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Is Technology Improving The Customer Experience?


A few years ago, I called my health insurance provider about a claim they had not paid. At the end of the call, I came away feeling that I had not gotten any closer to resolving the problem. The representative was unable to provide any information that I had not already seen on their web site. I was asked to call back in a few weeks… or, better yet, login to their web site to check claim status.

As a customer, I was not pleased. I even considered switching to another health insurance provider. As a contact center professional, I wondered if technology was making things worse for customer relationships. Presumably, the company was reducing costs by using the internet to deliver claim status and interactive voice response technology to answer customer calls. But my opinion as a customer was influenced much more by the human contact. I expected the representative to be able to help me in ways that machines could not. And by that measure, the company was not successful.

A few days ago, I had a different experience when I called my health insurance provider. The voice response system used automated speech recognition now. Detecting my frustration (or was it poor mobile phone transmission?) when I had to answer a question a second time, the system quickly transferred me to a human representative, apologizing for being unable to understand. It didn’t take the representative too long to realize she would not be able to help. But, she was able to bring in a claims resolution expert who was. We got the problem resolved - Right away! I had been frustrated when I called, but was delighted before I hung up. I said so in the satisfaction survey at the end of the call (again, using speech recognition).

As a contact center professional, I wondered what technology they were using. Cisco’s Unified Customer Voice Portal? Unified Presence and Unified Expert Advisor, perhaps? Technology, properly deployed and used, was clearly contributing to a greatly-improved customer experience. But wait, wasn’t there more to this than technology? Clearly, the company had decided to do more to improve the customer experience. It wasn’t just about cutting costs. They were using new technology, but they were also training and empowering representatives to get problems resolved quicker.

Now, more than ever, cutting costs is important to business. But let’s not forget the customer experience. Every customer contact is an opportunity to build loyalty. Sooner or later, the economy will turn around. And customers will remember how you treated them.

Kandy Rathinasamy is a product manager with Cisco’s Customer Contact Business Unit.

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