I always enjoy getting letters to the editor, even when I don't agree with them. Maybe especially when I don't agree with them. Here's part of one I received recently:
"I am writing in response to the 'Turning Call Centers into Interaction Centers' article. While I agree that adding interactive technologies to the call center will improve customer service, I believe adding better interactive technologies to a company's Web site can have a greater impact on the bottom line.
"Given the comparative cost structures of a Web site versus a call center, it is clear that answering a user's query before it results in being forwarded to the call center is a less expensive alternative. Improving customer self-help lowers the overall cost of support as well as raising overall customer satisfaction.
"By increasing the opportunities for users to solve their own problems, companies can lower their cost to provide support and optimize the use of live personnel. I believe the issue is not adding interactive functionality to the call center, but ensuring that clients have an opportunity to find answers to their questions online before the need to contact the call center arises."
The writer makes some good points, but I disagree with his conclusion.
Web-based customer service is good in theory and in fact is a very viable and cost-effective option for some businesses and some customers. But the fact is that Web sites don't address all users. Being up to our eyebrows in the high-tech industry sometimes makes it hard for some of us to see what's going on outside our little pond, but not everyone spends eight hours a day connected to the Web. Many either can't or prefer not to use the Web for self-help and that will continue to be the case for a long time to come.
Imagine a user on a business trip not carrying his laptop, or not in a position to make an Internet connection--in an airport, for instance. Imagine my mother. These people are not served by a better Web site. They're not served by any Web site.
Or consider the customer who has tried the Web site and found it didn't meet his needs. He's going to want a higher level of service from the call center, not less.
The point of using technology should not just be to do it cheaper but to do it better. Any time anyone claims they're going to save you money by selling you technology, walk away. If they follow, scream loudly. The promised cost savings hardly ever materialize.
Larry Tuck, Editor