At a time when new channels are emerging, the differentiators for retailers are going to have an awful lot to do with how we segment, personalise, and serve through the IVR, the web, the smartphone and social media.

Imagine a customer is returning a gift to a store, they have a gift receipt, they walk in through the door where they are greeted and asked for the details of the transaction. They are then passed from the person who greeted them, to a colleague who may ask precisely the same questions again.

It's easy to see how in a real-world environment this lack of continuity would be uncomfortable and frankly absurd. Yet, this is exactly what we do when we pass a caller without adequate CTI, to a call center agent after identifying them.

As customers empower themselves through new media and new channels, they become very vocal spokespeople pro and con. A negative impression doesn’t only lower an NPS score, it may mean a lost sale and perhaps the loss of a customer for life!

We can and must personalise our services. With the consumer's permission, we can use a number of channels to provide inputs that will allow us to present them with just the right amount of what they want when they want it, through whichever channel they choose.

First we need to understand who our customer is. We need to know what they like and don't like. We need to know what they spend and why. That CRM information needs to be useful and actionable to the contact channels. Are they high value? Do we need to send them directly to an agent?

We need to know what's affordable, in terms of our cost to serve: Where do we need agent intervention and where should we provide the opportunity to self-serve? Even more importantly we need to understand what will make the consumer feel that we provide the best possible experience available anywhere.

The old days of an isolated IVR with confusing menus and an endless wait on hold for a representative are rapidly coming to an end.

Now contact channels need to be designed from the requirements of the customer journey, not just from business rules. The channels must be coordinated, managed and continuously monitored. Changes (marketing initiatives etc.) must be reflected across all channels simultaneously.

Well-crafted self-service can be a real advantage in these situations. Automation can effectively take away the repetitive, simplistic, tasks allowing us to reserve our valuable agent's time for the real hands-on work of customer loyalty, up-sell and positive brand extension.

So now we move into a world in which tasks like identification and verification, inventory queries, delivery status and store information can take place through self service applications in the customer’s channel of choice: On a smartphone, in the IVR, in Facebook or on the web and when required, all of the data applicable to that customer can be passed, to an agent for more sophisticated handling.

The agent should at that point have the context for the customer’s query. “Mr. Smith I see you were trying to make a payment on the website, is that what you’re calling about?”

Sounds great right? Oh, there are a few details to iron out: like how you integrate into all the databases required and draw on them with minimum latency? How do you move the call and the data securely? But it becomes worthwhile when we can proactively serve the customer as an individual once again.


Topics: IVR Design