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CXO: Chief Experience Officer: Does Your Organization Have One?
[April 03, 2006]

CXO: Chief Experience Officer: Does Your Organization Have One?

By TMCnet Special Guest
 
TMCnet Enterprise and Contact Center Communications Columnist.
 
Advances in telecommunication technologies and convergence around IP are presenting much more of a challenge for the enterprise these days. This is especially true at the user or customer level in achieving an enriched and positive communication experience – and is where a Chief Experience Officer or similar empowered executive can make all the difference.
 
In most organizations the current reality for improving enterprise communications is thru discussions among various department executives (operations / contact center, IT, marketing, sales, finance, etc.) until specific initiatives for improvement coalesce. These initiatives may be over-arching, as with Customer Relationship Management (CRM), or focused on specific systems and applications.

 
From a practical standpoint the staff and customer experience revolves primarily around user interface (UI) design, whether that is managing communications from the telephone, desktop or a mobile device. Much of the UI design is based on vendor products. However, the actual experience, especially for your customers, is based on unique – and preferably innovative – enterprise implementations and custom applications.
 
To customers, partners and staff, it’s more to do with effective applications
 
In preparing for this column I queried one of those department executives I mentioned earlier. His reply was to “…include a discussion on ‘effectiveness’. I am assuming you would talk about the importance of designing (user and) customer contact applications to meet specific business objectives, rather than just move calls through from a production standpoint”. 
 
Efficiency, which equates to individual and group productivity, is primarily about making it easier to move calls (contacts) thru the organization. Effectiveness equates to quality relative to getting things right the first time and meeting or exceeding the expectations of the communicator, particularly from a customer’s point of view.
 
 
Efficient communications
 
Enterprise communications is being made more efficient through IP and a combination of physical vs. logical design, virtualization, presence etc. Telecommunication architectures now include both voice-data and fixed-mobile convergence. In and of themselves these factors may or may not be reason enough to make any near term changes to your systems. That said, however, there probably are opportunities to consolidate individual communication servers and applications. Such changes also make it easier (via IP and improved user interfaces) for staff to make changes to applications on-the-fly and perform administrative functions, including better reports to upper management. Employees can more easily place or receive calls and have contextual data available during person-to-person and collaborative sessions. But the actual communications and the applications may not necessarily be effective.
 
The importance of effective systems and applications
 
What’s important to customers is to help them satisfy a need or resolve a problem quickly and on the first contact, whether that is thru self-service or an agent. This is also the goal of enterprise executives.
 
The tools that organizations use have moved to at least some form of IP communications in their environment vis-à-vis the Intranet / Internet, but most maintain stand-alone voice application servers that are adjuncts to legacy PBX or hybrid telephone systems. These applications include automated attendant / call distribution, voice mail, and interactive voice response (IVR). Such applications are the first step in the communications experience with the organization.
 
Voice and Web self-service
 
Automated attendant / call distribution and voice mail / unified messaging can be topics of future discussion.  Let’s look a little closer at IVR, or voice self-service applications and how they came to be. When IVR technology first became available and applications were being deployed (in the pre-internet era), the development process was typically dictated by the vendor after the sale. An application engineer was assigned and the first item on the project schedule was for the customer to provide a script and flow chart! Customer staff including call center agents would be assigned. Understandably, in most cases they had no knowledge of self-service best practices and methodologies. Oftentimes they would review other IVR applications at peer organizations or other enterprises, and develop their own application in the same fashion. These applications did, for the most part, provide the necessary efficiencies in handling calls and peaks in traffic. But it should not be surprising that many of these applications were not always effective in terms of customer satisfaction, and in general have become the brunt of critical media attention.
 
There are scientific studies conducted by telecom industry experts that include the use of video clips of users. These ongoing studies indicate a compelling need for improvement in most enterprise self-service applications. There are specific critical success factors that can be analyzed in determining an applications’ effectiveness, and there are companies that provide these services over and beyond what many vendors now offer thru their professional services.  Self-service applications designed with Automated Speech Recognition (ASR) require an additional set of expertise, which can similarly augment or supersede a vendor’s services.
 
Interactive web response (IWR) or web self-service applications have been deployed using Hyper-text Markup Language (HTML) and Extensible Markup Language (XML) for customer specific data interaction via a web browser. As with IVR, IWR applications were oftentimes implemented without knowledge of critical design considerations, best practices and human factors.
 
Early IWR systems used the back-end host database integration of legacy IVR systems to pass customer-specific data to the IWR application, which replicated the same functions as the IVR system. However, with the emergence of Voice XML (VXML) as an accepted industry standard, this function reversed. IWR systems now feed back to the IVR, since the IWR application is more elaborate via its persistent media-rich user interface, so IVR systems now function as a subset.
 
IP enables new and more cost-effective communications
 
Other established telecommunication standards such as Session Initiated Protocol (SIP) and SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions (SIMPLE), enable real-time multi-media communications over IP, including toll quality voice, in the same way that Hyper-text Transfer Protocol (HTTP) provides the exchange of files over IP either within the enterprise or via the Internet. The fact that these two capabilities can now be combined over the same network for voice and data provides opportunities for new and more effective self-service applications.
 
Who’s in charge of the user experience in your enterprise
 
...the call center manager; someone in the IT department; the CIO; the CEO? 
 
Your comments, questions and ideas are welcome: elabanca@collabgen.com
 
Ed LaBanca is President & Principal Analyst for CollabGen Inc. He works with CXO's, executives and department managers to improve communications and customer service in contact centers and across the enterprise. Consulting services include technology and applications audit, systems and process analysis, design, request for proposals, evaluations and project management.

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