A Toronto-based company wants to change how businesses approach modern-day customer support by helping them incorporate social media and mobile technologies as communication channels.
There are challenges to interactive voice response (IVR) systems – which detect voice and keypad inputs – because of dialects, accents and background noise, explained David Suydam, president with Architech Solutions Consulting Services Inc.
IVR systems became popular several years ago in an effort to take the load off human operators and allow customers more flexibility in their options. “We are suggesting you can do the same with social media,” said Suydam.
Architect Solutions’ Multichannel Switchboard allows customer support centres to funnel and manage requests from mobile devices and a variety of social media like text and instant messages. Customer requests may be dealt with entirely via text messaging for instance, but wherever necessary, certain issues may continue with a live operator. “It allows (customers) to converse with the organization and have that conversation in whatever channel they may decide to initiate it on,” said Suydam.
Another advantage, said Suydam, is that while IVR systems are setup in such a way that customers have little time to consider their questions, social media channels, being “inherently asynchronous,” afford the user time to phrase the right question.
“Many large companies are looking at social media channels and the promise of being able to reach these communities,” said Suydam. But the problem, he added, is figuring out how to support those channels from an operational and cost perspective.
The Multichannel Switchboard works best in call centre environments like banking and telecommunications, where the product or service is somewhat complex, said Suydam.
Toronto-based IDC Research Ltd. recently released its technology predictions for 2010, one of which was the rationalization of traditional banking systems and a move away from maintaining physical bank branches as a point of customer contact.
Vito Mabrucco, senior vice-president of IDC Canada’s worldwide consulting practice, said customers want “personalized contacts available any time, any place” that are based on social networking habits.
Not surprisingly, said Suydam, the huge growth in social media and mobile technologies is fuelling changes in environments like banking. While they started out as brick-and-mortar branches, banking services have since moved to ATMs and phone systems, and now to self-service channels and Web sites, said Suydam.
That said, Suydam added, changes in banking are still primarily focused on transactions like checking account balances, not so much customer question-and-answer scenarios. But that will change, he said.