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Excellence in the 2017 contact centre - Merging the traditional with the disruptive

Customer expectations of companies have never been higher, and in recent years the contact centre has been heavily affected by the rising ‘bar’ for contemporary customer experience, fuelled by rapidly evolving consumer technologies.  

But in reality, many are still struggling to reconcile traditional operations with cutting edge strategic digital ambitions. There is a danger that without improving the customer experience and breadth of service available through the contact centre, many enterprises will be unable to achieve their core strategic objectives in 2017, and will leave themselves vulnerable to challengers. There are several ways to be at the forefront of technology innovation in 2017. 

First of all, technology deployments such as voice analytics and voice biometric technology can be used in new ways to drive efficiencies and a better experience now. Second of all, new modern technologies for the connected consumer can be merged with current tools, delivering customer contact that supports a disruptive business.  

Voice analytics

But many companies have invested in voice analytics technology and found that the use case pushed by vendors just didn’t work. While in theory the idea that you could do a Google-esque search of your call recordings to find out what people are saying sounds fun, in reality companies don’t have the time to delve into that detail. In 2017, there are other ways to derive value from recordings, through using voice analytics to drive consistency and embed change. 

For example, the use of Quality Advisors to monitor agent calls to ensure the best possible service is widespread, but in contact centres with more than 1,000 agents this can be an expensive and inefficient process. Often there is only time to monitor one or two of each agent’s calls every month.  Instead, contact centres can use voice analytics to listen to all calls answered by agents, and not only give agents a score that is more specific, but do so on a daily basis. 

This makes it a lot easier to gather the most out of your workforce, ensuring consistency and empowering personal behavioural change in the contact centre. Most contact centres have good staff who are ambitious, and want to do the best job possible, but they may be inconsistent – and without useful instruction, will remain so. Voice analytics is one way of tackling that in 2017. 

Voice biometrics

Looking back, 2016 has been the year of voice biometrics. Banks such as Barclay’s are beginning to take the potential of the technology seriously, paving the way for other industries to adopt it as a trusted method of verification in call centres. Voice biometric technology can be used to create a unique Voice ID or “voiceprint” from a caller’s voice. This can be used to identify and verify callers to the contact centre, and also as part of a multi-factor authentication scheme for digital and mobile application channels.   

Some challenges have arisen as new software has become available which potentially allows a fraudster to spoof a customer’s voice. Biometrics tools will continue to evolve to defeat this “voice hack”, by using additional factors to ensure security. In 2016 the benefits of voice biometrics were very much tied up with security, however in 2017 the focus will actually be on customer personalisation and choice. 

Since identity verification can now happen without the customer even noticing, voice biometrics make sure customers are treated in the way they ought to be. Ultimately the aim is to allow customers to use their identity to be able to log how they want to be treated, and which channels they like to use.   

Voice-controlled technology

The voice-connected Amazon Echo was released in the UK a few months ago, and is a connected home tool which could change the way that people live in their homes in 2017. It runs on a service called Alexa, a voice controlled personal assistant. Amazon sees the future as smarter, connected and everywhere, and it is my opinion that the real boom here will be in customer contact in the year to come. 

If used properly, voice-controlled tools can drastically improve customer experience, reduce customer effort and reduce operating costs. Customers are really driven by effort, even the extra work involved in having to look up passwords is enough to put customers off. Customer contact involves many different transactions types, from balance check which lasts a couple of minutes to a mortgage application which can last up to 40 minutes. A lengthy transaction would not work on technology like Echo, but short frequent activities such as ‘Check my Balance’ are a sweet spot for Alexa. The customer benefit is huge –  chores become a 10 second activity, rather than an obstructive two minutes via the call centre.  

The key to this technology is spotting when it will work within the customer journey, and how it can tie into how the customer is attempting self-service. In 2017 organisations must start to think in a slightly different way – not necessarily about linear process flows, but understanding what the customer is doing in that specific episode.

Potential for the future

But the potential doesn’t stop there for the technology. In 2017 and beyond, the combination of voice biometrics and other technology is where we will see the most change. If an Amazon Echo device can recognise you from the sound of your voice, then in the future it should be able to offer you things based on your preferences, and services that you’ll be subscribed to. What if you could go to someone’s house, be recognised by your voice, and connect to your own account? It could go even further: The Echo is a dumb device with a speaker, microphone and a processor, but it could be replaced with your connected car allowing you to also access those services, handsfree, whilst on the move. 

The future of voice biometrics is that these devices will be able to connect you with your services and preferences based on your identity. As the technology that is becoming mainstream begins to connect together and prove itself, it offers a glimpse into a future that is radically different from where we are now.

Darryl Beckford, Head of Digital Acceleration, KCOM
Image Credit: Jacek Dudzinski / Shutterstock

Darryl Beckford
Darryl Beckford, Head of Digital Acceleration at KCOM, is a customer contact professional who has mastered the art of delivering low effort experiences for customers across multiple channels.