Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Future customer service

It is more than likely that when you last called an organisation for customer service, you were disappointed by the experience. In the UK, this is more than often the case. There are good examples of customer service, but in far too many cases, the emphasis on cost-reduction, centralised command and control structures, inappropriate implementations of technology such as Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and low skilled workers in call centres, means that the customer is left with a bad experience.

New technology can be employed in many ways to provide excellent customer service. Automation and self-service is appropriate for some quick and simple enquiries. However when someone calls with more complex enquiries, technology should ideally get them connected to the most appropriate person who can help within the organisation. It should not be assumed that the most appropriate person will be part of a call centre resource either. Intelligent routing of calls can enable direct connection to any part of the organisation.

Since automation and self-service will deal with routine and simple transactions, the people recruited to provide service in future need to be better educated, and higher skilled than is typical at present. This adds to cost in one way; however this is offset by savings in fewer repeat calls, fewer dropped and abandoned calls, and higher customer satisfaction.

Other technologies such as speech recognition and synthesis can offer some more natural bit automated service. Online communities and forums can also provide alternatives to some traditional call centre operations. Indeed the newer generations will require that organisations utilise many new channels to provide them with service.

The ultimate vision ought to be that organisations provide simple products and services that just work and hence the call centre is less used in the first place. However it is important that where they are required in future, technology is used to improve the experience rather than detract from it.

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