Contact Centers Ignore Voice at Their Own Peril

In today’s customer experience environment, it is easy for contact center executives to get overwhelmed by the plethora of channels.  Certainly, supporting end-users with the communications medium of their choosing is important, as is keeping up with the latest in interaction platforms.  But enterprises and outsourcers must not let themselves forget that the foundation of most contact centers is its voice capabilities, because a failure to properly support this interface means angry consumers, lost business, and eroded loyalty.

Sometimes, things that appear obsolete in modern society come full circle, much to the surprise of the chattering classes. Take this example – who, apart from perhaps John Cusack, would have ever predicted that audio cassettes would make a strong rebound in 2017? In the customer experience management space, the death of voice has long been predicted, but the resiliency of this medium has been pronounced.  True, there has been a significant growth in the omnipresence of digital channels as a means of consumers communicating with enterprises from which they buy goods and services. But for so many end-users, voice remains their go-to option for resolving an issue.

In fact, the most recent Ryan Strategic Advisory Front-Office Omnibus Survey indicated that more than three-out-of-five workstations in North America, the UK and Australia were wired exclusively for voice interaction management.  This is hardly the sign of a dying channel.

That said, both enterprises and their BPO partners must do what they can to make the voice experience a relevant one, which ensures strong end-user satisfaction for all callers.  For starters, the need to maintain the highest standards around training cannot be overstated.  Stories abound among consumers of poor telephone interactions that ended up costing loyalty and long-term revenues.  Sadly, with the right investments in best-practice techniques around consumer management, these situations could easily have been avoided.  Equally, ensuring that agents can access technology interfaces that permit a seamless flow during voice interactions is also essential, but so often missed in today’s contact center environment.

Any discussion around voice delivery must also weigh demographics.  There is a school of thought in which many feel that it is only older people who choose to use conventional voice-based service, while younger generations want to only interface using digital mediums.  While there is some validity to these arguments, contact center professionals cannot assume them to be written in stone.  Given the opportunity, younger people will use the telephone, especially if it suits their specific objective. An example of this was when musical artist DNCE previewed their hit single “Kissing Strangers” over the telephone, allowing fans to hear a snippet of the song and to leave a message for the band.  According to Spotify, they received in excess of eleven thousand calls in the first day, the bulk coming almost certainly from millennials.

The bottom line is that voice has always been the basis for contact centers and it is likely to remain the largest single channel for most organizations for the foreseeable future. In-house contact center decision-makers and BPO executives cannot lose site of this interaction medium’s importance, and the imperative to keep a laser focus on maintaining quality voice service.  The alternative will only result in eroded loyalty and lost business.