In Forrester’s “2017 Customer Service Trends: Operations Become Smarter and More Strategic” report, Kate Leggett predicts that companies will be extending and enhancing self-service this year. We cannot agree more. The move to self-service is underway and has been for some time. Businesses that refuse to adopt self-service options are missing an opportunity to increase customer satisfaction, and will ultimately be left behind.
But while we agree with Forrester’s view that digital channels are a hot avenue to pursue for self-service, we encourage companies not to forget about the voice channel. Because ultimately, the trend Leggett is highlighting isn’t about digital vs. IVR. It’s about driving efficient and effective self-service, regardless of channel. And voice has a strong role to play in that! Consider how popular virtual assistants and chatbots that consumers use on a daily basis are raising expectations for what speech can do. Gone are the short, one word answers that dominated speech-based IVRs for years. Consumers can now unlock the full power of their voice, and companies that take a complete view of their service offerings will benefit.
In fact, despite the excitement for digital channels, the IVR or voice channels are still an indispensable part of customer service. As Leggett notes in the report, the most popular way people interact with a company is via the phone, so it’s key that businesses optimize that channel. Additionally, many organizations see their call volume growing as they roll out more digital channels. Forward-thinking companies will adopt a holistic approach to customer service that combines digital with voice.
We’re seeing this trend internally as many of our customers invest in the IVR to better meet customer needs. Consider the story of Dallas311. Dallas311 is the city’s one-stop phone line for residents seeking non-emergency information about bus times, garbage pickup, or code compliance. The system faced challenges with its caller experience, limited IVR functionality and extensive phone trees, which led to lengthier calls and poor customer experience. Nuance helped Dallas311 introduce a new natural language based “Easy Speak” system that improved the caller experience and allowed people to simply say what they want in their own words to get to the information that they needed.
As a result, getting information from Dallas311 is now as simple as having a conversation. Callers to Dallas311 hear a prompt asking them: “How can I help you today?” and they can respond naturally, in their own terms. For example they can ask “How can I get a new roll cart for trash pickup?” or “Can someone help me with animal services?”
Increasingly, these are the types of self-service interactions that customers prefer. Recent survey data shows that the majority of consumers prefer to interact with businesses through intelligent and conversational systems when it comes to seeking customer service across the Web, mobile, and phone channels (IVR). For example, a 2016 global survey commissioned by Nuance showed that 89% of consumers prefer and, in fact, expect a conversational interaction when they seek customer service. And it’s crucial that organizations deliver what customers want, as 87% of consumers report that a positive interaction with a company will determine whether they continue their relationship with the company.
One exciting self-service opportunity that has seen dramatic growth in the past few years is integrated authentication into the IVR. Once the enterprise authenticates the customer, that person can be presented with options tailored to his or her unique situation. For example, an IVR at a cable company could authenticate their customers then offer an upsell opportunity, all through self-service.
TalkTalk, a major telecom company in the UK experienced rapid growth through acquisition and a growing customer base, which increased volume and complexity of the IVR and call routing. Moreover, to provide service, these callers needed to be authenticated, which takes time due to the need to verify a customer with account information, passwords and pins. In 2016 TalkTalk introduced TalkSafe and now has over 900,000 voiceprints of their customers and authenticates more than 10,000 calls each day.
We agree with Kate Leggett’s assertion that companies will extend and enhance self-service. But while digital channels are important, companies would be mistaken to count out the voice channel. Not only is it still a key part of the customer experience, but smart companies are taking care to increase self-service capabilities within the IVR itself.
Stay tuned for the next part of our Forrester report series!