I am unlikely to be alone in hoping that my bank – which seems to have outsourced its helpdesk operations to some distant, possibly hellishly hot place – will soon heed Clickatell’s call for a transformation in customer support.
The unsatisfied, frequently unserviced South African customer can but dream of a day when a combination of online chat and human agents, bot-driven interactions, smart machine learning and workflow automation transforms customer support.
Many an account holder longs for the day when they must no longer wait in a queue for ages or go through tedious identification processes every step of the way.
There is also a lot more than customers’ personal happiness at stake. According to the latest annual Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Survey, poor customer service costs South African businesses about R625 billion a year.
Clickatell, a company launched in South Africa in 2000 but now based in the U.S., says it has the solution. The company already provides products and services to more than 1,000 mobile phone carriers in 220 countries and territories comprising up to six billion mobile phone users.
It describes the new product, Clickatell Touch, as a “mobile front office, which integrates into your existing back office … It replaces traditional support methods with real-time communication and intelligent workflow communication”.
Deon van Heerden, Clickatell’s chief executive officer, told the African New Agency (ANA) on Tuesday that Clickatell Touch would “put the smile back on the customer’s face”.
He said the company’s solution, which combines online chat and bot-driven interactions, including the benefits of machine learning, with workflow automation, was “the evolution of 15 years worth of insight into the complexities of business to consumer communications”.
“Customers have shifted the way they engage in the digital world. However, until now there was a gap in how big business was connecting with their mobile customers,” Van Heerden said.
“Touch not only closes that gap, it allows real-time, always-on connections which is transforming customer care.”
Consumers are used to communicating with one another in real time through a myriad of messaging apps. However, the majority of live business-to-consumer communications are still conducted through voice calls to call centres, business offices and agents.
“Customers dread the long wait times, tedious self-identification processes, dropped calls and other negative experiences,” said Van Heerden.
“For businesses, this negative customer experience translates into poor customer satisfaction scores, higher abandonment rate, increased churn and ultimately, missed revenue. And yet the solution to this lies in the hand of every customer. While we used to speak about Mobile First, we should be thinking Mobile Always.”
Clickatell, which works with some of the world’s largest brands including WhatsApp, Facebook, Visa, McKinsey & Company and IBM, says the new product incorporates three layers of technology.
Firstly, the Touch Chat platform allows agents to conduct three or more simultaneous chat interventions, resulting in a marked increase in efficiency, especially at peak call times. Although it is designed for mobile, there is also a web-based interface.
Secondly, bot support, incorporating machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies, sits beneath the chat platform. This allows immediate responses for routine queries. The bot is also able to self-learn from the interactions. Trickier cases are pushed to agents. However, the bot will keep monitoring the agent conversations and may suggest interventions.
Finally the technology allows for the creation of business flow mini applications, which appear in the chat stream to enable transactions. Examples include making appointments, invoicing, selecting products or features, cost estimation and completing a purchase.
Importantly the technology is designed to integrate with existing systems.
“This is not a rip and replace installation. Clickatell will work with our clients to integrate the system, ensuring it augments the complete customer support ecosystem within the organisation,” Nirmal Nair, head of products at Clickatell said.
“Together, these three services form a powerful layer over the existing enterprise applications,” he said.
The technology is designed for rapid, lightweight deployment and low ongoing operational costs with no additional in-house software or hardware required.
I, for one, am happy to hold for this. But not forever …
– African News Agency (ANA)