Technology’s Back-end Effect
With phone systems, use automation where it’s truly a better solution than speaking to an individual (e.g., order status) and not as a replacement for an opportunity to cement a relationship.
Another personal example: When I call my mutual fund company, I have simple choices between checking fund balances or performance using the automated, interactive system. Or I can speak with a representative. Most of the time, I can resolve my need using the automated solution quickly, securely and efficiently (the menu is only two layers deep). When I need to speak to an individual, wait times are given to me and usually I can get through quickly.
5. Don’t ask for the same information several times. If you adopt a system that collects such customer information as account numbers, and the call is passed to another system or to a representative, pass the information along.
I recently called my cable company to add digital phone service to my account. The system requested that I say or key in my account number. After being passed over to an agent, I needed to give my account number again; the agent had to look up my information, taking more time. Why?
Consider the technology in the context of how your customer will use it. Interactive voice-response technology (IVR) has been all the rage of late. While early systems really struggled to interpret speech, new systems can be quite good at it. But when used in the context of some customer situations, the technology doesn’t work well at all. Consider the context and provide alternatives for when customers can’t use them.
Don’t Let This Happen
As a consultant, I have to fly a lot. This year has been particularly taxing, with delayed flights and missed connections. Lines at customer service desks often have been so long that I could miss the next flight out. So, I’ve often called the airlines’ customer service operations on my cell phone from the airport. Ever tried to work through an IVR system on a cell phone in a noisy airport? My backup attempt to use my handheld personal digital assistant to make changes through the Web site also proved fruitless — airline sites aren’t optimized for handhelds, even though most business travelers use them. Enough said.