Monday, December 15, 2008
Customer Interaction Technologies lower cost to serve
In less-certain economic times, companies come under increasing pressure to reduce costs and as I mentioned last week, this can mean managing your customers down to lower cost-to-serve channels (e.g. moving them from positon 'B' to position 'A' in the diagram)
For those who've read my previous post, you will know I believe you need to provide the right amount of customer interaction that a customer needs (but perhaps just not the level they want). This is where the web becomes incredibly useful.
But building a website to interface with customers is no-longer just a case of building a static content-fulled site, its about creating another interaction channel. And sometimes, providing customers with a basic level of interaction (e.g. Position 'A') just goesn't cut it any more. Fear not, a technology solution can be used, it just has to be used more carefully and cleverly.
Providing a rich user experience for your website is something that I've worked with a lot of clients on. Developing an intuitive and often complex site (e.g. Position 'C') obviously adds to your cost-to-serve, but in the longer-term this is a relatively small incremental cost per customer. It should also prevent the customer automatically heading off to to your 'Contact Us' page to phone your call centre. Technologies such as: Silverlight, Flash, and AJAX can help your site provide better interactivity and customer empowerment, and personalisation & other decision-based logic can provide a more individual experience.
But there is a middle ground and it sits somewhere between the slick responses of a video-based interaction and the human-to-human contact we all crave. However its an area that many websites have yet to fully understand and tackle (and it sits at Position 'D').
CIT or Customer Interaction Technologies as they are called, can all help bridge this interaction gap:
Is a way of connecting your call-centre with your customers, who can leave their details and be called back as a time better suited to them or the company (e.g. during any particular quiet periods your customer services representatives have).
Virtual assisitants, provided by people such as Creative Virtual, are still a technology that has yet to break into the mainsteam and its hard to work out why. Perhaps when one passes the Turing Test, we may see a change.
These online knowledge bases can provide dynamic Frequently Asked Questions, that understand context or provide more than just the standard content-managed answers. Link these into your personalisation functionality, track their usage and you get a rich set of data on what people are looking for (and what they don't know about).
In essence a business version of Instant Messaging, this technology has been used on websites for serval years now and provides a customer with text access to your call centre. Yes, I know this may seem like a slower (and therefore more costly way) way of interacting, but done cleverly it can reduce the cost-to-serve or even allow your operative to have more than one conversation at the same time.
E.g. pre-typed or 'hotkey' responses to produce instant answers to familiar questions, such as specific issue information or company contact details
Although these Customer Interaction Technologies haven't gained significant ground on many websites, its possible that as times get leaner andcompanies put more pressure on their websites to increase conversion and customer satisfaction, they they become a cost-effective toolset for the digital channel.