Interview mit Lynda Smith, Nuance, über Care 2.0 und die Serviceorganisation der Zukunft

Auf der Conversations, dem Kundenkongress von Nuance, der Ende April ca. 300 Besucher nach Cannes lockte, präsentierte Lynda Smith, VP Care Business, das Care 2.0 Konzept des Konzerns für den Kundenservice der Zukunft. Die VOICE Community sprach mit Lynda Smith über die Bedeutung von Care 2.0 für das Contact Center von heute und den Anteil, den Voice Technologie daran hat.

Nuance defines Care 2.0 as a shift from a company driven service towards a customer driven service. Is that a threat or a challenge for the company?

SMITH: I don’t look at it as a threat – I actually look at it as an opportunity, because it’s one of the things that are occurring at the same time: companies overall  are learning that it is not the product alone, that differentiates. The customers and the customer experience became one of the most important factors of differentiation. Yesterday I asked the manager of one of the four biggest banks in South Africa how they differentiate and he said it’s definitely the customer service that makes a difference.

The reason why I say it’s an opportunity is that in many years the contact center has just been seen as a separate part of the company and necessarily as a vehicle of taking care of customer complaints. And it was always one of those cost centers that companies want to get rid of. They outsourced it maybe, or they brought it back in, but contact centers have never been seen as integral to the overall company. When all of a sudden the customer experience, which is mandatory in the Care 2.0 world, became a focal point for the whole enterprise, people started looking at the call center as being much more relevant, much more important – not just as a group that you can put to the side, because it has to be more centered to the company.  The Call Center should be able to embrace the customer as part of an overall enterprise strategy.

So as I understood Care 2.0 it requires new tasks in the contact center, it requires deep technical integration into the company and its backend systems for example, but also into marketing, into content production. But where does this content come from? Who defines the processes and decides which content to display at what stage of the interaction? These changes, as I understand them, would definitely alter the character of the contact center, but not necessarily into a way of making it easier: The tasks are getting more complicated, more abstract, more process oriented. How will contact centers be able to tackle these challenges?

SMITH: Let me talk first about the contact center backend-integration. You will find out when you talk to contact center managers, that various levels of backend integration already exist.  There are some companies where they’ve already done some very deep backend integration into CRM systems so that when a customer calls they automatically know who the caller is, what his last transaction was and so on. There are some contact centers that already did deep integration into the corporate back end and that use that integration for cross selling and upselling purposes. There’s already a kind of disparity, people are moving in that direction.

In terms of other areas as content what I think you are going to find is that the contact center of tomorrow truly is the center of the enterprise, a kind of new platform for doing this. It’s going to take a call center manager who is not just concentrated on operational issues and statistics. Today the heads of contact centers are often times people that are great people?s managers who spend a great deal of time to find out how can they make you handle a call faster, how can they eliminate cost out of their system. The contact center manager of tomorrow will be much more of a business manager, it’s going to be someone who sees himself as part of the overall strategy of the company and who will be reaching out to the people that own that content he needs to deliver a Care 2.0 customer interaction experience.

If I was the contact center manager of tomorrow and I knew I have this platform now that can do much more than just handling the inbound calls or queries I would be actively be sitting down with my VP marketing, my VP engineering, my CEO and talking about how we can leverage this new platform now to really elevate our company and work as a team to design something really new. For example in the traveling industry content enriched customer interaction will  become an all new lifestyle experience which is going to require a different mentality than what you often see in the call center today. It’s thinking of yourself now as business owner rather than just being a business supporter. So we are going to see an evolution where we start small as the web started small to push information towards  the customer. And then it will evolve into where they will really sit down and see what access they have to work with other constituents to design a better customer experience. Today with speech applications we design an experience which is often very isolated. In the future we will design an experience that is wholistic and integrates everything that a company can offer the customer. So you’re right: It will be a different contact center manager in the future, because he’s going to have a much more important role within the company.

In your presentation you said ?proactivity? will be an integral part of customer interaction tomorrow. What does that mean?  How can you be proactive to customers demand?  Where does it lead to? Is there an end to customer demands?

SMITH: There probably is no end to the customer demands. They were always pushing for more and when you speak about a timeline 10 years prior to the web the expectations were relatively low, we just called to check on a bill or to get a status. Today expectations are much higher than that and there always will be a bar that’s going to be raised.

But to get back to proactivity, today we wait for the customer to call us. And then we deal with whatever the caller wants.  In the world of proactivity, in the world of Care 2.0, what it’s about is thinking about what other information would be useful for the customer and leveraging the opportunity to have more contact. A good example is a sales rep, who’s always trying to get back in with the customer, who is always looking for a way to establish a relationship, to make it a tighter relationship, reminding the customer that ?we are here to help you?.

This is the same way the company could do it. It’s about not thinking the contact center is there to take calls only, it’s thinking about the customer experience. Maybe the customers would appreciate if I also pushed out an account balance to them so that they have it on record. Or perhaps I have a new offer that might be interesting to them. But if I just wait for them to call in it could be months before they get the benefit of it. So I’m proactivly going to establish a campaign that takes information out to them.  For example in health care many people do not refill prescriptions. If I would get a little reminder message now I would think ?Well isn’t that nice??

So to get back to one of your other questions, is that a challenge, then it is a challenge to some of today’s call center managers because they are not thinking of how to take better care of the customer but thinking of how do I deal with the volume of calls that are coming in. But if you really start thinking about anything a company can do to make it just a nicer interaction you have to be proactivity delivering interaction unrequested as well as you have to react on the incoming calls.

So where does speech technology come into the game regarding Care 2.0? As I understand it, it would be used for pre-qualification of the incoming calls and routing them to the right agents or to an IVR that handles the call, and then the wrapup of the calls might be automated, too. Could you describe the relevace of speech technology in Care 2.0? 

SMITH: We deliver the companies solutions that enable them to better interact with customers and create a real lifestyle experience. That are solutions that help in all of these instances. But if you think about supporting the customer, it is all about inbound calls. It starts off with a call coming in, and the best way to handle it is at the front door by using call steering, which is a very successful way of finding out what the customers destination applications are. Depending on business roles this destination application might be the agent, it might be a former touchtone system, or maybe a speech automated system that’s already there. people typically have associated the idea of call steering and automated destination solutions with how we really better support the customer.

Another way of how to support the customer is to use Dragon dictation to do the wrapup of the call. Today a call center agent if he gets off the call, with dictation software he would just dictate information on what he accomplished with a customer and the company would have that for record.

The other factor where speech comes in to help to create a Care 2.0 world is helping you to communicate with the customer. We offer solutions like outbound messaging to automatically inform the customer like in the example with the prescription with an outbound call system that we call intelligent offer management. This is an automated capability to do campaigns. You can set up through that special solution automated campaigns that will offer the customers a call from the contact center for cross or upselling.

And where I understand speech is coming into Care 2.0 is with voice analytics. You can really start looking at interactions with your customers, getting additional information that could be useful not only for making the application better but also for optimizing overall business processes. So speech actually in that Care 2.0 world can come down to many areas and help to create better interactions.

Do you have any case examples for me and performance numbers like call wrapup times? How much time does an agent actually save if he’s using an automated wrapup solution?

SMITH: I actually don’t have any numbers on my mind, it’s still a comparatively new technique that only a few very big contact centers right now are using.

Then let me get back to voice analytics: How deep into customer interaction does it go? What are the numbers, the indicators, that can be determined by speech analytics?

SMITH: When we talk about voice analytics, we talk about two pieces: one is called application analytics, the other is a speech analytics. What the application analytics will largely do for you is giving you deep inside in how the customers is using the application. So what you can see and what you can analyse is why and where customers dropped out and had to be transferred to an agent. Or this person went through three sections of directions successfully and the analytics application gives you clues on how you can make the application even better so you keep more people in your automated system.

What we are also able to discern from the application analytics is if you have segmented your callers you can check if there are some segments of customers that do better with automation that they complete versus getting out to an agent. And all of a sudden you will find out that people over 60 do interact often better with IVRs than younger customers. Or you can find out if your top customers handled the system this way or another. So you can also garner some insights on caller populations and how they interact with automated systems with application analytics.

What I’m passionate about in speech analytics is the fact that it notates the call recordings after you established the things that are important to you to listen to. So instead of audio you would have text recordings and now you can use algorithms to search for the information that you’re looking for once it’s in a text form.

If you want to find out who your competition is, you would set up in the business roles ?listen for the names of the following companies?. If you are interested in the things that the customers most often complain about, you might set up in your business roles pricing issues or product issues. If you want to find out what people think about a new product you just released, you can set it up accordingly. This is not implemented yet but it is a customer request. Disney for example is looking for a speech analytics solution today to be able to measure how well their promotions do. They want to look for the word Cinderella in an IVR that when a customer mentions Cinderella would right away make him a certain offer. They want to find out after a promotion how often do the customers mention the product, how often do they buy it, what other products around the promoted article are they buying. 


What you end up doing is looking for product issues, competitive issues, pricing issues, promotional issues.  You can also based on the language that people use determine what percentage of callers are highly emotional and unhappy versus those that are very happy. You can just find out information about every aspect of your business.

Let me ask you about economical figures: more service usually means more cost. Does automation keep that in balance? Is it possible by automating some processes and optimizing agent services on another level to keep the cost at hand or is it rather an investment that a company has to make in order to survive in a Care 2.0 world?

SMITH: First of all the companies cannot afford today not to deliver an optimum in caller experience because the lifetime value of a customer is only so great. For example in the banking industry before a customer is really tied to the company he has to be sold twelve products. Not too many of us do only have four products with one bank, so you can imagine what it means when the caller experience is not perfect: they cannot afford not to invest!

What we look at when we talk to customers about what to automate and what voice strategy they should have, are the call vloumes of the different destination applications.  Based on that we make suggestions on what is to be voice automated in order to save money.

If you look at some of these newer applications we are finding that if you do an automated campaign people are more comfortable with an automated system for an upselling proposal because if they want to say ?no!?, they can.  With an automated campaign you can have much higher conversion rates so now you have an opportunity to make an investment into speech technology that really takes you ahead.

Typically your invest into your call center has been about cost reduction – now you have an investment that will enable you to generate profit. Similarly through outbound messaging like the mentioned prescription refill you might increase the revenue. Companies look into contact center investments now not only to reduce cost but to increase revenue. If you think about the cost of churn and how much it costs for a company to acquire a new customer it is easier and cheaper to keep a good customer than to find a new one.

Presently customer interaction in a way of Care 2.0 is done only by a few ?light towers? in the business. When do you think Care 2.0 will be available also for small and medium-sized call centers? How long will it take the market to develop an offering of hosted Care 2.0 solutions that allow to deliver Care 2.0 without heavy invests?

SMITH: It has always been a question in the contact center market how long it will take till a new technology will be applied by the smaller contact centers. If you look at small and medium-sized contact centers often times they try to take business away from the larger contact centers.  Better service is a way how they could do that. In one way you could say that the medium-sized company could find great advantage to expand their business by really thinking about the customer care scenario and technologies that help them do that. An investment into that technology could pay for itself by generating new business.

But the truth is that if you have lower call volumes you have to look very carefully into which technology investment is the best for your purposes. Hosting definitely is a way to address smaller companies and we’re working together with hosting partners to deliver customer care services on demand. So my recommendation to medium companies is don’t automatically think you cannot afford, because of the upside benefit that you can generate through being much more competitive in the market, being able to win against big competitors by delivering a better experience. The question is about to find the best deployment model for your purposes.  Hosted solutions definitely can make access easier for small and medium companies.  As a matter of fact all of our solutions are available as hosted solutions. Actually our voice analytics technologies are available only as a hosted service.

So what is your vision for voice in the next 10 years?

SMITH: First of all I truly believe that voice applications other than customer care would get out into the market. We are getting used to voice just being the standard interface, we are going to communicate with our cars, we’ll all have movie-, navigation-, communication-handheld devices that offer superior voice control and output. You?re going to see that voice search will be an integral part of what you know now as Google.

Today voice is being held back a little by it?s only use in contact centers, because contact centers have traditionally been so reluctant in adopting new technologies. For so many people are using speech now for purposes that are outside of the contact center like Dragon dictation on the desktop you?ll find that in the future we will do much more dictating instead of writing.  So in my eyes voice will be the prevalent way of how we interface with a whole variety of not only informational services.


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