Speaker: Beware Technology's High Expectations

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PALM BEACH, FL - While technology has broadened the horizons of the contact center industry, it has also created unrealistic expectations among customers and marketers alike, Rudy Oetting, president of Oetting & Company, said Friday.

Customers believe technology enables companies to give them more off everything - speed, convenience and value, Oetting said. Marketers, on the other hand, see technology as a way to drive call-center costs down.

"Technology is a wonderful thing, and what is emerging is amazing," Oetting said. "But it's oversold, overhyped and building expectations that can't be met."

Too often, marketers see call centers strictly in terms of how much they cost and not in the value they can bring to a company in terms of customer retention, said Oetting, who spoke at the DMA Teleservices Conference 2002 here at The Breakers hotel. They fail to consider how technology should be used to benefit customers.

Using technology to make shortcuts carries a cost, Oetting said. Shorter calls and longer call queues lead to customer frustration and lost revenue, while lowering labor costs leaves customers with bad impressions.

An example of an often-abused technology is interactive voice response or touch-tone systems, which try to automate customer service and route callers to the proper agents, Oetting said. Many times, customers use IVR systems to input their personal information, such as account numbers, expecting to speed the service process once an agent connects.

Instead, they often find the agent asks them to give their account number again, which can be frustrating, Oetting said.

"It's not the technology," Oetting said. "It's how it's being used and directed."

Call center managers must be ready to defend their operations against marketing executives and senior managers who want to slash their budgets, Oetting said. Marketing staff is often the call center's worst enemy.

"If you talk to most companies, what are they most interested in? The front end, getting new customers through the door," Oetting said. "What do they pay the least attention to? Retention."

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