• November 1, 2009
  • By Leonard Klie Editor, Speech Technology and CRM magazines
  • FYI

Preference Low for Voice Channels

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When dealing with companies, U.S. and U.K. customer preference for online channels has doubled in the past four years, while preference for speech-activated menu systems has waned, according to a recent customer scorecard from Convergys.

The research, which included 3,000 enterprise customers, found that only 4 percent of U.S. customers and 2 percent of U.K. customers prefer speech-activated menu systems as their first choice when dealing with companies; 10 percent of U.S. customers and 6 percent of U.K. customers identified speech systems as their second choice.

Not surprisingly, speaking with a live agent was still the top choice by a wide margin, with 68 percent of U.S. customers and 63 percent of U.K. customers expressing that preference. In both countries, only automated keypad/touch-tone phone menu systems scored lower than voice, taking a 3 percent share in the United States and a 2 percent share in the United Kingdom.

Among the other channels:

  • A company Web site that provides answers to customer service questions is preferred by 10 percent of U.S. customers and 13 percent of U.K. customers; 
  • Live email chat with a customer service representative via a company Web site is preferred by 9 percent of American consumers and 8 percent of British consumers; and
  • Email assistance with a response is preferred by 6 percent in the U.S. and 12 percent in the U.K.

The one positive for the speech industry is that customers place a very high value on first-contact resolution (no matter the channel), even if that means going through an automated system. In fact, 65 percent of U.S. customers and 58 percent of U.K. customers said they would prefer to use an automated solution just once to resolve their issues versus multiple contacts with a live person. In both countries, 55 percent also said they would prefer to use an automated solution rather than waiting on hold to speak to a live person.

According to the research, when customers contact a company for service, they care about two things: whether the front-line employee is knowledgeable and whether the problem can be resolved on the first call. Yet few companies actually use those as metrics when shaping their customer satisfaction strategies or as metrics to see whether they are meeting customer satisfaction goals, Convergys’ president and CEO, Dave Dougherty, wrote in a recent Harvard Business Review article. 

Speech technologies, particularly interactive surveys, behavioral data collected through self-service channels, and recorded customer-agent conversations, can play a vital role in helping companies gauge their customer satisfaction levels, Dougherty wrote.

Dougherty further argued that companies need to provide consistently high-quality interactions between customers and front-line employees. Though such interactions can be expensive, costs can be offset by, among other things, speech recognition for automated calls, he wrote.

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