Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Human - Machine Interaction, When and Why.

A new report from Nortel and BT, "Fragvergence: Changing Consumer Attitudes to Diverse Contact Channels", has found that there is actually a good consumer reaction to getting an automated message, in the right context.

They ran both a quantitative survey of 1,018 on U.S. and U.K. consumers and a qualitative set of in-depth interviews with consumers (how many of those, they don't say in the release, and I am waiting on the full report).

- 71 percent of U.S. and U.K. consumers would be happy to receive a call that used voice recognition to inform them that their plane, train or bus would be late.

- 80 percent reported that they would look favorably on automated calls that informed them of the time of delivery of goods to their homes.

Gee, shock horror. VoiceSage is doing this day in day out for leading brand name companies in the UK right now, today.

The report goes on to say that the end user would be happy for the company to use Voice Recognition if it reduced cost, and of course this cost was passed on to the consumer. Really? Customers are interested in better service at lower cost? I must read on.

They point out that American's are much more likely to like automated IVR, for reasons that remain unexplored in the PR Release, but may, just may have something to do with other research which shows that the American public would rather talk to a machine than someone from the Philippines.

But the report does strike some interesting notes: for instance, many product decisions are now "de-facto" service decisions. When I buy a laptop I am comparing various technical specifications against my belief in the brand, and my expectations as to the probable level of service I will receive if/when something goes wrong. This is an excellent point that is somewhat lost in the overall release.

They also draw our attention to the finding that:

Customers appear to have stark preferences on which channels they wish to use for different services. For financial services, for instance, 56 percent of U.S. respondents and half of U.K. respondents welcomed voice recognition for checking their account balance. Only 12 percent and 13 percent respectively liked the idea of setting up the direct debit using IVR

Now there is a very simple "work around" to that and it is "don't expect completely new to the service customers to sign up on an automated system, but instead, connect them through to an excellent call center agent?" I can also let you in on another little secret, VoiceSage is helping companies (Telco's, Utilities, Financials) to use outbound Interactive Voice Messaging to collect payments every single day, and our customer satisfaction and feedback rates are very positive. 

In fairness Andrew Small, head of CRM capability, BT Global Services, says in the statement "Our research showed that consumer preferences are both particular to the sector and also the application being used.” With this I would agree absolutely, and that is why you should do business with someone who understands that process.

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