Self-Service and Social Media: the Future of the Customer Experience

Contributor:  Gina Scanlon
Posted:  01/27/2011  12:00:00 AM EST
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It’s always hard to give the last speech at a conference. Especially when participants are scurrying to the airport to make it home before a snowstorm.

But Vice President of Business Marketing for AT&T John Cushman and Director of Student Information Services at Central Piedmont Community College, Stuart Beame, stared the challenge in the face and rose the occasion in the last few hours of 2011’s Call Center Summit in Orlando.

Cushman, who has just recently switched to marketing from AT&T’s esales department, gave the audience health food for thought concerning not only how to best operate their call centers, but how to effectively manage their multi-channel access system. “Customers want it easy and they want it their way,” Cushman said. Choices are key.

Along with choices, self-service, he mentioned, was the way of the future for the customer experience, and a way to control call volumes, particularly with the younger generations. As much as many cringe at the following statement, it is nevertheless, inevitable. There will continue to be less call centers, and more web based service.

However, as Cushman enforced throughout his keynote, people and technology must continue to work together throughout this evolution.

AT&T has been successful in a few web-based tests, such as creating a virtual expert, ‘Kate,’ on their site to help guide people through troubleshooting. Site performance improved, even though the feature made the speed of the website slower. Cushman also mentioned an agent in the 25-35 year range who suggested they make a YouTube video to help people with their queries. The video was a great success and ended up saving AT&T thousands of dollars. It only took a couple hours to make.

Cushman also stressed both the present upcoming importance of social media, though he warned the audience to not spend much capital on it at this point. As the YouTube example proves, it can be done cheaply. For now.

“Facebook will be an era, and an era is a long time,” he added.

Directly following, Stuart Beame, who won an honorable mention at last year’s Call Center Week in Vegas, gave a more light hearted presentation about Millenials, generation gaps and how this is affecting the customer experience.

Beame offered many insightful statistics on everyone from the Veteran generation to Generation Alpha or ‘Z.’ The WWII (Veteran) generation grew up with the radio and spent an average of 4-6 hours a day with an adult role model.

The Baby Boomers grew up with the TV, spending a little less with their adult family and friends, and Generation X, who were just starting to get into personal computers and the Internet, drastically spent less than 15 minutes a day with an elder. Beame referred to them as the “latch key generation” who also isn’t interested in public affairs or an active voting demographic.  The Millenials, however, are who have begun to start the customer experience revolution.

A generation of ‘self-esteem’ and ‘feedback,’ these individuals (born 1982-2002) expect 24/7 access and service. “They don’t understand 8-5,” Beame said. 100 % of ‘us’ (me included) understand and use the Internet and are also exceptional at multitasking, thanks to cultural factors like video games and social media. “Smart is cool again,” to this generation, according to Beame.

So with these facts from Beame, and with the advice Cushman had to offer, how will you prepare and alter your operations for the future of the customer experience?

Gina Scanlon Contributor:   Gina Scanlon

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