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Customers, Clouds & Claridge’s

By on Apr 1, 2012 No Comments

Sipping fine coffee the morning after dinner at Claridge’s is happiness itself.

Especially on a warm spring morning when London’s buzzing.

It is certainly one good reason to become a NewVoiceMedia customer and go the cloud route for your customer interaction infrastructure.

It’s a space that has turned up full time on my radar. Amongst the many topics I work to keep up with, cloud services have rapidly become part of the zeitgeist. A lynchpin in the evolutionary transformation of doing business that’s currently in play. Especially in relation to customer engagement.

Just a few short years ago I was lending my voice to premise based solutions. Frustrated and bored at the snail’s pace of getting everything plugged in, no-one ever seemed to arrive. You know, do stuff with all the amazing functionality. And maybe then enjoy the benefit of becoming known for it.

‘Universal Queuing’, ‘Personalised Service’, ‘Multi-Modal Interaction’. Great YouTube eye candy but seldom spotted in active service. Somehow it all seemed too damned hard to get off the ground. No doubt the effect of a strong gravitational pull and no headwind.

That’s not to say peoples’ imagination of where to go, as and when the lights eventually flashed green, was in any way missing. But unless you were an Amazon, a Zappos or evergreen First Direct, the remaining alphabet of inspiring case studies was pretty much threadbare.

Cloud Based Customer Engagement Is Attracting New Brands

And that’s what impressed me as I listened to the assembled table of early adopters. People weren’t focussed on the trauma of getting the kit in place. Instead their imagination was directed at “joining up the dots”. For them that meant launching fresh episodes of their customer engagement story as fast as they could experiment then learn ‘n scale.

Their sense of forward momentum was nearly as good as the “Sautéed Scottish Scallops With Sevruga Caviar” that arrived as the third instalment of a seven course epic. Actually that’s not even remotely true. The food was way better! But their orientation did win me over for being a country mile from old school mindsets.

In fact, if they had a common point of reference, it was not to be part of any legacy call centre practice and culture. That belonged in a parallel and distant universe. They insisted they were about something other than AHT (average handle time). Instead their vocabulary was peppered with ‘customer insight’, ‘recognising VIP customers’, ‘scaling to meet fluctuating demand’ and ‘providing a common view of customer interaction across our global footprint’.

Great to hear about these from customers instead of a vendor EVP pitch. A strong indication that advanced functionality is perceived as within grasp for cloud customers. Especially those that cannot afford the quality of technical resource traditionally demanded to get all this up and running.

Maybe that alphabet of case studies will start filling out over the next few years.

Extended Functionality Without Integration Pains – All Part Of The Service

Most at the dinner table enjoyed tight links between their customer interaction and customer data capabilities. This is courtesy of NewVoiceMedia and Salesforce’s mutual love of cloud integration. With the latter providing a particularly rich pool of add-on functionality.

These vendor ecosystems are another characteristic of going shopping in the Cloud. As consumers, most of us have already sampled the simplicity of ‘app store‘ style access. When transferred to business, brands can build out their customer engagement workflows in an organic way. Minus, of course, the old school hassle of ‘point solution’ integration costs and delays.

This is a big deal. A major IT headache simply no longer exists. Being back in control as business users was a commonly celebrated theme I picked up on.

What’s Left On The Roadmap?

By the way if you are the type to drool over menus, here is the one that Gordon Ramsey’s team produced for the NewVoiceMedia customer club . I’ve already confessed that food plus the ambience of Claridge’s and a stream of good conversation put me in an excellent mood. So did I end up too starry eyed?

Certainly not everything is done and dusted on the customer engagement ‘to do’ lists I heard being discussed. We hit on a few topics that caused reflection since they had not been top of mind.

For instance, Customer Strategy. A long term favourite of mine which I think is even more important now that getting hold of the right functionality in no longer the deal breaker it’s often been. Yet I still polled the same <10%. A recurring benchmark when I ask at any comparable gathering. To my mind that’s a weakness. Being excellent at anything needs a plan.

A Data Strategy is another area that’s long been a thorn in the side of intelligent customer interaction. Customer data is hard to gather, cleanse and normalise. Just ask those trying to make sense of social data! These issues have not gone away just by virtue of cloud access.

But CTI based routing is at least baked into the core proposition which democratises access to a crucial capability that only flowed so far down the market when exclusively a premise based solution.

I’d also argue that as Smartphone culture continues to popularise our transition to a mobile lifestyle, the improved hit rate on recognising customers via their CLI (caller line identification) makes this an even stronger routing option.

I know many reading this will have heard the ‘routing rap’ before. But this time I’m willing to wager that before long we might actually start hearing stories from our own personal networks. Such as being recognised as a VIP customer or being connecting to the same person looking after our ongoing situation as a matter of course. We shall see.

The last topic I picked up on was the people side of any service proposition. I think this remains work in progress, if for no other reason, than we still score poorly in the UK on employee engagement. While command and control is in certain decline, I’m not sure that many organisations have worked out what its replacement really means.

Empowerment is often mistaken for no longer needing to pay any management attention at all. As you might guess I disagree with that view. People in service roles need to have their energy and willingness to give regularly replenished. It’s a human thing.

Anyway a quote from someone at the customer club showed some recognition of the issue.

“…In particular the discussion about enabling our people resonated with me. We have no barriers to where we locate people and nor do we place them under unnecessary pressure to close calls but I’m sure we could do more to improve their knowledge which would enable them to offer a greater customer experience…”

Closing Thoughts On Clouds And Claridge’s

So apart from the nosh, was anything else worth mentioning as reasons to belong to such a club? I reckon this guest nailed it when he concluded in a ‘morning after the night before’ email.

“…You quite often get a large degree of obstruction (some conscious, mostly subconscious) when instigating change programs to improve customer experience so being in a room of like minds charges the “customer battery”.

I quite agree.

By the way, as testiment to the whole evening’s topic, the service chez Gordon was impeccable!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

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