Friday, January 15, 2010

Google Nexus - the need for a contact centre

Google is generally seen as a very slick operation, which is why this blog is more than a bit surprised to see them miss-step so badly on customer service for the new Google Nexus smartphone.

I understand fully that Google believes it can change the world, and (generally speaking) Google has been right so far that it's technology has changed things. On customer service, though, there is more than a hint of arrogance in Google's idea that customer service should be done the way Google does things, not the way customers want to do them.

Most consumers want to know that their problem is being fixed and that the company takes it seriously. Offering customer service by e-mail and forum doesn't give that experience to customers. For a more technical user group running websites and so on, e-mail and forums can be more than adequate and very cost effective for Google. For a mass market product (even one target at early adopters) it seems to be a unique approach to support. I have no view on the volume of complaints, but headlines such as "Google Faces Deluge of Nexus One Complaints" in PC World hardly do Google any favours or suggest they understand the market they've just entered. Blogs have been even more direct, for example Gizmodo talks of "Nexus One's Lousy Customer Support Shows Google's Weakness".

It's been interesting to see that even web retailers like Amazon, who traditionally have driven as much support to the web or e-mail channels as possible, still see a significant role for the contact centre. It may not be the first level of customer service they offer, but once the first line has failed to resolve the question Amazon do see the need to provide real time, interactive service to customers. Voice is the ideal channel for this, with web chat a distant second and for both a contact centre is ideal.

What makes this particularly interesting as Google struggle with customer service, is the hint that Amazon might be moving into providing contact centre infrastructure for third parties. The story comes from Tech Flash " to sell call center service to other companies? " and wonders if Amazon is looking at customer service as a logical extension to the Amazon cloud services. Given Amazon is one of the leader is web services and these already include storage, relational databases and payment services, customer service would be a logical and very interesting addition.

It would be ironic if while all the attention was focused on Google's customer service failings, the real customer service cloud revolution was quietly taking place at Amazon....

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dimension Data Benchmarking Report 2009

I've always covered the The annual Cisco & Dimension Data Speech survey but I've not focused so much on the Merchants contact Centre Benchmarking report. That's perhaps a mistake as a quick read of this summary of
the latest Dimension Data Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report would show. The report came out last week so this data on contact centre performance is hot off the press. Here are the some of the major themes and findings from 2009:

A MIXED BAG FOR OPERATIONAL PERFORMANCE - Looking at aggregated operational performance data always requires a degree of license. Overall, we would summarise this year’s operational performance as ‘mixed’ - there have definitely been no great strides forward or any significant decline in standards.

CALL VOLUMES STILL ON THE RISE - Overall call volumes have risen slightly this year, contradicting predictions of the demise of contact centres as self service and contact avoidance initiatives are developed. Growth in call volumes is more pronounced in emerging markets. Since the onset of the Global Economic Crisis there has been a clear shift in the reasons for customer contact.

COMPLEXITY FOR AGENTS - Average Handle Times have continued to creep up but we believe that this is largely down to the migration of the simpler, commoditised transactions to self service channels which continues to increase. This obviously leads to front line agents having to handle more complex interactions that often require a greater degree of empathy, communication skills and access to the relevant information.

STILL WORK TO DO ON MANAGEMENT INFORMATION - Management Information (MI) reported at board level under the guise of Strategic MI is still too focused on service levels. Instead of focusing on the inner workings of the operation, strategic MI focuses on outcomes. We believe this is an issue across the industry and we are still measuring the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

PROCESS OPTIMISATION REMAINS PRIMARY FOCUS - From a customer and agent perspective, the ongoing trend towards more End-to-End Process Automation is good news. Through increasing the number of processes that can be handled within contact centres, hand-offs will reduce as will operational costs.

OUTSOURCING STILL A COST DECISION - While we continue to see the role of outsourcing maturing, the top three reasons for outsourcing are all cost related. Cost remains the biggest driver for adopting an outsourcing strategy, but it is encouraging to see results that indicate a more balanced approach to outsourcing decisions.

CUSTOMER LIFETIME VALUE IS BACK ON THE RADAR - Over the past 12 months there has been a positive indicator trend suggesting that organisations are looking to improve the way they show how Customer Lifetime Value is impacted by customer interactions taking place in the contact centre.

CHANNELS ARE STILL TOO SILOED -Organisations are still not using customer insight across the organisation. It’s a clear and disappointing indicator of the extent of the challenge facing the industry to deliver a joined up end-to-end experience.

WHY NOT MEASURE COST PER INTERACTION? - A third of all contact centres report that they do not measure the cost per interaction of agent assisted telephone calls. When you consider that this is the most accurate means of determining the cost effectiveness of an operation, it is a worrying trend that we have not seen improve in recent years.

SEGMENTATION BECOMES MORE SOPHISTICATED (BUT FEWER PEOPLE ARE DOING IT) - More companies are using increasingly sophisticated methods of segmenting and differentiating their customers. There appears to be a very real desire to generate more value from customer interactions. What is worrying though, is the drop in the number of companies using segmentation.

HOME-WORKING BECOMES A REALITY - The number of home-working agents is generally growing in more mature markets across the globe. A large proportion of respondents are considering home-working, signifying a major shift in approach to employee management, where benefits include lower staff turnover and cost, improved productivity and reduced travel through the use of technology.

HOSTING AND ‘ON-DEMAND’ BECOMES MAINSTREAM - Most contact centres are still owned and managed within the organisation. The number of centres owned by organisations continues to drop year on year. With hosted technologies more secure and easier to manage than in the past, we expect to see an increase in the number of hosted centres due to the economic climate and convenience of the technology.

All very interesting, and probably well worth getting the full report from the Dimension Data/ Merchants site.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Bank Leumi introduces biometric password re-sets for online banking

An interesting story about Bank Leumi on Finextra just before Christmas.

It seems that Bank Leumi will be using voice biometrics for password re-sets for online banking. There are a couple of interesting things about this.

The first is that password re-sets are an absolute pain for helpdesks and similar types of contact centre. Depending on whether this is an internal helpdesk for an organisation or an external facing one, password re-sets can be anything from 50%-70% of the call traffic. The two follow on problems from this call volume are that password re-set is an expensive thing for IT technicians to be spending most of their time on and that they represent a significant potential security risk.

It is this security risk that is the other area of interest. Passwords authenticate you based on what you know, not who you are. Re-setting a password changes that, as it potentially makes the password available to an identity thief. The blog has covered a number of examples of identity theft (this theft from Barclays in 2008 using the identity of Barclays own chairman being a particular case in point) and the vulnerability is obvious.

In theory, biometrics removes some of this risk as it is focused on who you are and not on what you know. In practice things are not so straight forward and this is partly why biometic adoption has been more limited than might be expected. For more detail on the limitations, here's been some good posts on Finextra see "Biometrics - what's that all about then?" by Dave Griffiths and "Who's in your Wallet?" by Jarvis Kandik from 2008.

In Europe I've tended to see biometric deployments mostly for internal password re-sets. A good example that I know of is AIB and VoiceVault who have piloted password resets for staff. The key thing here is that the staff are in a controlled, secure environment and so the biometrics is effectively only one part of a multi-factor and multi-layer authentication.

This is what makes the Bank Leumi example so interesting. I haven't before seen biometrics used directly for consumer authentication for something as sensitive as banking.

I have seen quite widespread use of biometrics outside of Europe and the US and especially for areas like welfare benefits. I got a fair amount of comment to my blog post "BBC Moneybox on Speech Recognition for banking " back in February with examples of biometrics in use from the Philippines (interstingly using PerSay, as does Bank Leumi).

Depending on how the Bank Leumi deployment foes, I may need to revise my last post on the subject "Where are Speech Biometrics in Europe?..... and the Your Call Blog "....!