VoiceSage’s Matthew Weil looks at the issue raised at a recent UK Contact Centre Forum and VoiceSage joint seminar on channel shift — an approach that has been much debated, but where many feel little action has so far been taken
Choice is about empowering customers – giving them the knowledge to help them make the right decisions. It is a cornerstone of true channel engagement. Unfortunately the public sector understands the concept, but practitioners agreed that this is a huge challenge to the sector as things stand today.
Central government has mandated that communication channels in the UK public sector should be digital only, while forum participants noted that in reality it is about deploying channels that people can and want to actively use. This is especially true of local government.
This was the main finding of a discussion held by the UK Contact Centre Forum in partnership with customer engagement leader VoiceSage, together with senior UK customer contact practitioners. Participants included a number of public sector organisations, non-profits, education services providers and an outsourced contact centre consultancy.
One organisation, for example, had deployed a modern payment system using visual text messaging and mobile payments. It was adamant that its flexibility in providing customers with a choice of channels ideal for any organisation wishing to manage customer engagement.
“It’s not about forcing the public down the channels you want,” said this practitioner.
“It’s about giving the customer better options – because if you offer the right range of channels, the customer will very soon gravitate to the one they like the most.”
Delegates agreed that mobile phones, in particular text messaging, is a preferred mode of communication. Its success is demonstrated in a number of scenarios, but perhaps most strikingly in the promise to pay outstanding debts when made in a text message thread with a customer. “I think it’s because it’s so personal, but also because there’s something about it ‘being in writing’ that makes it more binding,” pointed out one delegate.
Social media anonymity
The forum agreed that much of the UK public sector CX work currently centres around social media ‘comments, compliments and complaints’. Channel movement here is again about spread. Practitioners say that their use of social media is targeted at directing important discussions down more easily controlled channels as quickly as possible.
Another big dilemma is identification. Defining who actually is user ‘BettyBoo52’, what specific issues they have and which channel would be best to most efficiently deal with them.
We must not forget the issue of social media monitoring. Should social media be run on the same basis as department opening hours? While some organisations only engage with social media during office hours, many social housing organisations, for example, believe it should be 24/7. This would enable public sector teams to deal with any emergencies that may come in, in what is now a truly connected world.
Social media is used and monitored by public sector CX teams. But, the key take away from this insightful debate is the need to communicate with citizens in the most far reaching way to make Citizen Relationship Management (CRM) a real world phenomena and not a pipe dream.
To achieve this, citizens need a flexible channel coupled with choice to enhance service delivery, whilst reducing expensive calls into contact centers. The forum agreed that wherever this goal can be fulfilled, the more gratifying an experience it will be for both the organisation and its citizens.
Matthew is Head of Product at VoiceSage (www.voicesage.com), a leader in customer engagement services