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July 13, 2012

Interactions' Iacobucci: Customer Service is the New Marketing

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC

TMC (News - Alert) 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 Mike Iacobucci, CEO at Interactions Corp., a company founded in 2004 that provides Virtual Assistant applications that significantly improve self-service for customer care.

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?

Iacobucci: The most important development in the past 30 years is the transition from passive customer care to a tremendous focus on consumer activity and each individual transaction. All companies that provide consumer support, regardless of the capacity, provide a service – the service being the corporate obligation to provide a channel of customer support.

In the past decade?

Iacobucci: In the past decade there has been a clear movement toward automation and self-service. Whether it's a supermarket checkout line, an ATM, or an IVR, companies have increased the availability of self-service, and consumers have further adopted self-service as a method to accomplish their goals. The drive toward automation is representative of a movement to reduce costs – which also explains the movement toward offshoring. While self-service and automation have been fully adopted in certain areas and any potential impact on customer care has leveled, such as bank ATMs, many channels such as phone customer care have seen a dramatic impact on customer care by offshoring and automation.


In the recent past?

Iacobucci: Companies are now becoming more aware of how important each individual customer interaction and that customer’s perception of value of the business are – and companies are now looking to constantly improve that. The company has to stand behind each individual transaction. There has also been a transition into a focus on big picture metrics such as NPS and ACSI.

Is the tide turning on call center offshoring?

Iacobucci: Absolutely, it’s coming back. There has been a public outcry, a backlash against offshoring. The companies had to improve satisfaction – customers do not operate well with offshoring agents. Not to mention, offshoring takes jobs away from the U.S.

Large companies, many who have offshored their contact centers in the past, are now making the transition to onshoring, such as Dell (News - Alert) and American Express, evident by the greetings CSRs now provide when they pick up the phone often mentioning their name and location so the caller knows that they are a domestic agent – “Hi, I’m John in Phoenix. How can I help you?”


How is marketing changing?

Iacobucci: Customer service is the new marketing. Consumers have a primary interest in how they will be treated once they become a loyal purchaser and will become a customer of the company that delivers on the customer experience promise. Marketing is shifting to a focus on how companies treat their employees due to a vast import of consumer feedback through emerging channels such as social media and the increased focus on measuring customer experience results. Scoring measures such as Net Promoter Score directly delineate proof that companies that deliver a positive customer experience will secure increased customer loyalty. Companies with low scoring metrics such as NPS are proven to create detractors, who not only purchase less or not at all, will be time times more inclined to tell 10 or more people about a negative customer experience. 

How is the mobile boom impacting how businesses target, engage with, and deliver product/service/support to the customer?

Iacobucci: Incoming customer calls into the contact center are now originating from an unprecedented percentage of mobile phones. What we’ve found is that the experience a customer has via a mobile device is drastically different from the experience a customer has via a landline phone, especially if the caller is mobile, i.e. driving, walking around, etc. The callers are usually more hurried and have less patience while using mobile devices. Background noise is more abundant on a mobile device and often the call quality can suffer – making automation even more difficult.

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Edited by Brooke Neuman
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