TMC this year celebrates 30 years of covering customer interaction, which means it couldn’t be a better time to look at where we’ve been with customer service and where we’re going. We’re also rebranding and retooling our customer experience effort. In this installment of our CUSTOMER coverage, we talk with Joe Staples, chief marketing officer at Interactive Intelligence, which sells a broad set of inbound and outbound contact center and enterprise communications products. It offers those products on-premises or in the cloud. Staples is also on the advisory board of TMC’s new CUSTOMER magazine, which launches in September.
We’re celebrating the 30-year anniversary of TMC’s Customer Interaction Solutions magazine. What has been the most important development in the past 30 years related to customer interactions?
Staples: The introduction of multichannel customer communications. The call center has evolved to become the contact center, and customers now have an increased choice in how they communicate with vendors, including by voice, e-mail, fax, SMS, web chat/callback, and now social media.
In the past decade?
Staples: The perfecting of speech automation, including text-to-speech and speech recognition.
In the recent past?
Staples: The introduction of social media as a very different communications channel (one-to-many, not talking to the vendor but about the vendor, huge broad adoption, etc.). Also, the maturation of the cloud as a viable method for delivering communications services.
How is marketing changing?
Staples: Cutting through the clutter of all the marketing messages prospects receive remains the biggest challenge. No longer can you telemarket to a CEO or decision-maker to talk about your products. You have to be different. You have to offer value that has meaning to your target buyer. Then you need to get creative in how to reach that buyer to get him or her to pay attention to your message.
How is the widespread use of social networking technology impacting how businesses target, engage with, and deliver product/service/support to the customer?
Staples: Social media’s impact is huge. It isn’t just another media type. It’s a different media type with such broad adoption. Companies have to pay attention to it or risk losing their customer base. On the positive side, it also provides vendors new and creative ways to reach their customers.
How is the increased use and comfort level with video impacting how businesses target, engage, and deliver to the customer?
Staples: Video has some segments that are well-known and well-accepted. Videoconferencing is a great example. The ROI for it is very demonstrable. There are other video segments that are just now being discovered and perfected – video kiosks and the use of video as a customer-facing service enhancement are good examples.
What new tools and practices are businesses using to better leverage their own and/or outside data to target, engage, and deliver to the customer?
Staples: Our customers are showing a strong interest in speech analytics used for keyword spotting that enables contact center managers to better know what to pay attention to. Also, [there’s a move toward] making better use of smartphones and tablets to improve the customer service experience.
How is the mobile boom impacting how businesses target, engage, and deliver to the customer?
Staples: The impact of mobile is significant. The devices are ubiquitous, and customers want to use them as a means of getting service from vendors. Those vendors that take advantage of mobile growth and deploy mobile customer service apps will have the advantage over their competitors who ignore it and expect their customers to do everything through a call to an agent.
Interactive Intelligence is a Platinum sponsor of ITEXPO West 2012. To be held Oct. 2-5 at the Austin Convention Center in Austin, TX, ITEXPO is the world’s premier IP communications event. For more information on IEXPO West 2012 click here.