July 18, 2017

Written by Karan Tupe

“89% of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, versus 36% four years ago” – Gartner survey 

Indeed, customer experience has become the new battlefield. Google, Facebook and Amazon have been faring exceptionally well in the customer service arena. What makes them so good at what they do? The common thread that weaves through these success stories is the use of customer data. Google leverages email content and user search entries to feed their data lake and send targeted offers to their users.

Amazon’s recommendation engine, which allows users to get relevant offers, has proven to be a great success. The recommendation engine is an offshoot of their data-driven marketing efforts and generates as much as 35% of their total revenue- Martech. Netflix has grown exponentially in the last few years thanks to its outstanding recommendation system.By developing algorithms that understand our habits, tastes and lifestyles tech companies have created online experiences that are tailored to each user and at a massive scale.

Rising customer expectations

The Harris Interactive, Customer Experience Report indicated that 86% of customers surveyed have quit doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience. That’s up from 59% four years ago. The outstanding customer service provided by these tech-giants have led to a rise in customer expectations.

Technology by itself isn’t the real disruptor. Being non-customer-centric is the biggest threat to any business.  – Alberto Brea .

  • Netflix did not kill blockbusters. Ridiculous late fees did.
  • Uber did not kill the taxi business. Limited taxi access and lack of fare control did.
  • Apple did not kill the music Industry. Being forced to buy full-length albums did.
  • Amazon did not kill retail stores. Bad customer service and experience did.
  • Airbnb isn’t killing the hotel industry. Limited availability and pricing options is.
Uneven distribution of technology

As science fiction author William Gibson said “the future is already here but it is unevenly distributed”. – Author of Neuromancer.

This is especially true for customer relations. We have witnessed an exponential rise in the use of digital channels. Email has become a significant part of the customer communication cycle. 74% of consumers prefer to receive commercial communications via email – Merkle. The much-talked-about chat-bots are slowly but steadily acquiring their place in the industry too. One area of customer relations, however, is lagging behind. While the data from digital communication channels is heavily exploited by most companies, phone conversations are a black hole in the customer journey. As a result, call centers are still seen as cost centers rather than the treasure-troves of customer data.

Rise and fall of call-centers

Call centers hark back to the 1960’s with the UK-based Birmingham Press and Mail. While technology and customer relation practices have evolved at an astounding pace since 1960, call centers still work in basically the same way as they did at the time of their inception. Contact centers still use conventional practices such as scripts to respond to queries, giving the customer the impression of being just another caller.

Customers are often asked to explain their situation with every call as their information is not passed down from agent to agent, which makes for a clunky and frustrating customer experience. Productivity is still often measured in purely quantitative terms using the AHT (Average handling time: the time spent on handling calls). (Source: Polls : CallCenterHelper, see graph below). Clearly, measuring calls quantitatively does not give you any insight on what actually goes on during the calls. To gather customer feedback, contact centers usually call up customers after their interaction, a time-consuming and expensive process. The results of such surveys are unfortunately unreliable because only a fraction of customers answer them, and those who do may not be representative of the whole population.

Average handling time in call centers

Customer Experience Call Center productivity

Source: Polls : CallCenterHelper

When asked “would you rather clean a toilet or contact customer service?” 42% chose “clean the toilet” in 2015 and 38% in 2016- Aspect SurveyCustomers are becoming increasingly frustrated with contact centers.

Recent technological innovations in speech-to-text, signal processing and natural language understanding (NLU) make it possible for contact centers to overhaul their service strategy and dramatically improve customer service.

Source: Aspect Survey

Taking a data dive

There is more data available to businesses than ever before. Customers engage with businesses through various touch points: email, mobile and live chat. Gathering data from these touch points has become essential for businesses to drive growth.

Data acquired from the voice can be used to draw a detailed and robust picture of user behavior. Thus, contact centers can help businesses in feeding their data lake: a single location where all customer information is stored and where you can uncover insights on consumer behavior.

Speech analytics: A promising solution

Speech analytics are a set of techniques for turning raw sound into actionable data.

“2016 was the year of speech analytics. Companies that valued their customers’ opinions began adopting this “must-have” strategic solution. The market grew by 30.1% as enterprises large and small, in all verticals and in many countries, decided to invest in this application – dmgconsult. 

The best way for companies to better understand their customers is to lend an attentive ear to what they are saying. Mining information during calls to structure it into insightful data is just one of the many advantages of using speech analytics. Speech analytics empowers you to :

  • Pinpoint highlights and pain points in the customer journey.
  • Identify business trends through voice data
  • Leverage predictive analytics to refine the sales process and propose the right offers to the right customers at the right time.
  • Gain business intelligence : buyer demographics such as gender and age.

Is voice a part of your digital strategy to improve customer experience. Does your contact center use any of these technologies?