I’m all for efficiency.  But if your definition of service efficiency is to replace listening with copying, as it seems to be with Spoken Communications Inc. who recently announced plans to acquire GotVoice, you haven’t done much to improve customer service.

Sidebar:  GotVoice’s claim to have the “most error-free voice-to-text translation services today” seems hollow when you realize that “most” may only mean 1% correct.  (Have you ever ordered a pizza using from Pizza Hut using similar “intelligent” technology?  It’s a small wonder they come with cheese after the gyrations the user has to go through to place an order.)  Make a commitment a customer can depend on!

The problem isn’t GotVoice, however.  Spoken Communications is trying to apply the wrong technology to a non-problem.  The premise is simple: that customer’s voicemails can be converted to text and used to create trouble incidents or cases.

The issue they will encounter is that on an emotional plane people want to communicate; to hear and be heard.  Customers need to communicate. Removing the give and take, eliminating the interactivity between customers and service providers destroys anything other than the most sterile of interactions.  Customers aren’t going to like it one bit. Eventually, customer’s messages will be so brief as to contain only a phone number and name.

What is more likely to happen is the illusion of progress (a shell game of merely moving costs).  The front end of the process (taking the call) may seem more cost efficient because the representatives who once took calls can be eliminated or reapportioned to more valuable endeavors.  Eventually, a person will have to listen, respond, and uncover the root problem.  That cost won’t go away.  Counter to the goals, the company may actually unwittingly introduce added delay to the ultimate solution.

In fairness, the model could work for very simple problems.  But so would an answering machine/service.

The pivot point is that customers crave interaction and deserve service.  If the proposed solution satisfies customers’ needs while simultaneously helping companies reduce costs, then the acquisition and the plans for putting the two technologies together makes sense and I’ll be proven wrong.  As it stands, the customer gets nothing… and that will be hard to sell.

Call Me a Skeptic
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