With all of the talk about improving customer experiences, you would think that as a top business imperative we’d be pretty far along in leveraging multichannel communications to provide optimized, 360-degree touch point capability.
Unfortunately, this is far from the case, and is a challenge that SoundBite Communications (News - Alert) is addressing head on with the announcement of significant enhancements to their cloud-based SoundBite Engage and SoundBite Insight platforms.
The objective is simple: to more tightly integrate and exploit the power of increasingly pervasive mobile access and customer interactions with tools for accommodating customer-defined preferences. The two platforms enable enterprises to provide consumers the information they want, when they want it, and how they want it – including format, rules of engagement, information type, frequency and a host of other user-defined options. The reason to pay attention to this announcement is that while the devil is in the details, this is a significant step in the right direction toward achieving a more customer-friendly and responsive environment.
Improving the customer experience
As SoundBite notes, Forrester Research (News - Alert) in its recent report, 2012 Customer Experience Predictions, characterized the current state of multichannel communications as a disjointed collection of consumer touchpoints, systems and silos. In short, current infrastructure is not capable of meeting customer expectations, adding to the growing trend of customer disloyalty. This does not have to be the case.
Jim Milton, president and CEO at SoundBite Communications (News - Alert) stated: “SoundBite Engage and SoundBite Insight offer a complete end-to-end solution, allowing organizations to improve customer experience by personalizing interactions at every stage of the conversation, all via the ultimate convergent device - the mobile phone…Businesses are in a place where they can tailor interactions to each specific customer, and the customers in turn can state their exact preferences on how they interact with businesses.” It was the objective of significantly improving B2C conversations in key areas of the consumer lifecycle that guided the enhancements to SoundBite Engage and SoundBite Insight.
A few of the areas of how the technology can be applied in the key areas of the consumer lifecycle are:
Collections: Using text messaging to facilitate making self-service payments is a case in point. A major financial institution was able to take opt-in text messages and seamlessly transfer them to a secure Automated Voice Message (AVM) system to capture confidential payment info. Once enrolled, payments are made by texting “pay” and passing a verification event.
Customer Care: Utilizing SoundBite’s Agent Text Portal (ATP (News - Alert)) and Interactive Mobile Messaging (IMM) allows customers to interact with an automated script via their mobile phones. They can specify their product model and issues through preset keywords via SMS.
As SoundBite describes this, the script offers customers options to: link to a video with instructions on how to fix their problem, have an agent call them back, or interact with a live agent via text chat.
Because context is important and interacting with the right person is critical – in terms of increasing speed to resolution (cutting contact center costs) and ultimately improving customer satisfaction – when connecting to a live agent for text chat, a customer who has a previous interaction is automatically routed to the same agent.
Marketing: The example here is a retailer promoting a marketing program by advertising a short code and top-level keyword in their stores or via direct mail such as: send the keyword “reward” to 12345. When the consumer does this, the SoundBite Engage dialog engine and the client’s script could then look up that customer in SoundBite Insight and respond with personalized information by leveraging attributes, preferences and previous behavior.
I recently discussed how customer experiences can be transformed for competitive advantage with SoundBite’s Matt Edmunds Sr. VP Contact Center Business Unit. He was quick to point out that, “Companies of all sizes are recognizing that they must meet their customers on the customers’ terms. This means treating them holistically in a way that honors their preferences, and doing so by through cross-channel integration to improve responsiveness. This is done by giving customers their choice of how they wish to interact, and agents the tools and context they need to make better and faster decisions.”
Edmunds specifically highlighted the impact of being able to break down internal silos and the power of doing so through a cloud-based solution. Text, e-mail, hosted-dialer, auto messaging, mobile apps and Web can all be leveraged. And, the ability to let the user opt-in so that the full power of a holistic approach can be applied.
He also explained how in many ways we are still early in the learning curve of harnessing the power that comes from breaking down silos of information and applying them to the end goal of improving the conversation with customers. In many ways the sky (in this case the cloud which can be very high) is the limit. SoundBite as seen from the examples above has already achieved success in the areas of collections, customer care and marketing. However, as the velocity of mobile transactions increases, and things like presense (status) and location-based capabilities are added to the context mix and user options, the ability to transform the physical retailing experience with augmentation from being able to interact with a product or services expert could drive the kind of disruptions that transform existing markets and generate new opportunities.
Forrester is correct in pointing out that while improving the customer experience is the term de jour, there really is a lot of work to be done for all of us as customers to experience what new capabilities can bring to enhancing our interactions with those we choose to do business with and with whom we wish to maintain trusted relationships. Platforms such as SoundBite Engage and SoundBIte Insight provide good insights into what is achievable for raising the bar on customer experiences now, as well as the possibilities for the future.
Want to learn more about cloud communications? Then be sure to attend the Cloud Communications Expo, collocated with ITEXPO West 2012 taking place Oct 2-5, in Austin, TX. The Cloud Communications Expo will address the growing need of businesses to integrate and leverage cloud based communications applications, process enhancement techniques, and network based communications interfaces and architectures. For more information on registering for the Cloud Communications Expo click here.
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Edited by Braden Becker