Best practice in customer experience demands right mix of technologies

Johannesburg, 15 Sep 2021
Read time 4min 40sec
Sebastian Reeve, Director of International Go-To-Market, Intelligent Engagement, Nuance Communications.
Sebastian Reeve, Director of International Go-To-Market, Intelligent Engagement, Nuance Communications.

The enormous strides made in customer experience (CX) related technology in recent years has made it essential that companies continually upgrade their CX strategies to ensure they remain abreast of best practice in the field.

That’s the view of Sebastian Reeve, Director of International Go-To-Market, Intelligent Engagement at Nuance Communications, who points out that many CX strategies today are characterised by a marked shift to automated digital channels, not only in an effort to meet heightened service expectations from customers, but also to boost call centre productivity.

However, Reeve maintains that best practice in today’s call centre environments demands a judicious and appropriate mix of technological and human interventions in order to meet customer demand for faster, simpler and ways to engage with companies and resolve issues quickly and effectively.

While virtual assistants (VA) and live assist platforms working in tandem undoubtedly enhance customer experience, there are other technologies that can be utilised to make all aspects of call centre-based CX so much better.

According to Reeve, latest best practice indicates that effective, always available customer service messaging and interactions that deliver the highest levels of CX while reducing call centre costs combine real-time and asynchronous interactions, automated and human assisted engagements, voice biometrics authentication and more.

“However, although utilising digital technologies to shift callers to asynchronous messaging channels in an effort to eliminate hold time and provide faster service – and increase agent productivity – it’s always important to enable customers to engage with you on their own terms,” he says.

For many customers, having to interact with a “machine”, no matter how human-like it is, is a negative experience. These customers want to talk to a real person. It's also usually human agents who are best suited to addressing complex queries and issues.

“A combination of CX technologies can contribute to making human agents more effective by enabling them to handle several customer conversations at once instead of being focused on a single conversation on the phone channel. Agents can therefore handle more cases faster, while offering customers a superior experience,” Reeve says.

The challenge though is to enable customers to speak to the right person – one who can deal most effectively with their query – as quickly as possible.

There is little that frustrates customers more than conventional touch tone-based IVR (interactive voice response) systems that require the caller to listen to a long menu of options – press one for this, press two for that – particularly when they don’t recognise the right option for their query. They then have to either listen to the whole menu again, or press another number for an operator, who will hopefully direct their call to an agent who is able to assist.

Equally annoying is being transferred from one agent to another before being able to speak to someone who can deal with the issue – and to continually have to provide the same information each time a new agent picks up the call.

“IVR is extremely useful – but it can be made a whole lot better when it is enhanced with natural language call steering,” Reeve says. This allows customers to explain their need in their own words, and then route their call accordingly. It also enables the agent to whom the call is directed to see why the customer is calling in the first place.

“This type of targeted and accurate call direction allows for agents to be trained in specific service areas, to become specialists rather than having to deal with all incoming queries. This type of specialisation significantly speeds up customer resolution,” he adds.

Technology can also be used to identify – and verify – customers to the agent taking the call, so that the agent can get straight into the conversation rather than having to ask repetitive security questions.

In addition, because natural language call steering recognises the customer’s intent, it provides data that is invaluable in improving self-service strategies.

“Data gathered from natural language IVR interactions can show an organisation where and how to expand its self-service options. For example, if the organisation suddenly starts receiving a lot of queries relating to a specific theme – for example, questions around business operating times during lockdowns – the VA could be rapidly updated with new content to address the most common customer requests. In this way, routine queries could be deflected away from agents, preventing them from being overwhelmed by simple queries and leaving them free to deal with more complex questions,” Reeve explains.

He points out that there is a growing body of CX research that clearly indicates consumers expect fast responses to their queries – and that poorly performing call centres can drive customers into the arms of competitors.

“Effective use of call centre CX technologies, including intelligent queuing to reduce wait times, judicious use of virtual agents, natural language IVR and skill-based routing to provide customers with the best agent to solve their issue, as well as contextual transfer of all important information to the live chat agent, will boost the overall customer experience,” he concludes.