When Self-Service Applications Fail to Deliver

Yesterday, while getting ready to fly back home from a meeting, I thought I would try a new auto-identification application the airline had installed some months back.  I'm normally a first adopter of anything that can make my life easier (Tivo, Roomba, etc.), but I had to wait a number of months to see this new offering mature.  So, I found myself with a few moments to register with the Web site and on the dial tool as well.  I put in my cell number, confirmed it and went off to call them to arrange my seating preference for the flight.

I phoned the 800 number and hit the first IVR prompt - asking for an agent immediately.  It responded with: "Hi, welcome to the tool (we'll keep it anonymous), I can confirm your online preferences if you like".  I'm instantly pleased!  It told me my name, I confirmed that I was in fact that person and answered a few other personalization questions and now I'm ready to get to that agent I so badly wanted.  I told it that I was in need of travel in the 50 states and I got routed off immediately.  I'm really happy.  

Next I hear the agent come on the line, my expectations are high, exciting building, and then.... She asks for my frequent flyer number.  I respond with a simple question of: "Didn't you get that on your screen when the call routed?"  I'm then told that no, I'm sorry, I didn't get that information, but I can help you - which in fact she did without issue.  But the fact of the matter was that I really wanted to see the technology work.  I mean inbound calling, coupled with number recognition, CTI integration to my profile, and a screen pop - that's just a simplistic application, but for those of us who travel and have had to deal with the background noise issues on speech recognition systems - it's a huge upgrade!

So, I decided to give it another try, after all, I know there's a ton of backend systems being deployed to get this all working.  So I phone again, this time it recognizes me immediately and indicates that I'm flying from airport ABC -- GREAT, I think.  I answer the question, that yes, that's correct and I want to speak to an agent.  My call gets routed, and again -- the agent has no clue who I am or what flight I'm calling about!  I'm deflated, disappointed.

The lesson here is that this is a great example of the customer experience failing the expected performance, and something that this particular airline will need to address for sure.  It's not enough to make me not travel with them, but still failed to hit the mark.

What's true today is that many contact centers are struggling to manage their OPEX and CAPEX in these troubled markets.   And moreover, many of them are using legacy voice systems from various vendors, ACD's from other vendors, CTI integration from yet, another -- you get the picture.  Again, not completely a bad thing, but quite complicated to deploy.  Why might you ask?  Most all of these systems have evolved over time and are standalone for all the right reasons, but lack a common integration language.  

We must evolve the architecture of the classic contact center, as customers expect more and are driving alternate vehicles for interacting with contact centers from instant messaging, voice, the Web, and even video.  Each of these can be seen as merely an application supporting the interaction type required, however, the various jigsaw pieces that are deployed in many contact centers today may not scale to support them.  Front ending these deployments with various pre-route treatment systems is not the answer to scale for the future for sure.  Contact center architectures must evolve and leverage a new set of technologies to support these changing interaction methods.  This will be even more true as the population of Gen Y'ers move to become mainstream purchasers, banking clients, etc - since they've grown up thinking differently.  This NET generation expects personalization to be ready for them, for systems to anticipate their needs. They're edgy, NET-ready.  Many even come with an optional wireless card embedded, making networking a snapwink

Over the coming weeks, we'll discuss how technology is evolving in the core of the communication systems and how that transformation is delivering on a new call center architecture possibility for consideration.  
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This page contains a single entry by Chris McGugan published on February 20, 2009 7:42 PM.

Realities of managing the customer experience in the contact center. was the previous entry in this blog.

The Evolving Contact Center Architecture is the next entry in this blog.

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