Technology’s Back-end Effect
The rapid development of sophisticated technologies has been tantalizing. So much so that it’s been suggested companies can improve efficiency by replacing expensive, variable-cost human labor with incredibly efficient hardware and software, both fixed costs. Such promise has led to change in the call-center business, beginning with call-routing menus and leading to sophisticated, interactive voice recognition systems.
Despite countless horror stories of customers lost in “promptland,” most of this technology has been developed with the best intentions. Yet numerous studies have shown this promise often has remained out of reach.
A recent Aspect Contact Center Satisfaction Index survey found that 55 percent of customers indicated they’re dissatisfied with automated self-service phone systems. The research also showed that based on their most recent call-center experience, almost three out of four retail customers would do less business with the company they called.
For direct marketers, call centers are an important link to customers and bear heavily on the viability of long-term relationships. At the same time, the Web is rapidly becoming the order channel of choice for many consumers, and the role of the call center is changing over to one that primarily fields technical support, product support and other customer-service functions.
This places much higher demands on call centers than simple order processing. Like your catalogs, Web site and other advertising, your brand also encompasses call centers; they’re a strategic part of the relationship you have with your customers. The quality of a telephone interaction can make or break the relationship. And as the Aspect survey suggests, if you blow it, you may not get a second chance.
How can you ensure this all-important channel helps you retain customers and build lifetime value? You can learn from others who’ve adopted call-center technologies before becoming another disappointing statistic in a survey. Consider these steps: