Pete Peterson 9/12/2018
It’s the single most important job of any business. And the most challenging.
A balancing game exists today for companies to both serve customers in a personal and careful manner, and to lower the costs of doing so. Sending a customer away feeling that they were helped in a way that saved them time and solved their problem can be achieved through many different approaches. The easy answer is to always have a live agent, ready, and available without an extended wait. This was the gold standard for decades – “I’m here, I’m on the phone, and I’m ready to help you now”.
The pendulum swung to automation starting in the 80s, and peaking in the late 90s with systems that encouraged customers to forgo live help and retrieve information automatically, first through IVR and later through web, email and most lately Text/SMS. Early on, this was seen by the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers and GenX’ers as impersonal and unhelpful. In the early days of automation, they were spot-on right about this in most cases. Early ventures into automation was done in a way that often forced callers to navigate endless IVR menus and questions, entering account information repeatedly - finding that in the end, they needed to still talk to someone and then wait in an extended queue since the provider was banking on automation to lower their FTE headcount. Automation got a really bad name during those years.
Fast forward to the ‘00s – The web is fully part of our lives. The fore mentioned generations have now joined their Millennial kids in accepting automation as convenient and a valid alternative to a live agent – at least in web form. I took a few years for IVR to catch up.
It was in these years that ATI began to re-think IVR. How can we design IVR in a way that doesn’t drag callers through piles of menus asking multiple questions that don’t apply to most customers? The answer: Context Sensitive IVR. Imagine that you know a lot about the customer -- who’s calling. You wouldn’t offer nearly as many menu options or branches to someone if you know where they stood with the provider. For example, instead of reading a list of 10 options like Payment, balance, address correction, etc., we might start out with a special context for this customer because they have a credit amount on their account. We might identify a customer that cannot be handled automatically because of their status, and vector them into a special agent queue for that particular status. We might make special offers to this client based on their previous buying habits. All of this can be done as long as we first identify the caller with an account number or caller ID.
As we moved on into the new millennium, other channels became available that followed the same benefits of context sensitive scripting – integrated WEB, SMS and IVR lend themselves well to a cross-platform approach that blends live telephone agents and chat help.
ATI’s PORTALS platform is the product of these decades of experience with customers and clients, and has played a major role in Corporations, Medicine, Universities, government and courts interfacing with their callers and customers.
The new frontier of customer service will encompass AI, WEB RTC and other new tools and protocols – and PORTALS will be there – connecting customers and solving problems.