Adding value with voice

Iain Sinnott, head of international carrier sales, Enreach for Service Providers, explains why voice is decreasing in volume, but not in relevance for inbound customer experience.

Coming from a voice-centric minutes-based history, it is understandable that some people in the channel might view the decline in voice volume as a negative trend. However, voice is just as important as ever, but its role and use have changed.

Voice exists in the context of multiple forms of contact, such as chat and collaboration apps. Plus, while conventional margin and total call minutes may be diminishing, there is still a massive opportunity for the channel to use voice to add value to their customers (and, in turn, the CX they give their own customers).

The starting point is knowing when to use voice. For instance, if people want a fast answer to a simple question, it makes far more sense to engage in chat, whether with a real person or AI, via a web page or as a feature within an app.

But where human contact will make the difference, voice is still a preferred channel. When people want more than just straightforward answers, when they want empathy, the human voice wins every time.

Most of us have been there: we have a complaint or complicated query that cannot be sorted by talking to AI. In these situations, even if we have to wait in a queue to be answered (more on that later), having the confidence that we are being heard and understood makes a massive difference to customer engagement.

Video interactions

Of course, it would be fair to raise the question of video as an alternative to voice. While video has an increasing role, it may not be required for many interactions, especially in the B2C market.

Consumers require informed answers and probably do not want to get dressed up and check their room lighting just to discuss the different options available before renewing their household insurance.

Plus, of course, there are occasions when text or video is just convenient, such as when driving when text-to-voice conversion is safer.
Also, without the risk of over-generalising, preferences may vary according to age groups.

Seniors may be more familiar and comfortable with a phone call. In contrast, Gen Z may prefer non-verbal communication, but there are instances when even this latter group require voice-based interactions.

However, what matters is how the voice experience is delivered, and that has to start before a call is connected, which is where adding value to voice comes into play.

For example, most small businesses with hunt groups do not know when a call has been missed. As a result, a prospect might go to another supplier. If that prospective sale was worth £1,000 and there were 20 missed calls in one month, that’s potentially lost revenue of £20,000. UC technology can allow businesses to see and return missed calls, with users able to flag them as completed.

Similarly, ACD (or automatic call distributor) call routing is very common yet often under-used, with light versions available to SMBs. This makes it simple to add new people into the group during peak periods so that voice calls can be answered faster.

Having a bot perform basic interrogation before an unknown caller is put through, such as ascertaining their name and company. Mobility is increasingly non-negotiable for businesses, so consider adding telephony features available to smartphones, including PBX functionality and Teams integration: another step towards full fixed–mobile convergence (FMC).

Giving more choices

When inbound voice is supported as part of an omnichannel environment that includes other channels (especially chat), it gives customers more choices while enabling a business to focus its employees’ time on the highest priority customer interactions.

It is also essential to allow a seamless transition between different technologies when possible (such as chat to voice with full access to CRM) and to have full visibility of the whole environment, complete with call recording and reporting information.

Voice is not going away, but its place in the market has evolved and, therefore, so must the way it is provided.

Once we move away from a traditional minutes and margin mindset, it becomes much clearer to see how voice can add value in today’s world of increasingly converged contact — especially for inbound traffic — with far more choice over how we communicate.

This opinion piece appeared in our September 2023 print issue. You can read the magazine in full here.