We voiced an opinion in the published agenda for this session in the form of the following leading questionIs Contact Centre plus Unified Communications anything more than a forced marriage?By which we mean is this just a game of semantics and a land grab by a new industry looking for a killer application and is therefore an attempt to requisition the call centre as the example of where UC has been busy delivering value for all these years? A quick glance at some UC marketing literature shows that apparently CTI, IVR have always been killer UC applications had we but known it!Is it mere coincidence that the advertising for one of the key debates at UCExpo acknowledged that research reveals many decision makers are yet to be convinced of the value of UC beyond IPT in spite of all the case history, ROI, whitepapers and the like?Maybe this is because there is a suspicion that we are being told what to think rather than consulted over our needs Bullied into upgrading through end of life tactics rather than helped to make our existing investments more valuable to us. And that the retagging of call centre language into UC speak is just more of the same and a good 1st example of the overall point we are making that customer needs are more important than technology roadmaps.Here’s the detail for you to consider
This is the commonly used example that shows the convergence of UC and call centres – the supposed opportunity to make real time connection with an non resident expert using presence and IM. The research to make the case argued that 12% of inbound calls required knowhow outside the domain of expertise within the call centre, so in the spirit of increasing 1st time resolution beyond its typical UK benchmark of 70%, this capability is presented an early win in a strategic transformation in which the call centre and the enterprise become one in real time service of the customer.In the light of the findings from the survey we undertook in preparation for this session, such an ambition would be scoffed at by the majority of customers, Not for its ultimate value but for its lack of priority in relation to the ongoing systemic issues that still plague communication services. We shall hear some of those stories during the course of this session. But lets return to this example and re-examine it from the perspective of how technology innovation is normally developed and why the usual approach is more often than not deeply flawed because it misses the mark in terms of core customer criteria such as relevance or practicality. Consider this, you belong to a product team and are tasked with making connections between the worlds of UC and customer service as the forces of convergence break down the silos and everyone finds themselves in competition with everyone else and so the profile of your organisation needs to be urgently re-profiled so that the ‘oh so fickle’ media, who only stay interested in the latest and greatest, keep your brand in the public’s awareness. You and the team are pleased with yourselves. The hypothesis for real time expert accessibility looks feasible. In fact it looks brilliant and will sell shedloads. The ROI story sounds plausible, the sale team will be delighted to be given a new foothold into a key segment of the market and your bosses will surely consider you for greater things as a result.The trouble is, the devil lies in the detail. Some of which you could have figured yourself as a matter of common sense. Some could be forgiven because only people that live and breathe call centres would notice and neither you nor the team know the market that well. But that does not really register because you think you know since R&D has just briefed you on the next 36 month roadmap which of course is based on emerging customer needs!Any way back to your ingenious synthesis of call centres and UC. For a start let’s imagine the operational hell of being a nominated expert within that database. You have a day job. How long will it be before you and all the other experts put their presence status as being permanently engaged. Bear in mind the customer journey at this point. They are being put on hold while this search for an available expert is conducted. How long will customer and the person serving them be willing to wait as the system tries to hunt down an expert who is actually available? It puts a new spin on the old excuse that the system is slow today. True the delay can be made minimised if the number of experts is deliberately over-resourced to make it work. But surely if it’s that important to provide the customer with expert council, then you might as well make those people full time members of customer service and route the customer directly during the initial call steering phase. So are we saying that there is no value in introducing presence technology into customer services? Not at all. We know of certain premium branded service propositions that are actively considering a presence based service between high value customers and their nominated customer managers. For a few niche brands, this might work providing the implications of introducing this service is fully considered and the customer journey is re-aligned if needed. However scaling that to mass brands does not look promising for the reasons just offered.But if the demands on real time availability are slightly lowered then those that understand some of the workflow issues in customer services might recognise an opportunity for this technology. Let’s take the classic case of claims management. This is a workflow that starts in the call centre and then typically ping pongs between there and the back office teams whose role is to try to co-ordinate what is still a complex, slow, often manual process involving third parties and circumstances that make rapid, painless claims payouts very difficult. This is a key moment of truth from a customer experience perspective and the reason why many customers defect if they ever have to endure the hassle of multiple interactions trying to sort out a claim. In other words it’s a point of service failure that is well worth sorting out if possibleIn this context a more co-ordinated and team based approach can be fostered between customer services and claims management who are inevitably remote for each other and in some cases also offshored as well. Their goals, culture and even working hours are typically at odds and not aligned for the good of the customer experience. However this gap can be greatly reduced by allowing both teams to link up using Presence and messaging rather than using telephone tag and requests that languish in email queues.One to one relationships can be quickly developed which at team level develop into collaborative working partnerships which in turn delivers faster case management to everyone’s mutual benefit.Same technology – different application – based on relevance and practicalitySo that our first example from which we derive the following observation
The example we used for today’s session was build in a day and within 10 days attracted over 100 responses. If this was being used as an ongoing feed for a Voice of the Customer programme, both the quality of questioning and the volume of insight gathered would naturally increase over time. In other words it is not difficult to do this and test the waters of customer opinion . Yet this is rare presumably based on a lack of willingness and recognition of its value. In our view the value of such exercises is to trial interesting hypotheses that could yield insights into what customers are really looking for that no-one has yet responded too. Apple’s success is leveraged on a powerful observation about customer needs. ‘Simple’ sits higher up the list than anything else for a very large segment of customers. That’s what the I series went for and won so convincingly. Others followed presumably because they lacked the imagination to look for themselves!So listening for the customer need as opposed to blindly rolling out the product roadmap is the route to demand, differentiation, and while that lasts, premium pricing! The whole of the UC market seems at times to have started from an entirely different place.The hypotheses we wanted to test for this assignment were as follows:How do people change in their communication needs according to the type of group they are involved with such as friends, co-workers or family? If that is so, should brands be more aware of our communication preferences as their customers and employees when we being offered next generation technologies to use?How aware is the average customer of all these new channels of communication when they interact with an organisation? And if aware how many have actually tried them? In other words is the brave new world everyone is now painting too far ahead of reality? Will an investment in education release the demand?Or are there issues this new era has introduced that we are concerned about and need resolving before we fully embrace new realities. It is popular for the leaders of social media companies to laugh this off and claim that personal privacy is now an outmoded concept, We need to get with the programme and rejoice in the benefits of anytime, any place communication. Do you agree or maybe feel that the younger are being suckered and will regret their permanent online footprint as adults? In other words do we believe the vision but are now troubled with its consequences as we start to feel their impact on our own lives and those close to us?But before getting too far ahead of oursleves let’s develop a better feel for what this type of insight can deliver. The first point is that even before all the responses are compiled and analysed, each individual response provides a profile and a set of needs that we can understand and learn from. Later when we look at the big picture and the key themes, it is the comments from the individuals that make it liveHere is an example to learn from
Maybe this tells something important about human needs that will endure regardless of technology advances.
Has this person just revealed a hidden need that if further researched might be the basis of a future revenue stream that others have failed to spot?
What is being expressed here is another Apple type insight. The latest thing on offer is less important to her than something that actually works. She wants a service that saves her time rather than wastes it.Whether it’s the technology itself or the inadequate way in which it is typically deployed does not matter. As far as this customer is concerned, she is observant enough to recognise this is a recurring issue in her life.Question. Is this a one off minority observation or has she articulated a common customer complaint and therefore voiced an unfulfilled need that some organisation could profit from?Answer – the analysis of male versus female responses to this question show that the issue of poor quality service is much more damaging to the customer experience for woman than it is for men. We will return to the specifics later
The other interesting insight we can learn from viewing individual profiles are our own assumptionsCan you guess the demographic of this person from their responses? What kind of a person is being revealed?
How radical are these ideas and therefore what age group would they typically belong to?
Do these concerns tell us anything about the likely gender of the person?
While we alerted you not to expect the obvious, the lesson remains valuable. Do not imagine you really know your customers until you ask them and study what they have told you
People were asked to pick out the most commonly used ways of communicating amongst the social groups they belonged to – friends, home and work. The hypothesis behind this question is that we vary how we communicate according to our needs, circumstances and common behaviours within a group. Therefore those that provide communication products and services have to understand this form of communication segmentation if customer needs are to be met.
The range of choice was extensive across the generations of communication options we have available to us. From face to face and white mail, Skype, SMS messaging through to the most recent and most discussed such as LinkedIn Facebook and Twitter. Which were the most popular? Is Facebook and Twitter really displacing everything else?
To reiterate our previous health warning – our intent today is to show an approach rather than provide a statistically valid piece of research. That said there are was a pretty much even distribution across the age ranges, so we are not looking at predominately younger or older set of responses.Looking at the overall response there were both expected and novel insights.As expected landline voice calls are now a very poor second to mobile telephony and barely registers in our overall interactions with Friends. Its remaining stronghold lies with Family and Work communication although it failed to be the most popular for either 2nd or even 3rd choice. If we write letters anymore it appears it not to any of these social groupsHowever not all the old ways have gone. The fact that face to face communication remains the 1st choice leader for all three groups reminds us that this remains the most complete and satisfying form of communication available to us. And importantly that remains true regardless of the generation we belong toThe next point to be made is that the range of communication options we call upon is different for each group. Home is the most clear cut. For 70% home is an experience of being face to face with others. Only 20% use their mobile as their 1st choice of contact. However 2nd and 3rd choice options show that texting grows in importance mainly for getting things organised between family membersWork has more variety of options competing for 1st choice. Overall nearly half find that face to face works best, while over a third rely on in house or hosted email and just 10% use mobile telephony. However the older the person, the more email increasingly takes over as the primary communication tool presumably as those more advanced in their careers have broader networks to interact with or manage and face to face is not always possible. It’s also interesting that when the responses are segmented by gender, woman are more frequent users of written communication. Viewing the comments section it is clear that although woman clearly recognise that face to face is crucial for relationship building, email is of equal importance for its ability to provide auditable and clear communication for dispersed work groups. Men however were only half as keen on written communication and preferred to talk it through instead Finally, Friends is most complex group we interact with. A third favour face to face as their 1st choice option. A third favour mobile telephony while another 15% use texting as their 1st choice and a final 10% rely on Facebook at their primary contact channel for Friends. That is then backed up with a wide variety of approaches for both 2nd and 3rd choices – face to face, mobile and land line telephony, texting, email and instant messaging and Facebook all play a role in staying up to date
A few gender specific differences are also worth highlightingAccording to our sample, women use texting more that men. Men on the other hand are more likely to simple phone and talk. Anecdotal comments reflect the value that woman find in texting as part of their networking activityYou can reach them any time, text is brief but you know you've reached them easy, 'touch base' kind of comms, lets people know you are thinking of them but without too much effort Quick way of getting in touch. Comfortable. Doesn’t involve niceties of long conversation - straight to the point when we busy
Finally Facebook, makes it into the ranking as the most popular third choice as a critical mass of usage moves people away from their original online email accounts with this time males showing the greater enthusiasm for checking in to Facebook on a daily basisInterestingly Facebook was the only social media site mentioned. LinkedIn scored a very level of usage in the Work context only
However it is important to remember that communication preferences remain a uniquely individual matter as do the reasons. it is only when you get down this granularity that you can sure of hearing what really matters to a customer or employee
One of the interesting characteristics of a social group– in this case a work group, a family, a set of housemates or an extended network of friends is that belonging to that group often results in common behaviours being learnt or adopted. We wondered if this resulted in a common adoption of a communication technology either maybe as part of that group’s signature or more practically because that a particular device offered a useful functionality that the group could standardise around. For instance watch a group of blackberry users over the course of a few days and you will notice how important the messaging application is. Its simple to use, delivers a form of presence or status to facilitate getting through to each other and allows pictures to be readily sent. A surprising way of using a device known mainly for its incomparable email management. Hence our question and the results that we came back. It seems this type of standardisation around a certain mobile device occurs for 60% of people in their social networks. Interestingly smartphones dominate this trend – the particulars of this are that Blackberries users have recognised this to the greatest extent with an equal distribution across both genders. iPhone users though according to these results are twice as likely to be male than female. Is iphone a male thing?Ignoring issues of statistical accuracy, what is the value of knowing this? Very simple – show me a manufacturer that has recognised this standardisation trend and embedded it into their application development, value proposition, branding and marketing - in order to seek out new segments for revenue growth. Another good example of what customer experience tracking can uncover as opposed to pure technology roadmaps
Given the spectacular success of the mobile device in terms of it displacing landline revenues, being a device we insist on being able to bring into work, covet as our own in a way we seldom show such affection to other pieces of technology we own, it’s a central plank in the anytime any place value proposition. So we thought we would ask how well it does the basics and if it seemed up to the task. The summary is that this is not yet a device that enjoys users full confidence and some pretty fundamental expectations are still not being met.
This is still the big one. 40% still complain about poor coverage or dropped calls
Poor functionality irritates 22% of users. Issues includedoesn't tell me I have a voice messageFirst of all I’d like to say that I use a Nokia phone, the main problem with it is that when its turned off it takes alot of time to restart and the memory cards get corrupted very easily and the virus problem is also a big problem.I can't retrieve deleted messages.I have a Blackberry for work and it has to be very secure therefore passwords have to be constantly used for each transaction - I hate itiphone's are crap phonesIt doesn't do everything and the need to separate work from non work, which mean multiple devicesMy mobile takes a lot of time to load. Like if I want to search for any number it takes around 10 seconds to load and this is very frustrating for me.my texts sometimes get lostpredictive texting!!sometime it does not support some software it is really frustrating.sometimes i cant charge my mobile's batteryThe most frustrating thing about my mobile device is i can not use mms with this device.The receiving and delivery of SMS can sometimes be unreliable - more so than any previous mobile phone I've hadstandardisation of SIP functionalities across handsets.when server issues mean there is a delay in getting messages and then several arrive in a glutwhen you are having a conference the device can freeze at timesit wipes all your contacts if something goes wrongTexting - people find it all too easy to text and the message can be interpeted incorrectly without the voice elements demonstrating emotion.
15% suffer poor battery life
Poor design irritates 13% of users. Issues includeBadly placed buttons pressed by accident during a callClunkiness of deviceDifficult to text with standard keypad.I can't read it without having to put my glasses on!I use nokia 6120 classic and its frustrating aspect is its model designIt has an onscreen keyboard.Keyboard layoutScreen is too small and slowScreen size when accessing emails or internetToo many applications. I just want to be able to find a number a dial quickly.............................Windows 6 Mobile Operating System is hard to navigate!
Slow mobile internet irritates 8% of users.
We asked people if all this new technology impacted them in significant ways
What excites you most about the possibilities this offers?
Both experiences are ones we can ones we can identify with. In fact both sound attractive. But how do such different impressions develop? Is one more accurate than the other?
What concerns you most about the way this new world of communication is unfolding?
What irritates us seems to be pretty universal as far as age is concerned. In other words we all suffer in equal measure. Many are traditional pet hates such as offshore centres. Some are aspiring to that status such as Twitter which seems to be on a fast track programme to full pet hate status.However what we notice and therefore gets under our skin does seem to be gender specific. Even when it’s a common complaint for both genders, the way in which it is perceived and described is different.Take the case of call steering. Or to use everyday language – the damned IVR
For a start fewer men seem to notice or at least remember the irritation caused by IVR and be able to explain it in any great detail. Their views are typically negative but general
How could we use this information? Well assuming the survey was statistically valid, we might reasonably infer that the customer experience is not immediately under threat for most men once they get through the call steering to talk to someone in Customer Services. Now let’s see if this behavioural hypothesis holds true for the female customer
In short the answer is no and the threat to a positive customer experience is real since it obviously gets under the skin and causes stress. Unlike men, the problem is also better understood. Woman appear to have a forensic appreciation of both cause and impact and therefore can explain their irritation with a professional’s eye for detail
While the call centre queue does not seem to greatly irritate most men and leave that for woman to champion, men find themselves more sensitive than women to large scale. ongoing, non permission based marketing. As the number of channels that can be exploited as a mass marketing channel grows, the old complaint about cold calling and white mail cluttering the doormat continues to ring true for every male generation. Why we hate it is unknown – maybe it’s an uncontrollable element in our life, a threat to our peace and quiet, an unnecessary chore that needs cleaning up. Whatever the psychology, it pisses us off in a way that the girls hardly even comment on.
Maybe the word ‘Unsolicited’ holds a clue as too why we men consider mass communication a form of transgression. Its certainly a frequently chosen one to reflect a certain experience.
Some do have a sense of humour and a fine turn of phrase to capture the insanity of bothering with real time trivia. This comment from a 11-20 year old UK male nails the downside of Twitter perfectly!
For those of us who either fear becoming, or who now openly celebrate, being Grumpy Old Men, find another reason to complain in the form of mobile devices that belt out noise. We know that our only sanctity lies in transport services that provide quiet zones that are effectively policed preferably by officials with taser guns for immediate law enforcement. However deep down we know that this irritant will now plague us until senility and complete deafness relieves us of the problem!
Although it does not seem to get under their skin to quite as often as for the men, when it is noticed, woman also share a hatred of impersonal,mis targeted communication
But while women find in mass communication yet another example of low quality that needs addressing, men it seem harbour deeper fears based not on quality but on the issue of being overwhelmed by sheer quantity. It seems men instinctivelyknow their limits when the prospect of unlimited communication invades their boundaries. Unable to deal with it, they appear to start to collectively lose it!
Faced with this threat to their inner solitude, they take solace in things they understand – stuff that does not work
Woman have no such concerns over a lack of communication capacity. Quite the opposite - they remain deeply irritated with the quality of communication in Customer Services – or rather the lack of it. Whether its traditional live voice or effective self service or assisted online service
Process heave cultures miss the point and remove the opportunity for a quality of dialogue that would progress an issue and enable a resolution to emerge
This particular woman in her mid twenties shows how age old problems are still infecting yet another generation’s perception and trigger her to share her story for others to pass on. For all the seminars, consulting assignments and strategic hot air, her comments show how large a gap still exists between the executive leadership of whatever brand she is describing and the treatment of their customers.
The reason for the mess just mentioned is well described here by someone who clearly needs to be given executive responsibility at the earliest opportunity!
Customer & Service Orientated Communications Theatre