service, compared with only 34 per cent that would choose to deal with a customer service agent.
I think it would be fair to say that self-service used to be perceived as a ‘dirty’ word, inspiring dread rather than enthusiasm. Thankfully the technology has benefited from significant R&D and come on leaps and bounds in sophistication and intelligence. As a result opinions on self-service have improved dramatically. We are remarkably quick to adapt to a changing environment. For instance, very few people could now imagine banking without ATMs, a huge shift from 20 years ago. Similarly, retail stores including Tesco and Marks and Spencer took the bold move of rolling-out self-service counters on a massive scale. Inevitably there has been some contention but as consumers become accustomed to using these tills, they’ll find it hard to recall a time without them.
The British Retail Consortium, the trade association representing UK retailers, is right however, to stress the continuing need for in-store employees while adopting new ways to assist shoppers. The same cautionary approach is required with the introduction of mobile self-service. While it is inevitably the way of the future, implementing user-friendly self-care services should not replace current customer care channels, but provide customers with more choice over when, where and how they obtain information on products, services and their own personal account information. The key to success is to be mindful of the need to balance end-user profitability with end-user satisfaction. We have to be sensitive to the fact that people respond to change differently and in their own time.
However, the overwhelming advantages of mobile self-service to customer care are clear, particularly when you consider that answering calls is an expensive business. As a cardinal rule, cutting expenditure should never compromise the quality of customer service – especially as companies rely upon a loyal customer base to sustain their business long-term. And in this respect self-service is quite unique. Following the initial investment, slashed outgoings are almost always guaranteed and given the precision of the technology, so is increased customer satisfaction.