The trouble with marketing...

Personally I think that traditional marketing techniques, such as a direct mail, are getting well past their sell-by date. It probably happened for me about 15 years ago, but I know for others it varies.

I was amused this morning to receive some direct mail from my favourite coffee company. Aside from anything else it contained a fairly well disguised and weak promotion: free shipping for larger orders (they already offer half-price). Certainly not enough to tempt me off the sofa.

But more noteworthy was the fact they had obvisously gone to some lengths to profile me and figure out the pattern of my recent orders, and come back at me with an attempt to change that behaviour (i.e. spend more). You see, what's happened, is I've been ordering a lot of decaff. Mainly decaff in fact.

So, some bright spark has come up with a database query to spot this and created a campaign to tempt me back into ordering all the other coffees they have. Nice campaign it is too - lots of plush brochureware and a well-thought-out approach to explaining and grouping all their coffee blends and flavours and so on. Almost good enough to lick.

It's all very admirable, all very expensive, all very nicely done and I'm sure there has been much back-patting over how cleverly targetted this campaign is - as if it's just for me, the decaffoholic.

But the problem is, it won't change a thing about my behaviour: it won't achieve its objective or call to action. So why on earth not?

Because they haven't asked me why I'm ordering decaff all the time. They haven't understood my motivation and needs. They haven't understood why I'm going to keep doing the same thing regardless.

And that's the problem with these traditional marketing approaches: there's no feedback loop. Marketers tend to observe a consumer behaviour pattern (to a greater or lesser degree of granularity, refinement and sophistication) and make some assumptions about what's going on and how to change it.

Get that assumption wrong and you've wasted your time and effort. It never ceases to amaze me the time, effort and cost organisations plough into this type of marketing with such little return and reward. Not to mention the carbon footprint. It's so easy now to engage with most consumers, it ought to be the mainstream approach and yet we are still in an age where the organisations that engage more intimately with consumers (over, for example, social media channels) are still heralded as trailblazers and innovators.

Barely a day goes by without my twitter stream being inundated of reports from "social media conferences" reporting the latest exciting trends and ingenius developments in social marketing and branding. And yet in reality, this is schoolboy stuff - this pares down to long-established simple concepts, such as good customer experience, meeting the customer where they're at, engagement on appropriate channels.

What the new tools and new-connected-world order offers marketers is the chance to engage one-on-one with their customers and, for the first time, to properly listen - i.e. complete the feedback loop. Have conversation, not broadcast. And yet so few organsiations seemed to have grasped these basic ideas that the social media industry feels compelled to slap the backs of those that have and do "get it". What they (and we as consumers) should be doing is kicking the backsides of those that don't! 

Instead, I'll be making one extra trip to the recycling centre and ordering my decaff as usual.

Speech self-service speaks the language of savings

Speech self-service is still a minority toolset in the touch tone-dominated call center world, but its impact on the customer experience continues to improve for such companies as DirecTV and Orbitz.
Alan Hubbard, senior vice president of Aberdeen Group's customer service and support group, reveals that while only 20% of best-in-class companies have speech self-service, 86% of those firms have seen their customer retention and satisfaction rates climb. They have also witnessed a 10% drop in abandoned calls. [click heading for more]

Customer Service Debacles "R" Us

[nik's note: sadly this experience from Toys 'R' Us is typical of so many contact centres and the mere act of deploying speech recognition IVR does nothing to change it. For me this is worrying- as an industry we need to tackle the stigma associated with traditonal IVR, which means we must get next-generation contact centre experiences and speech recognition experiences right first time.]

There are some customer service fiascos that make you want to bang your head against the wall. When they come to you courtesy of a mom-and-pop Internet business, all you can do is sigh, heave your shoulders and say “Well, that’s my fault for going with amateurs.” When the debacle is brought to you courtesy of a national chain, it really makes you wonder how the business has managed to keep its doors open and who is running the company’s customer service.

I called the “helpful” Toys “R” Us customer service line again. I routed myself obediently through their IVR system using their oh-so-fine speech recognition solution. Part of this process included speaking my 10-digit order number, which the system accepted. Informed by the automated system that my order was “processing” (presumably in the same manner and at the same rate that erosion in the Grand Canyon is “processing”), I spoke the words “representative” to get a human on the line. (I had learned, during my last encounter, that speaking the word “agent” got a caller put into a hellacious and circuitous IVR loop of despair.)

[click heading for more]

Who should buy speech analytics technology?

Speech analytics technology has evolved in recent years, providing organizations with insight into sales, service and products pulled not just from call center reports but truly from the voice of the customer.

Who should really own speech analytics? Does it belong under the management of the contact center? Marketing? Analytics/business intelligence (BI)? It's a question organizations need to consider when they're purchasing speech analytics tools, according to Keith Dawson, senior analyst with Frost and Sullivan.

Essentially, there are four ways for an organization to purchase speech analytics, according to Dawson.[click heading for more] Powers Voice-Enabled Application with SimulScribe has partnered with SimulScribe to integrate speech-to-text functionality with products and services. The first offering using speech-to-text functionality is's new Salesbyfone application.SimulScribe's technology allows Salesbyfone users to transcribe meeting notes and other details over the phone and see notes appear, within seconds, in contact records. Users can also automatically dial and send an e-mail to a contact simply by speaking it over the phone. These functions occur in near-real time, allowing users to quickly act on or respond to critical business situations as they happen. [click heading for more]

Digium and Metaphor Solutions Introduce Speech Recognition-Based IVR Solutions for Asterisk

Digium and Metaphor Solutions have come together to develop an On-Demand Plug & Play IVR (Interactive Voice Response) application suite for the Asterisk market.

The Plug & Play IVR will help Digium customers use the Web to self-configure, customize, deploy, manage and report on speech recognition-based application packages in minutes.

[click heading for more]

Speech Self-Service a Top Priority in 2008

Companies are beginning to see the technology as an essential part of customer service strategy.

Speech self-service is quickly becoming an essential application for any organization interested in delivering the best customer service possible. In fact, the technology ranks as the top strategic action in 2008 for companies considered Best-in-Class, according to a new benchmark study of more than 300 companies by Aberdeen Research.

Alan Hubbard, senior vice president of Aberdeen's customer support practice, and a co-author of the report entitled "Speech Self-Service: Say 'Yes' to Reduce Costs and Improve Customer Satisfaction," says a portion of the end-user feedback surprised him. "We knew going into this that the overall implementation of speech self-service was low," he explains. "We had seen in previous surveys it was in the 3 to 10 percent range of companies that actually installed it." Among the Best-in-Class companies over the next 12 to 24 months, however, "upwards of 30 percent will implement some form of speech self-service." [click heading for more]

Resolvity's Platform Named 2007 Product Of The Year

Resolvity, Inc. announced recently that its Speech Application Platform has received a 2007 Product of the Year Award from Technology Marketing Corporation’s (TMC) Customer Interaction Solutions magazine, the leading publication covering CRM, call centers and teleservices. Commitment to the industry's technological advancement, improvement in customer experience, were some of the criteria that led to the award.

Resolvity’s intelligent voice automation solutions help companies automate their customer support phone calls, thereby improving service levels and customer satisfaction while lowering support costs. These solutions are built on Resolvity’s Speech Application Platform. The platform consists of a sophisticated Artificial Intelligence runtime, a state-of-the-art Dialog Server, a framework for seamless integration with other call center systems, and extensive management reporting.
The platform has been designed with a focus towards developing solutions that are complex from a customer interaction standpoint and that require frequent “near real-time” modifications to respond to constantly changing business requirements.

[click heading for more]

How to Reap the Benefits of Speech-Enabled IVR

Interactive voice response (IVR) systems can cause a strong improvement in customer experience and contact center operating costs like few other customer-care technologies can. Speech-enabled IVRs have the ability to pick up where their dual-tone or touch-tone multifrequency counterparts leave off. But this doesn't necessarily make it an all-purpose cure-all. Rather, when speech technologies come into play, the design of the system is that much more important. Voice user interface design is a top obstacle to higher rates of satisfaction.

Designing a speech-enabled IVR can be complicated. The following are seven proven strategies to aid in the transition to speech-recognition IVR technology. [click heading for more]