Magazine article Business Credit

Managing the Voice Channel

Magazine article Business Credit

Managing the Voice Channel

Article excerpt

Have you seen the new AIG commercial that promises every inbound call will be answered by a real, live human? AIG's pitch is just an early glimpse of an accelerating, inescapable trend that will soon crash like a tsunami onto every customer-facing business on the planet.

To be blunt, when customers or prospects call you, they want to speak with a living, breathing person. They are looking for interaction, not automation.

Customer relationships are built on trust. A primary objective of CRM is creating deeper, tighter bonds between you and your customers. It just doesn't make sense to let a machine handle the first contact between you and a new customer. It makes even less sense to allow machines to handle critical interactions with your established customers.

"The sound of a real human voice is unique, unmistakable and precious," says John Stapleton, CEO of Who's Calling. "In certain business situations, there is no substitute for a live human voice on the telephone."

Live voice telephony is especially critical for organizations that sell or market big-ticket items with short sales cycles, such as automobiles, apartments, mortgages, and even cosmetic surgery. "Consumers tend to perceive these items as commodities. At the same time, they expect a very high level of contact with a knowledgeable salesperson within a very brief span of time," Stapleton says.

"When customers call you on the phone they expect a positive experience. One wrong word from you and they're calling one of your competitors," he says. "If you're running a customer-facing business, you must be prepared to interact with your customers in real-time, whether they approach you via the Internet or the telephone."

For example, up to 30 percent of inbound calls to automobile dealers are unanswered, trapped in voicemail, or handled so poorly by the person who answers that the caller hangs up. "Imagine the lost revenue that could be recovered with a follow-up call from a trained sales representative," Stapleton says. "We're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars annually."

Stapleton isn't just a voice in the wilderness. CRM guru Martha Rogers agrees--up to a point. …

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