• January 1, 2015
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

In Customer Service, It's More Efficient to Be Effective

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you can guess the reason for the call ahead of time," he says.

If, for example, a company sent an overdue bill notice to a customer and he calls four days later, it's a safe bet that he's calling to settle his account, Pollock says. The same can apply after a company has initially reached out to a customer with some marketing materials.

Along with that, Kate Leggett, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, suggests that companies employ predictive analytics together with caller analytics to help match the agent to the customer and his particular concern before routing the call. For a 25-year-old hipster living in San Francisco with a highly technical problem, a 60-year-old woman in the Midwest might not be the best agent, she says.

"You can definitely match the customer's personality to that of the agent," Leggett says. "A similar agent has a much easier time understanding the customer and relating quickly to his particular situation."

Faster with Voice Security

The lengths to which customers have to go to prove their identity before gaining access to their accounts is another source of frustration. Typical interactions start with passwords and PINs and follow through a series of intrusive and time-consuming security questions, then lead to even more frustration when customers can't remember the names of their favorite childhood pets or their first-grade teachers.

Voice biometrics can speed interactions along, eliminating the need for customers to go through a lengthy authentication process with the agent at the start of an interaction, according to Pollock.

With the new generation of voice biometrics, calls are silently screened in real time, and no additional questions are required to match voiceprints. Agents and callers proceed normally through the interaction until the system completes the verification and then quietly sends the agent a cue that it is OK to proceed.

According to analyst firm Contact Babel, most call centers currently take up to 60 seconds to verify the identity of each customer. Many of the voice authentication solutions on the market today can do it in about 15 or 20 seconds, shaving as much as 45 seconds off the average call handling time.

"Voice biometrics is a great way to speed up the interaction, getting the customer to the dialogue faster," Leggett says.

Still, while getting customers through a phone call quickly is a desirable goal, analysts caution against relying too heavily on it alone. "The industry is taking a huge step backward in just trying to get people on and off the phone quicker," Stockford states. "The whole industry is moving toward the customer experience. Metrics like first contact resolution are replacing average handling time."

Companies such as EE, he adds, "are taking a reverse view of where the market is going. Everyone else is talking about improving the overall customer experience and the customer journey."

Jamison says it all comes back to the basics. "We know that consumers prefer self-service, but they will still call, and when they do, they have more sophisticated problems or questions," she states. "Giving them a faster call queue misses the point. Give the agents the right tools to help them and get them the right answers."

"Proactively push out the right data to the agent at the right time in the interaction so she can get it to the customer faster," Leggett says. "That's what really makes the biggest difference."

News Editor Leonard Klie can be reached at lklie@infotoday.com.

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