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Embedding UC Requires Process Rethink

Customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning applications continue to evade many businesses because of cost, ability to implement, or the perceived lack of need. Many miss the benefits that can come when they allow users to email, IM, schedule conferences, and collaborate by text, voice, or video from within these applications.

One example is in the education vertical, where communications-enabled school management systems (SMS) can provide teachers ready access to online help, chat, and knowledge bases. We also see communications-enablement in online banking, allowing customers to obtain help with their accounts and various banking activities as needed. And the hotel industry isn't missing out on capturing customers via communications-enablement, either. With embedded chat, hotels can increase their bookings by having readily available answers to pre-sales questions, for example.

Companies don't need to deploy intensive UC solutions to reap rewards. Rather, they can use blended solutions that break down communications barriers and provide benefits. Chat gives customers and suppliers a direct line of communication that turns the sales process into a proactive one that can increase sales closures. And on the service side, chat can turn potentially disastrous or negative incidents into positive outcomes. Bouncing customers through endless queues and voice prompts can become less effective for customers who don't want to deal with auto-response jail.

Providing online customer support is invaluable for reducing support costs, shrinking the rate of shopping cart or reservation abandonment, and increasing the conversion from visitor to customer. But, as I've previously written, companies that continue to leave their processes unchecked may not be able to optimize the benefits of opening communications.

For example, companies that want to improve customer service can't block or hinder the abilities of customer service staff attempting to resolve issues with products or services. Customer service must be empowered to make necessary adjustments. Younger generations of shoppers and customers are not so willing to pick up their phones to call about issues, and if you waste their time engaging them using embedded communications tools without results then you stand to lose them as customers.

From my own recent experiences, here are a few examples of what not to do:

  • An existing database conversion was hindered and getting phone support was a bit frustrating. After staying in queue for 20 minutes with repeated delay announcements and position in queue, the system knocked me to voicemail with: "Please leave a message and someone will get back to you."
  • Using a self-service online ticket submission process, I reported a programming issue but received no acknowledgement that my message had been received -- no email or pop up... nothing. While the issue did end up being resolved, I felt little reassurance from the process. This sort of situation most likely ends up leading some customers to abandon the self-service request and instead go with more costly alternatives, like calling in.
  • When I called an expert for help from a landline with an issue, I waited in queue for several minutes and then the connection yielded audio clipping and an unintelligible voice conversation when the support person. Hanging up and reinitiating the call meant getting back in line all over again.
  • A clearinghouse delivering receipts for Visa charges sent me four text messages showing the cardholders' signature, name, and last four digits of the card number.

Not only do internal processes need attention, technology deployments shouldn't go unchecked, either.

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