By Daniel Hunter

Research reveals that UK consumers don’t value a wholesale approach to customer service in the contact centre, instead wanting different types and levels of technology involvement depending on the nature of interactions and their seriousness.

The conclusions come from a report commissioned by Avaya, the global provider of business collaboration and communications services, and Sabio, the contact centre technology specialist, which surveyed 2,000 UK consumers.

The results show that businesses are missing an opportunity to gain competitive advantage through their strategic approach to customer service. Consumers want more stringent technology and automation for more sensitive interactions, but not for all of them.

For example, 81% said they are comfortable using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) when dealing with financial matters, while 55% of respondents would be happy using voice biometric technology when checking their account balance. But only a minority (35%) see biometrics as an option for more general and less sensitive tasks such as renewing car insurance.

Similarly, while consumers’ enthusiasm for self-service and new media remains strong, they still appreciate personal interactions with agents to get the appropriate support and assistance when dealing with more complex services and products.

With 60% of organisations now asking for security details when there is no need, it’s hardly surprising that one in two consumers becomes frustrated with call centre agents when there are security or identity problems. Once connected, if the transaction involves payment, only 5% of consumers think speaking to an agent in a UK call centre is secure, and this reduces to just 2% for overseas call centres.

As well as highlighting an openness to embrace numerous contact centre technologies, the research also delivers six important insights into consumer feeling about data breaches and the risk of payment and identity security within contact centres.

These six insights are:

· We’re only human: consumers show definite preference for brands that make it easier for them to go through identification and verification when making payments

· Work-arounds: consumers regularly jeopardise their own personal data security to make their lives easier

· B+ for effort: consumers try hard to take care of their personal data

· Alias-mania: consumers often try to hide their true identities when dealing with businesses

· The long number: consumers are worried about sharing their personal and payments data verbally over the phone

· Who’s to blame?: consumers are aware that they need to protect themselves from fraud, but feel that organisations (merchants and acquiring banks particularly) should shoulder more responsibility and are the weak link

Simon Culmer, Managing Director, UK Avaya, said: “There is still a very strong role for voice in the contact centre as it offers unrivalled versatility in solving complex queries and a key gateway for those who are not online - nearly 20% of the UK population. That said, technical solutions to address concerns about fraud and data security are also critical. In essence, UK businesses need to listen to their customers, assess their corporate requirements and look at the demands being placed on them through their customer service channels, and from there determine the right strategy and solutions to meet their customer service needs.”

Kenneth Hitchen, Founding Director, Sabio, said: “Organisations are clearly experiencing real friction between their demanding compliance processes and an ongoing commitment to providing consumers with a positive customer experience. The good news is that the two goals aren’t mutually incompatible: at Sabio our role is to apply innovative technologies such as voice biometrics, speech analytics and PCI payment solutions to help achieve the dual goals of increased compliance and reduced customer frustration. Applied correctly, these technologies can help organisations tick both boxes.”

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