A recent Tweet connected me to Ashley Verrill. Ashley is a market analyst at Software Advice and has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. This was a fantastic opportunity to pick her brain on contact center technology and trends. With her unique perspective on the operation of contact centers and software, Ashley agreed to an e-mail interview and shed some great insight for businesses to learn from.
Q: In your review of contact center technology, what do you think are a few innovations that have helped improve customer satisfaction?
A: There have been a lot of really interesting developments in speech recognition technology and predictive analytics. I know a lot of customers scream and run the opposite direction when they call a company and encounter an automated phone system, but these technologies continue to develop in a way that customers will actually get their answer faster using an automated system. This is ultimately what customers wantâ€”to be able to find their answer through the fastest, most low-effort way possible. These IVR systems are becoming really intelligent. They can understand a broader range of words and sentences, so no matter how the customer asks the question, they understand. Also, many systems now recognize the customer by phone number and suggest a solution based on where they are in the customer lifecycle. This prevents the customer from having to type in account information, or key through several prompts before finding the right answer.
Q: What are some of the gaps that still need to be covered?
A: I still think there is a lot left to be desired in the world of social customer service response. This isn’t call center in the traditional sense, but it can fall under the realm of “contact center,” responsibilities. Customersâ€™ expectations as far as getting a response on social media are changing. They expect to be able to tweet their issue to a company and get a response within two or three hours. There are some really brilliant customer service tools out there that effectively listen to social media for these types of interactions, then route them to a customer service rep to respond. They use really intelligent algorithms to identify these messages and prioritization rules to send these to someone to respond. Despite this technology being available, I don’t see a lot of companies taking advantage of them specifically for customer service. I think most companies still just view social media in terms of marketing. It has to start with a change in mindsetâ€”the technology follows.
Q: How can small contact centers compete effectively with large contact centers that have better resources and funds?
A: Really fantastic customer satisfaction. I think all call centers could take a lesson from Zappos in this regard. They use a really different set of metrics to ensure customer satisfaction, including what they call the “customer experience form.” Rather than measuring call times, or time to resolution, Zappos incentivizes agents to really create wow experiences through fostering personal, emotional connections with customers. To do this, agents must demonstrate that they’ve attempted to build rapport with the customer at least twice.
Q: How effective is agent training and engagement in the larger scheme of business enhancement?
A: Good training is so crucial. I’ve learned that most people only do as much as you tell them to. Certainly, there are many really proactive achievers out there, but for the rest of the populace, you have set really specific guidelines and expectations. Otherwise, you will find yourself disappointed often when things don’t get done in the way you want them too.
Q: In your review of contact centers, what do you think are some innovations or methods contact centers should adopt to improve processes and increase customer satisfaction?
A: Being proactive is really the customer service wave of the future. Instead of waiting for customers to contact you with a problem, proactive companies will solve the issue before the customer reaches out, or even before the customer knows they have a problem. Some of this is achieved through technology. Others require developing a specific strategy. Asking for regular feedback from companies, for example, often exposes issues that might be affecting many of your customers. When you do find such a situation, you can then go in and proactively solve them for every customer.
About Ashley Verrill: Ashleyâ€™s work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising. She is a University of Texas graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism.