Saturday, June 30, 2007

We’re No Worse Than Anyone Else

The title is a phrase you probably recognize instantly. Tom Peters who wrote In Search of Excellence in 1982 often told the story about the company where he heard this. Everyone related to it. For example Bob Stone working in the US federal government quoted it in an excellent article on Culture Change in February 1999.

As he said:

Six years ago Vice President Gore gave me and 200 other career federal employees the chance to figure out what was wrong with the federal government and what to do about it. For us it was the chance of a lifetime, a chance to use our talents to the fullest, to let us take charge of our part of the world, to change the very culture of government, to change our work so that it would be admired and appreciated by the American people.

He went on to say:

So, based on my own credentials as a culture changer, and on the infallible authority of “Yes, Minister” and Dilbert, I can confidently contradict the other experts and say this about government: we may be risk adverse, but we’re no worse than anybody else.

Unfortunately the phrase is just as applicable now. It came to mind in reading an article on “Why Loyal Customers Are Harder to Find Today” The answer to that question seemed to be that since customers now have more choices they are more demanding. It was almost as if the problem was the customers.

You can regard this as bad news or good news. If your competitors are applying the standard of We’re no worse than anyone else, then you have a real opportunity to steal their customers. Unfortunately few companies seem to be taking this opportunity when it comes to customer service.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Poor IVR and Untrained Human Operators Both Frustrate Customers

Tim Searcy of the American Teleservices Association comments that Call center problems go global. Around the world, similar problems are very evident.

First, offshoring is a concern in each local market. Representatives from Australia, Europe, Asia and the Middle East voiced the same complaints about “foreigners” answering toll-free phone calls on behalf of products and services companies. Universally, there appears to be a distrust of someone outside of a person’s own country handling a service or sales issue.

Second, technology without training has decreased customer satisfaction. Call center software Aspect has expanded its customer satisfaction index to include Europe but the results are similar to the United States. Consumers desperately want to experience first call resolution from trained individuals that are pleasant. The interactive voice response has replaced good satisfaction design in many cases and worldwide there is an epidemic of frustration about IVR jungles and lengthy queues.

Interactive Voice Response systems, as supplied by Crimsonet, can avoid these types of problems.

Voice 2.0 and IVR

Voice 2.0 is the title of a conference that will take place in Ottawa on November 5 - 6, 2007. The term, Voice 2.0, was first coined late in 2005. To an extent it builds on the notion of Web 2.0, which was coined by Tim O’Reilly.The conference description points to some exciting developments:

Voice 2.0, or New Telephony, has arisen as a result of the convergence of Telecom and the Web. In the process, heavily communications oriented Web 2.0 applications are placing new demands on network infrastructure, and developers of traditionally computing centric products such as video games and business process applications, are discovering whole new opportunities when their products are augmented with human oriented communications ( i.e. voice).

Paul Graham has pointed out that Web 2.0 acknowledges some of the basic principles of the Internet. Democracy is much more powerful and users will not accept being maltreated.

Equally the Voice 2.0 principles should have the same impact on simpler applications such as IVR. The older style IVR systems controlled the user. Now users will insist on retaining control of the conversation, as is possible with modern IVR systems. This will put strong pressures on companies to upgrade to match their competitors.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Your Call is Important to Us

Your call is important to us. Surprisingly it is not one of the biggest lies. However many would say that it should be. It seems very likely that Montreal Gazette tech reporter Roberto Rocha is on a winner in featuring this topic on his blog. He is looking for inputs from Gazette readers and he may well be overwhelmed by the response.

Some, like Hans Sander, have suggested that the solution is to add more call agents. However Ken Belson in the New York Times questioned that solution since some jobs are so boring that workers fall asleep.

The best solution is to use one of the modern IVR technologies as described on this website. In that way callers receive the very best service with an immediate response from the IVR system and a rapid transfer to a human call agent if the call is complex. It will be interesting to see whether such solutions are discussed in Roberto Rocha’s new blog.