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[24]7.ai Executive Interview

Kathy Juve, CMO, [24]7.ai

How You Can Keep Callers from Losing it with Your Agents… and Stop Losing Customers to Poor Service   

People have a lower level of tolerance for poor customer service than previously, leading many to sever their relationship with a brand if they don’t feel appreciated. According to the data from a recent Customer Engagement Index by engagement solution provider [24]7, 4 out of 5 respondents surveyed would leave a company within a week of receiving poor customer service – while half would leave the same day!      

The survey explored how much and how little it takes to push a customer out the door and the reasons they head for the exit.  survey highlights.   

According to Kathy Juve, CMO of [24]7, the main factor driving customers over the edge is unsatisfactory self-service options. “Everyone uses multiple channels to communicate with companies. Frustration occurs when customers can’t get the answers they need, and have to search multiple times,” she said. “For the first time, more than half of customers (54%) are starting out on self-service channels rather than calling. If they need to continue their journey on the phone, they often encounter a legacy IVR that doesn’t provide the help they need.” When their issue requires escalation to a live agent, unhappy customers often vent their frustration by heaping verbal abuse on the rep.   

An ineffective IVR is a critical obstacle, but one that Juve believes can be eliminated. “Companies need to develop the right self-service strategies from both a technical and customer-focused standpoint,” she noted. “They have to think about their existing infrastructure and make it more relevant to meet customer needs.”   

Increasing the availability and efficiency of chat to improve engagement is one solution advocated by Juve. But that requires additional planning and better execution. “Too many expect existing agents to be able to toggle between voice and chat and that doesn’t usually work,” she said. “In order to properly adopt chat solutions, you have to address operational problems on the back end, modernize them to allow for better call shifting and provide agents with the information they need to resolve issues.”    

“Companies can achieve cost reductions by implementing chat. However, the savings of one third is not realistic,” said Juve. “While some chat solutions resolve 40% or less of customer issues, we find that 90% are solved using our solution.” One reason behind this success rate is that the company text mines 100% of chats, using their Big Data capabilities to learn more about the process and help drive improved performance.    

Predictive solutions are a tool in improving IVR systems, by helping to determine a caller's intent in real-time and taking the correct action based on a comprehensive view of an individual customer’s behavior and journey across channels. In [24]7 Speech, natural language combines with prediction to engage customers in more focused conversations. [24]7’s Vivid Speech offers additional multi-modal capabilities for mobile IVR interactions including enabling speech, touch, and visual display “Having an IVR connected to the web is a critical starting point,” said Juve.   

Effective virtual agent (VA) programs enable companies to automate the process of delivering accurate answers to customer questions posed across a variety of interaction channels. “Virtual agents can be connected to chat and the web to reduce call volume. These are good first steps in channel pairing, and then the next channels can be connected. Companies can deliver a true omni-channel experience within 18 months,” she said. Virtual agent technology is a growing area of focus for [24]7, particularly since the company acquired VA specialist IntellliResponse late last year.   

One area that she feels has been neglected in making improvements is design. “Companies aren’t always fully cognizant of the importance of good design in the success of self-service applications. Graphic elements such as color, look and feel, and placement can make a real difference in customer perception and ultimately, in how much these applications are used,” said Juve.  “We have a staff of 15 to 20 design professionals to optimize chat placement on a client’s website as well as enhance the usability of self-service options and visual IVR responses.”   

Organizations do not have to scrap their existing technology to benefit from [24]7 customer engagement solutions. “Having a system that only connects to our technology is not practical,” said Juve. The company has a core group of pre-sales specialists, with deep previous experience in the verticals  they serve, to initiate qualified conversations on the improvements in selected metrics that potential clients want to see. “Ninety percent of all parameters are known before a contract is signed,” said Juve. “We also have a large professional services group whose implementation assistance is bundled into our agreements. You’d be amazed at how efficient we can be with our time when it’s all included.”    

The company has a policy of outcome-based pricing, and is compensated based on results achieved. “We feel entirely comfortable incorporating improvements of a minimum of 10% in NPS into our contracts. In some cases, we’ve helped drive improvements as high as 25%.” [24]7 believes that solutions should be channel agnostic, providing back end information that is independent of the channel and are journey-aware, irrespective of the channel. Big Data comes into the picture again in helping them develop complete solutions encompassing VAs, chat and live agents.”  

What is the most salient advice Juve can offer to companies seeking to stop alienating, and ultimately losing, customers?  “Beef up self-service,” she counsels. “Whether it’s your IVR or web options, you have to offer customers better self-service than your competition.”