Customer service organizations have traditionally been steered by two main business drivers: keeping costs under control (with labor being the lion share of the spendings), and creating a good customer experience. IVR, or Interactive Voice Response, has been an effective way to save cost, but too often to the detriment of the customer experience. Customers calling into businesses these days likely have exhausted other self-service options such as your website, so the last thing they’d want is more of it.
From my 15 years in the industry, I know that still to date, many businesses out there have very basic IVR that doesn’t do more than basic call routing (“for sales press 1, for service press 2…”). If you haven’t had a speech recognition system and robust self-service in place for a while, you’re at the beginning of what will be a learning curve — no such system works perfectly right off the bat. The question you need to ask yourself is: are you investing in the right technology, given that few people these days still use their phone for calling, and people all around us tell us they hate the act of calling a business?
Messaging can provide cost savings while improving the customer experience
Cost savings can be accomplished through another means, that actually provides an even better CX than the voice channel: Messaging. Letting your customers send messages through channels like WhatsApp, Messenger, or SMS means leveraging a communication method they’re deeply familiar with, while modern agent desktops and routing solutions that are optimized for asynchronous messaging — such as Sparkcentral — ensure you’re answering more questions, resolving more issues, making your customers repeat never themselves again. (“Asynchronous” essentially means that a persistent thread between you and your customer is being established that allows your customer to message with your at their own time and pace, without ever being forced to restart a conversation.)
“But our customers are still calling us, shouldn’t we improve our voice channel?” – I hear you ask… yes, you should, but only in one critical way: after greeting the caller, make your (here: touch-tone based) IVR system prompt the following:
“Rather than calling us and waiting to talk to an agent, you may now also text us your question. If you’re interested, please press 1 now”.
After the caller presses 1, send them a WhatsApp or SMS text message and invite them to text with your agents. You can announce the wait time, and your customers will likely never call you again. After all, when’s the last time YOU called someone, say a friend or colleague, versus just messaging with them? Pivoting the conversation to a channel your customers love will mean the cost savings you’re after (as our VP Product Abhay Prasad shows in his article Messaging Customer Care – The Business Case), while doing much more for your Customer Experience.
Note that I’m not saying that “voice is dead” or people don’t want to talk to people anymore. They do, but it is the *act* of getting hold of someone in the contact center that is so frustrating to all of us. Applying a messaging-first strategy allows you to let customers send “call me” as a text message, which could then trigger a dialog to negotiate the best time to receive a call-back, which can take agent utilization into account.
Another one of the benefits of using messaging channels for customer service is the ability to offer self-service content as a leave-behind for your customer after a conversation with a live agent. Channels such as WhatsApp, SMS, or Messenger allow the sending of URLs that point customers to your existing self-service content on the Web. Whether that’s a How-to video on YouTube or an article from your existing FAQ content; your customer now has a place to go back to, whenever they need a reminder of where to find the content that empowers them to take things into their hand. Or, as our CEO Joe Gagnon said in his recent article “Is Great Customer Service an Unattainable Dream?“:
“Might we give a try to think that service is not only what you do for the customer but rather what you enable the customer to do.”
Bringing this idea to life
If you find this idea intriguing, please know that Sparkcentral provides an Automated Message Distribution platform with a messaging-optimized agent desktop for Messenger, WhatsApp, SMS, Twitter, but also in-app and in-web messaging. We can help you bring this idea to life. If you are running a contact center today, please note that we recommend you don’t blend your messaging agents with the voice channel, but keep your “digital dialogs” separate. They require a different agent skillset and will also be measured differently, as our customer Dropbox shared with us earlier this year. If you’d like to hear more, please reach out to us now! We’re only a message away…