I applaud the concept, but is Lucyphone causing more harm than good?

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Lucyphone has gotten some good publicity over the past few months for putting consumers in control of whether or not to remain on hold when calling companies to do business. Because only a small percentage of companies have implemented an integrated virtual queuing solution to address the problem of hold time, waiting on hold is still pervasive today. Therefore, I applaud the concept and the entrepreneurial spirit of the Oristian brothers for taking the matter right to the consumer. However, I recently heard grumblings from contact center professionals that Lucyphone is causing some disruption.

When consumers use Lucyphone on the web or as a smartphone app, they select a customer service number from a huge directory of companies that has been provided to them. They may be calling the right company, but is it the right number? Not always. So, despite your company’s efforts to route consumers to the best skilled resource on the first call, they may become frustrated when they need to be transferred around the organization.

Next, after Lucy makes the call on the consumer’s behalf, he or she is directed through your company’s IVR menus where a PIN code, claim number or credit card number may be required to proceed. What happens to this information? With Lucy basically conferenced into the call, is it possible that she’s collecting and storing this private information? Is the consumer knowingly or unknowingly trading privacy for convenience? While I doubt the Oristian brothers have nefarious intentions, consider that the outsider who hacks into Lucy’s brain might. But if your company offered a virtual queuing solution that was fully integrated with the contact center, wouldn’t the consumer have the benefit of both privacy and convenience? In addition, when consumers are transferred to a holding queue, they tell Lucy to stay on the line for them and then hang up. She calls them back when it’s their turn to speak with a rep. Lucy detects when she’s reached a customer service agent and tells the agent to “hold on” while she calls back the customer and patches them through. But does Lucy drop off the call? Or is Lucy listening and recording everything being said? I don’t know for sure but the thought is frightening.

If you’re able to get comfortable with the possibility of identity theft, then Lucyphone is an awesome time-saver, right? Well, for the customer, yes, but what about for your company? To an agent, this process of waiting for Lucy to get your customer on the line is falsely accruing as “talk time” — a metric by which many agents are measured to ensure high performance. So, is it possible that Lucy is skewing agent stats and affecting agent performance bonus? Yes, it’s possible…and not fair to them, either. The exaggerated talk time also distorts the information input into workforce management systems that are designed to help contact center professionals make better staffing decisions, meet caller demand and better serve customers. It’s possible that by skewing this data, Lucy may result in poorer customer service in the long run for customers, and reduced satisfaction with call center interactions.

In addition, while Lucy waits on hold instead of the caller, toll minutes are still being accrued. When an integrated virtual queuing solution is used, no toll minutes accrue during the wait for a return call. Companies such as Southwest Airlines who deployed a fully integrated virtual queuing system from Virtual Hold Technology last year, saved 47 years of hold time in just 9 months. That’s just one of the reasons why the solution typically pays for itself in about one year.

I like disruptive technologies like Lucyphone because they bring to light real problems that consumers are now facing. However, there are better ways to handle this problem than to leave it in the hands of your customer and a third-party. Hold time is best addressed when your company collaborates with its customers. To improve customer relations and increase loyalty, the two groups should work together to identify the gap in the business process and then bridge the gap with a solution that seamlessly integrates with your existing systems, ensures privacy and efficiently and cost-effectively handles customer service requests, delivering the best customer experience and the highest possible customer satisfaction.

Eric Camulli
As Vice President for 7signal, Eric is focused on helping organizations bring high quality and highly productive experiences to people using Wi-Fi networks everywhere. In today's connected economy, our dependency on robust, reliable Wi-Fi is paramount. Eric is dedicated to ensuring that companies deliver peak wireless performance so that they can compete in a marketplace exploding with wireless devices.

1 COMMENT

  1. Eric,

    Interesting thoughts here. As disruptive entrepreneurs, we are well aware of the fact that no good deed goes unpunished 🙂 . That being said, we would love to share our perspective on some of the issues highlighted in this blog post.

    First, the issue of privacy. As our privacy policy states, Lucy is not listening to or recording your phone conversations. The core mission of our consumer offering (LucyPhone.com and the iPhone app — Android app on the way !) is to empower the consumer in their customer service dealings. We would be foolish to undermine this core mission by invading our user’s privacy.

    Secondly, the issue of security/vulnerability. VoIP/SIP, as with any technology, is only as secure as the environment in which it is deployed. We have complete confidence in our security architecture and our ability to deliver on our privacy policy.

    Thirdly, you mention that companies are grumbling about LucyPhone. Our experience has been quite the contrary. In fact, some companies have made “Lucy-friendliness” a formal policy for their agents. It makes customers happier and the 5 – 20 sec callback time is often more than compensated by a more pleasant customer, ready to transact without need of an apology for their hold time. New features we’re unveiling include making good functional use of this short period of the CSR’s time. Stay tuned!

    What VHT has done in the virtual queueing space is certainly laudable. However, many contact centers these days have complex and disaggregated environments which necessitate an “outside-in” solution like our enterprise LucyPhone offering. Our efforts are always aligned with maximizing the efficiency of contact centers and leveraging VoIP technology to achieve telco savings, thereby creating ROI. All in a SaaS format. This minimizes the initial capital outlay associated with more complex internal solutions.

    We certainly are brethren in the effort to improve the customer experience. Whether companies choose to implement Virtual Hold technology or a solution like ours, in the end the consumer wins, and that’s a good thing.

    Eric, by the way, if you don’t yet have an iPad, consider using LucyPhone to make your next customer service call – you might win if you save the most hold time on a single call! Hurry up – only through Labor Day.

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