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Thursday, June 07, 2012

UC-enabled "Multimodal Customer Experiences"

Copyright (C) Unified-View, All Rights Reserved.
June 7, 2012

A recent analysis of contact center applications moving into the "cloud" showed that IVR (self-service) applications was the application that was most frequently shifted off premise to a "cloud" based service. This highlights how customers will be accommodated with more flexible self-service options as they start using multimodal smart phones and tablets, rather than traditional voice-only telephones. 

As I suggested in a previous post, mobile customers will now require an integration of various customer service experiences. It will be a combination of how self-service interfaces are designed for smartphones and tablets, as well as how live assistance is accessed and supported when needed. It also includes proactive, outbound “notifications” and alerts to mobile customers from automated business process applications, and what response options can be given to the mobile recipient.
Old call center options for live assistance will remain for customers who continue to call from voice only telephones. However, even, there, if the customers has ever interacted online, there will be more contextual “intelligence” for efficient call handling. However, as more and more consumers adopt multimodal smartphones and tablets for personalized mobile contacts, “cloud”-based, UC-enabled contact centers will play an increasing role in seamlessly integrating all customer interactions. This trend will impact how organizations must support new “customer experience” needs as discussed in this video interview.

“Multimodal” customer experiences will include the following:

1.      Getting access to information and transactions online
2.      Getting access to live assistance in the customer’s choice of communication (messaging, voice, video, hybrids)
3.      Being proactively notified of important, personalized time–sensitive situations
4.      Getting suggestions and comments from user communities
5.      Timely responsiveness to the mode of interaction

So, when you talk about insuring customer satisfaction and loyalty, it will be a combination of their experience with any or all of the above. The challenge for business organizations of any size, will be to optimize those different customer experiences, so that all of them will be positive for the customer.

What Customers Really Need

Live customer assistance is needed when customers can’t get what they want on their own, whether it is information, authorization, help with a problem, or to perform some kind of transaction. The main point is that if they can do it easily themselves, they won’t need live assistance. On the other hand, if a self-service application is not user friendly or too time consuming, the customer will jump to live customer assistance.

If, for whatever reason, the customer does need such live assistance, they will typically want such access immediately. That is not to say such access is necessarily a real time connection (chat, voice, video), because often there is no need to have the answer immediately. This will be particularly true when there is a known need for research into the problem or authorizations must be done before the results can be given. In such situations, the customer, as the contact initiator, may well choose to send a message, voice or text, and get confirmation that the message has been received. It might also be useful to let the customer know when a response may be forthcoming.

When it comes to real-time live assistance, customers won’t appreciate any of the following:
  • Being put into a waiting queue with no indication of how long that might take
  • Being connected to someone who doesn’t who you are and what you have already done online and requires a repeat identification procedures
  • Being connected to someone who can’t answer their needs
  • Being transferred from one person to another; conferencing is a more “seamless” mode of involving other expertise
  •  Speaking with an agent that doesn’t speak their language very well
So, to avoid any of the above problems that can arise because of staffing issues, it will make sense to allow customers to exploit well-designed self-service applications that can now be offered to mobile devices. Fortunately, multimodal mobile devices will facilitate this approach to customer services by starting with customer access to information and notifications and then allowing “contextual” contacts with live assistance.

Customer Assistance Is A Two-way Street

Live assistance can also exploit access to self-services. That is, even though the mobile or online customer may be talking to a live customer service person, it will be simple for the agent to transfer the customer to an appropriate self-service application, along with any contextual data needed by the application. This can include access to “mobile apps” that will be highly focused on specific customer-related applications.

Many years ago when I spoke at a conference about IVR self-services, I suggested that when a customer transfers to live assistance, the agent should similarly transfer the customer to an appropriate IVR application when the rest of the customer’s needs can be done by themselves. Someone in the audience asked me who provides that capability, and I had to say “No one yet!”

Today, with multimodal smartphones and cloud-based applications, there is no limit to how self-services integrated with live assistance can optimize customer support needs. The trick to cost efficient customer service will be to maximize all forms of self-services, but retain customer options for live assistance.

 This post sponsored by the CIO Collaboration Network