Don’t Use Old Techniques with Your New Call Center Technology

Recently, a company of which I’m a customer revamped their call center technology, but instead of leveraging new features to create a better caller experience, they made it worse.

All of a sudden, their system doesn’t remember my personal data and call history like it used to, and, therefore, doesn’t predict why I’m calling anymore. Also, I have to listen to additional messaging and wait through longer option menus. In short, it’s a longer, more complicated process than before.

Goals for implementing any new tech for managing customer service should be focused on both the reduction of costs as well as improving the quality of service. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case.

Put Steak on a Black Eye

Three years ago, Speech Technology Magazine ran an article by SpeechTek program chair James Larson discussing why customers aren’t fond of automated voice systems in call centers.

The article said that the technology had a ‘black eye’ that, in fact, had little to do with the technology itself.

“During the past 10 years,” wrote Larson. “Designers of voice user interfaces have researched and developed guidelines and techniques to enable customers to quickly and efficiently perform transactions and get the information they need.”

Yet customers still didn’t like them. Why? Because some companies, to save money, enforce “frugal customer service policies” which create unhappy customers.

“As a result of the policies, customers not only dislike the specific company but also dislike phone customer support systems,” wrote Larson. “In short, companies with frugal IVR policies are causing customers to dislike all IVR systems.”

Larson’s Frugal Customer Service Policies to avoid:

  1. Strict containment policy: Do not allow callers to escape from the IVR system to speak with a human agent because IVR systems are less expensive than human agents.
  2. Keep callers in the dark policy: Do not tell callers how long they can expect to wait when they join a queue before speaking with a human agent because of the expense of estimating the call wait time or fear that the caller will abandon the call.
  3. Delete customer information policy: Ask callers to repeat information collected earlier in the call or during previous calls because of the complexity of saving collected information or passing collected customer information when transferring the caller to another IVR or a live agent.
  4. Blind customer policy: Do not invest in new technology that provides a visual component to the IVR system.

So, has anything changed? Judging from the recent change I mentioned in the intro…it doesn’t look like it. Not yet, anyway.

New Tech, Same Old Techniques

Customer experience guru Ernan Roman published an article last month titled Don’t Use CRM to Automate Bad Behaviors. The gist of the piece? There’s no point in implementing new technology and using the same old dated techniques.

The good news, according to Roman: “Most companies recognized the financial value resulting from improving their customer experience (CX) and are spending the necessary dollars to acquire CRM technology and build preference centers.”

The bad news: “Many companies are focusing so heavily on their CRM technology that they are losing focus on why they embarked on CRM and preference-center initiatives in the first place—to deliver improved customer experiences.”

According to Roman, the problem isn’t that the technology is inadequate, it’s that companies don’t understand what a good customer experience means to their customers.

“I’ve come to the realization that we are using new technology to automate our existing bad behaviors,” an anonymous CMO told Roman. “We will simply be increasing our ability to do more brand-damaging ‘spray and pray’ due to installing the latest high-capacity CRM technology.”

Ideas, Not Just Technology

In a TEDx speech earlier this year, British computer scientist Simon Peyton Jones talked about a ‘revolution’ in the teaching of computer science in Britain—away from a technology focus towards an idea focus.

Here is some of what he said, which is about children and education but applies equally to anyone learning code, any current developer and any company out there thinking about implementing a new technology.

In what we tell our children about computing, we’ve ended up focusing too much on technology—on things, on devices, on those seductive boxes—and not enough on ideas…I want our children not only to consume technology but also be imaginative creators of technological artifacts. I want them to be creative writers as well as appreciative readers. I want them to understand what they’re doing as well as how the stuff that they’re using works as well as using it.

Thought Before Action

In other words, we should be looking at the why and not just the what. Before implementing any new technology, companies should think about why they’re doing it and what benefit it should bring.

To quote Larson again: “Please stop using frugal policies. Spend some money to improve customer service, and keep your customers happy and willing to return for more business.”

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