Every so often, various members of our team gather at an off-site location to take a deep-dive into aspects of our ever-changing business. Recently, the team focused on our customers’ customers. And more specifically, the emotional state when making a payment by phone or navigating an IVR menu. The experience was challenging, tense at times, but ultimately incredibly valuable for us all. Afterward, I caught up with Jim Barker, Chief Revenue Officer with IVR Technology Group, who helped to facilitate the process.
What was the purpose behind the off-site session?
To help our clients win in 2020, we have to understand how to help their customers succeed. We work very closely with many of our clients and their customers. This exercise enabled us to remember who we serve, the issues they face, and the process of facilitating a resolution to those issues. We are fanatical about creating WOW experiences with our clients and their customers. To do this, we sometimes need to get out of our environment and devote a couple of days to understanding them. Fortunately, throughout the year, we get to spend time in our clients’ situations and collaborating with them and their customers. This customer-focused workshop allowed us to get away and discuss what we’re learning about them and how we serve them.
How did you think the exercise went?
Every opportunity we have to spend time focusing on our clients and their customers is a good one. We talk about being the engagement conduit with our clients, so we need to understand them and their issues. Mainly where we use voice and text automation applications as a path to achieve a resolution. Overall, it was thought-provoking and helped us focus on solutions to their issues going into the New Year.
What did you find most surprising about this session?
It still surprises me how much we learn about the importance of communication in the customer experience. We tend to take things for granted and miss some excellent opportunities to communicate with voice, text, and email proactively. Even something as simple as a “Thank You” card can be impactful. Proactive communication with our clients will be valuable in 2020. Since it’s important to us, we will naturally be learning how they are proactively communicating with their customers and how we can help.
Were there some specific lessons learned about the emotional state of our customers’ customers.
Yes, there were two notable moments where we found some real emotional moments, both dealing with payments by phone.
The first was related to healthcare and those unexpected bills from a hospital or other provider. We’re all surprised by such bills because we thought insurance would cover it. If someone is calling to pay by phone, usually because the invoice is almost due, there are several emotions at play when speaking with an agent. The customer might be embarrassed by this unknown person seeing their treatment on the billing statement. When combined with having to give payment details to an unfamiliar person, it can be very stressful.
The next scenario was similar, involving some credit cardholders. If someone is calling to make a payment on their credit card, and the card is a sub-prime or secured card, they too can be stressed out by a live agent. First, this person on the phone knows my financial situation. Second, is it a risk to read them my checking account information to make a payment?
Automating payments by phone eliminates both of these emotionally charged situations some of our customers’ customers will face.
In the end, what was the one thing you think we all learned from this session?
Every time we do this, we will learn new things about the opportunities our clients and their customers face; this was no different. If I had to pick one major takeaway this year, it would be proactive communications with customers. Our customers’ customers are expecting deeper, multichannel relationships with companies. And they expect it right away! We have many ways of helping to automate communication processes with voice and text. This year, we will focus more on being a better proactive partner while continuing to be a great reactive one.