Giving people that kind of power to continue to think about their problems in their own terms and express it in their own terms is really critical.
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Automated contact center technologies and Web self-service initiatives can be valuable, cost-effective solutions for handling rudimentary customer inquiries. But companies must also consider how these automated systems integrate with reaching a live agent. To bring the human element into an automated system consider these four steps.
1. Provide options
One of the top entries on most customers' wish lists is consistent accessibility. Rosanne D'Ausilio, Ph.D., president of Human Technologies Global and author of Humanizing Your Interaction Hub, recommends that companies supply a zero-out option to allow customers to reach a live agent if necessary. "That zero-out option on the phone, or the availability to speak or pass through to a human on the Internet, gives customers a choice," she says. "If I don't have a choice I'm going to your competition."
2. Become your customer
Companies implementing speech technology must understand and consider the dynamics of their customers. "A lot of [these organizations] use language that is the company's language rather than the way a customer would think, so what they need to do is think from the customer's point of view," D'Ausilio says. She cites as an example her call to a company asking for its marketing department, but being connected with an employee, "Mark," because that was the sound recognized by the speech technology application. "The company has structured it rather than seeing it from a different perspective," she says. Adopting the customers' mind-set will provide organizations with stronger insight into how their customers think and what they want. Conduct a detailed analysis of the chain of events that follows when callers come in contact with your system, and then construct approaches to make the system more customer-friendly.
3. Lend them your ears
Few things can aggravate a customer more than not providing them with an outlet to properly voice their issues or a Web self-service channel that doesn't allow them to input their concerns. Marie Meteer, Ph.D., vice president of commercial speech solutions at BBN Technologies, suggests using open-ended prompts that let the user express in his own words what his issues are. "Giving people that kind of power to continue to think about their problems in their own terms and express it in their own terms is really critical," she says. "Learning more places that we can use that open prompt and the technology behind it as, opposed to the direct dialogue, will make this much more human-friendly."
4. Keep the flow going
Design the dialogue so that it moves the caller along while giving the necessary information. Of course, contact center agents need to have accurate information, but try to eliminate asking customers to repeat themselves. "Because companies want to keep people in the IVR they have a tendency to have a lot of questions that are about confirming that they got the information right," Meteer says. "These are all things that don't actually move the task forward." And if the system can't comprehend what the caller is saying, opt for the more pricey, yet sometimes preferred customer approach, and send that caller to a live agent.
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