We always have to keep just the right mix of great people and great tech

These certainly are exciting times and for the geeks amongst us, we are getting to spend a good amount of our working lives talking about and playing with ever cooler bits of tech. Even though we might look like a bunch of kids in a candy shop, it’s all in the name of customer experience you understand… hmm, ok, maybe there is a small amount of fun to be had playing with robots but the thing is, I’m not completely sure this stuff always delivers for customers. When utilised poorly or just for ‘techs’ sake, it can drive an awful customer experience.

I recently called a well-known UK contact centre where I was met with a very bad voice activated IVR which was unable to understand the term ‘billing enquiry’ and instead heard me say ‘you are moving home’. After a few failed attempts I bailed on the voice tech and tried the old school IVR option. Having pressed ‘1’ to talk to ‘one of our super skilled experts’, I sat in the queue for 10 minutes before the professionally recorded voice artist suggested, ‘why don’t you try our web chat option’, so I did. I jumped onto the company’s web site, found the chat window and initiated contact. The response was immediate and within seconds I had passed data protection checks, supplied my account number and been asked ‘how can I help you today’. Awesome, now I was in the brave new land of high agent availability and user friendly tech, or so I thought…… Depressingly, it then became apparent that the mega efficient web chat agent had in fact been a ‘chatbot’ with very limited artificial intelligence such that I had reached the end of its usefulness already. Now I was back in a virtual queue waiting for a real agent – given that I was in a multi-channel environment, I suspect that this was the exact same queue that I’d spent 10 minutes in already, only now I was at the back of line and using a different channel. Nice huh!! Ultimately I got through to a real agent who agreed that my enquiry would be easier dealt with by phone so he pivoted the call to my mobile and all was well.

Once I was done with the call, I reflected that I had just ‘benefited’ from a best in class customer experience using a wide array of channels and frankly, it sucked! I never asked for any of it, I simply made a phone call and got pushed and pulled around all of the new toys the contact centre had to play with. Then it hit me that this was the exact same experience that we were at risk of creating for our clients and their customers if we just keep on buying into tech and forgetting about ‘real people’. How astonishingly arrogant to think that we can manipulate our customers like this, mostly for our own benefit and then pass it off as an enhancement to the Customer Journey!!

So where does this leave me? Am I retreating to the 1990’s and embarking on a one man ‘voice is the answer’ crusade? Am I thinking of buying a pager and a fax? No of course not, there is so much to commend about the new tech and when integrated properly it really can let customers talk to us the way they want at the time they want whilst allowing us to become more efficient and thus more profitable – truly a win-win BUT and it’s a big BUT, it has to be done right first time before disillusioned customers consign it to the ‘we hate contact centres hall of shame’. For us at Sigma the big takeaway for me is that we always have to keep just the right mix of great people and great tech and never get carried away with the perceived (by us) benefits that the tech can give our customers. Put simply, it must always be the customers choice.

Mike Harfield
Chief Operating Officer
The Sigma Financial Group Ltd

Email: mike.harfield@sigfin.co.uk
Mob: 07850 336201


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