In a highly competitive market where customer loyalty is a premium, companies are urged to invest in automated voice services that address customers' needs.
The recommendation stems from a recent report showing that customers are frustrated by automated customer service systems. This is because companies that have put these systems in place were thinking of reducing costs rather than serving their customers. And instead of winning customers, these systems can cause customers to shift loyalties.
The report, done by research and consultancy firm Ovum, noted that businesses have lost touch with their customers, neglecting their "frustrations" over automated self-service systems instead of providing customer service.
Daniel Hong, Ovum analyst and author of the report, said: "There is significant customer frustration when it comes to automated self-service and voice recognition systems. In fact in a recent Ovum survey, one third of respondents said they found it the most challenging aspect of customer service".
Hong noted that companies opt for automated customer service systems as call volumes increase. Unfortunately, these systems do not measure customer satisfaction. Rather, these measure cost-savings to the company. In the end, instead of providing a service, customers become frustrated.
The Ovum report noted that only a two to three per cent rise in automation rates can already frustrate customers, leading to a potential increase in customer turnover.
"Many businesses do not realise that their automated systems cause this level of frustration. They are not aware of what their customers are actually experiencing because they are measuring their systems by how much money is being saved. This is a vulnerable position to be in because frustrated customers are unlikely to be loyal and could be defecting to the competition," added Hong.
Hong suggested that an ideal automated customer service voice system should be customer-centric and intuitive -- easy enough for customers to use. "Also, it should give the customer the ability to reach a live agent quickly should he/she want to escalate the call to a customer service representative," he added.
He brushed aside the thought that live call centre agents will suddenly become jobless as companies find means to better address customer concerns while at the same time watching the budget. "There will always be a need for live agents but due to budgetary constraints, enterprises need to invest in automation that is widely accepted and used by their customer base," he said in an e-mail interview.
The report covered companies worldwide and across industries. But Hong said companies in the services sector, such as banking, telecommunications and tourism, should study their self-service voice systems carefully as these industries experience large call volumes.
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