Singapore's StarHub launches social media facility


Singapore telco StarHub has renewed its efforts in utilising social media customer service by launching a social media monitoring facility.

The facility, called Social Hub, will use a CRM solution that integrates various social media monitoring tools into a common dashboard to make it easier to track response times. The telco previously manually monitored and replied to customer queries across different platforms.

Social Hub uses 10 social media listening experts and customer care consultants who decide "when and how to reply to a query or a complaint on Facebook, to tracking where in Singapore mobile, pay TV or broadband connections are affected through location-tagged tweets, Social Hub delivers the data we need," said StarHub's Darren Choo.

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Queensland utility Ergon Energy has upgraded its customer service IT with a new program from Canadian IT company Pulse Energy.

Ergon Energy will use the cloud-based Pulse Platform as a key component in its retail product strategy. It will allow Ergon to provide business customers with improved insight into their energy usage through personalised emailed reports and an integrated web portal.

The solution will offer specific actions that customers can take to increase their energy efficiency and run their businesses better. "The customer interest in the Pulse Energy service has been very positive to date," said Ergon's Lisa McDonald. "The Pulse Platform sets us apart from other energy service providers and the information and detail provided certainly hits the mark with customers." more

Global life insurance provider ACE Life has partnered with Thailand's AEON Insurance Service to market life, personal accident and health insurance products via a Thai-based outbound contact center.

ACE Life Asia Pacific regional president Kevin Goulding said that Thailand is one of the core markets for the company in inAsia Pacific and the partnership with AEON signifies a milestone in firm's strategy to expand distribution channels. "Committed to strive for better service to our customers, we aim to deliver value added financial protection solutions to our Thai customers," Goulding added.

Following the opening of ACE Life Telemarketing Call Center at Ted's House Building, customers can now conveniently purchase life insurance over the phone. ACE Life Assurance Public Company country president Sally O'Hara said: "We are delighted to be partnering with AEON Insurance Service (Thailand) to provide innovative life insurance products to AEON Thana Sinsap (Thailand) PLC's customer base." With operations in 54 countries, the company provides commercial and personal property and casualty insurance, personal accident and supplemental health insurance, reinsurance and life insurance to different group of clients. more

Speech recognition technology is more pervasive than ever. Smart TVs, smart phones, computers and even cars are rolling off the production lines with voice-activated interfaces. Technology giant Google is putting it at the core of its search-engine technology, while Apple is putting it wherever people need it, thanks to the iPhone's voice-activated personal assistant, Siri. You'd be justified in thinking speech technology is the most ground-breaking invention of the 21st century.

Except that speech technology isn't new. It's been deployed by leading contact centres for over a decade in the form of Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology. So have we gone back to the future? Or is consumer technology driving speech technology to new heights, and leaving businesses behind?

Whichever way you look at it, one thing is clear: unlike consumer technology leaders, many companies still aren't fully exploiting the potential of IVR technology to power a better customer experience, and improve their contact centre's performance.

And with apps like Siri raising the bar on a daily basis, this is more important than ever.

The chicken or the egg?

What few people realise when they ask Siri to set their alarm, schedule their next appointment or call their loved ones, is that they are interacting with a technology that's existed long before Apple put it in their pockets.

Speech technology can be traced back to the 50s and 60s, at the height of the Cold War, when the USA, Japan, Britain and the Soviet Union were secretly beavering away at speech recognition hardware to boost their defences. But it was contact centres that introduced it to the masses. In fact Siri itself is powered by a computer software provider that develops technology and algorithms for IVR platforms for contact centres.

So why the sudden renewed interest in speech recognition technology? It comes down in part to the rapid evolution of computing capabilities and mobile communication. Now more than ever, enterprises are realising the potential of speech technology to make things happen.

A Question of Trust

Siri and its Android counterparts have allowed speech technology to reach people on a more personal level by becoming part of their everyday lives. This helps set the stage for a generation that is more accepting of, and comfortable interacting with, an automated voice system. After all, if they put in the effort to interact with the technology, the thinking is that they will benefit in the form of increased productivity. And with acceptance comes trust, which is good news for businesses using IVR technology – but only if they use it well.

The same trust callers feel when asking Siri to organise their lives should form the foundation of their interactions with your contact centre. But currently, their trust is being undermined by substandard IVR technology solutions. From the user's point of view, traditional IVRs often don't deliver a benefit. They follow the often complex and misleading instructions, but don't receive much or any reward for their efforts. Instead, menus and sub menus can act like a virtual prison for customers, resulting in up to a third of all calls answered by traditional IVRs being sent to the wrong place. For the caller, this defeats the whole purpose of the traditional IVR – after all, their reason for being is to ensure you speak to a specialist who can address your issue.

Great Expectations

At the same time, Siri and friends have laid down the gauntlet for businesses. They have not only made speech systems more accessible and familiar to users, they've also raised consumers' expectations. Today's consumers are acutely aware of the full potential of speech technology – how it can get their questions answered faster, provide trustworthy navigation, and generally make their lives easier.

This expectation translates directly to your contact centre. When customers call your contact centre and are greeted by IVR technology, they expect the technology to be used to deliver an effortless experience, one that will result in their queries being directed to the right place, quickly and seamlessly. It's difficult to say whether these “great expectations” are being driven by speech recognition technologies such as Siri, or whether they are part of the overall higher expectations today's consumers have when it comes to customer experience. Consumers are paying closer attention to brands, examining which brands work for long-term relationships and which are after a quick win. They expect more from every interaction – more personalised service, more value, more convenience. Whichever way we look at it, for contact centres the implications are the same: improving the ability for their customers to reach the right person as quickly as possible on the phone is a priority to achieve ongoing consumer satisfaction.

With powerful technology comes great responsibility. Consumer technology leaders are driving speech technology to exciting new heights, and it's time for contact centres to do the same. Only then can you expect to deliver precisely the kind of customer experience that will set your business apart from its competitors. more

Dr Catriona Wallace defines Customer Experience Strategy. more


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