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The Phone Refuses to Die
G-Force '08: Despite the increasing popularity of Web interactions, customers keep calling.
Posted Apr 30, 2008
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SAN ANTONIO -- More and more customers are interacting with companies via the Web, but surprisingly those interactions have not completely supplanted phone contacts, according to presentations by Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories officials at the company's G-Force customer conference here yesterday.

"Customer contact with companies is going up," said Brian Bischoff, global vice president of voice platform sales and solutions at Genesys. "They added a Web element, and customers are using that, but the number of calls coming in has not necessarily gone down. Customers are using the Web to search and become educated consumers, but then calling into the company to do their transactions."

"Is Web traffic up? Yes, definitely. Is phone traffic down? No, not really," said Brian Bischoff, global vice president of voice platform sales and solutions. "Everyone thought an increase in Web traffic would lead to a decrease in phone traffic, and that hasn't happened. People are doing more with their mobiles, using the [Web browsers] on their phones to look things up, and then making a call."

In addition, many customers are using their phones to do things that are still not available on the Web, he explained further. But despite the changing styles of customer interaction, many companies are still providing customer service through siloed applications, according to Genesys president and CEO Paul Segre. "The biggest problem is that responsibility for customer service is siloed across different channels. They're rarely unified, and almost never harmonized," he said.

The biggest challenge businesses face will be "unifying the silos of the Web, phone, back office, stores, etc., and unifying the contact center with the Web, back office, and store," Segre said. Adding to the challenges are the large volumes of legacy applications, equipment, business processes, and infrastructures, Segre added.

Companies need to create "an extension of the contact center and unify and expand the experiences of customers," he said. "If I send [a company] a letter, email, or fax, where does it go? It can be lost. So, step one is bringing all these other pieces of information into the contact center and extending it to other things."

Segre cited one company that recently reported receiving 600,000 calls a year from customers checking on a fax they sent to the company. A lot of those calls could have been removed if the company did a better job of following up with those faxes, he said.

Critical technologies in this environment will be things like reporting, analytics, tracking, Internet, and Voice over IP technologies. Using these technologies, companies can "integrate and coordinate all the different information sources and provide a holistic approach to all the ways that things come into the contact center," Segre explained. "It includes extensions to the Web, the back office, and the front office.

"The vision of IP is great. It allows you to get to people anywhere in the world at virtually no cost," he continued. "It dramatically lowers the cost of providing service and delivering it." Beyond that, companies will have to expand their use of speech in more than the contact center, Bischoff suggested. "Our vision of speech is helping the customer complete his transactions, bringing speech beyond self-service to the rest of the enterprise and using it to build better interactions with the customer.

"Depending on the business, it could be a three-year journey bringing applications together," he continued, "so do it incrementally. Phase One should be about building the customer interface and branding it with speech, and Phase Two, about moving applications to that. It's a pragmatic way to get companies where they want to be three years from now, with speech on the front end of it all."

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