The Importance of Voice Communications

By David Baker

The age of social media is upon us – it’s the new, cool kid at school. How quickly everyone forgets about voice communications! Voice may have been cast aside once again for the newer, cooler thing of the moment, but voice is resilient and will always play an important role for companies.

Let me take you back to when the Internet boom hit and everyone thought voice would fade off into the sunset. Fast-forward twenty years, and voice is still prevalent for companies around the world. The phone is a ubiquitous device, and people have anytime, anywhere access to it. It is not always easy to type or order something from the Internet on your phone, but it sure is easy to call a company and interact with their IVR system or customer service agents.

Some companies are spending money on upgrading or replacing their voice infrastructure because they realize the importance of it on their everyday business. As much as some people don’t like talking to an automated phone system, they also don’t like having to wait in queue only to deal with unpleasant customer service agents. IVR is the lesser of two evils, allowing the caller to get what they need and move on to the next thing.

There are other options available to the customer today to interact with companies, such as the Web, chat, and email. Although they get their fair share of traffic on a daily basis, voice communication will continue to play an important role in how companies interact with their customers. During a recent visit to one of our clients, I found out that they had an end-of-life, end-of-support IVR system that was handling calls for some of their most prestigious clients. I asked them, “What would happen if that IVR system crashed?”

“We would be in big trouble with our key clients,” was the response. I then asked, “How much money would it cost you for every minute that IVR was out of production?” They didn’t know the answer. My final question was, “Who is ultimately responsible if your IVR should go down and you get flooded with calls from angry clients?” The executive in the room said, “I am.” Although voice is a very critical component for most companies around the world, it still is treated at times like the ugly duckling when compared to newer, slicker technologies like the Internet or social media.

Voice is a key component to a company’s infrastructure, but it often gets put aside and never touched again. Meanwhile, companies are busy spending money updating their websites and training additional staff to handle the social media onslaught, but very rarely, if at all, do they invest the time and money to refresh or “retrain” their voice systems by enhancing current applications or adding new ones. The technology just sits in a corner of the data center and does its job handling call after call.

Companies need to budget as much money, if not more, for their voice technology as they do for other customer touch points. It’s just as important a channel as the others are, but it is never given equal weight when the budget dollars are handed out. The corporate mindset is that it works so no action is necessary. Your car works too, but it probably wouldn’t last as long if you never changed the oil or performed routine maintenance. A little TLC goes a long way when you make the annual investment in updating and maintaining your voice infrastructure.

As much as technology has changed over the past twenty years, voice has always been the one constant that has truly stood the test of time. From Alexander Graham Bell to the current day, voice has been the one technology that both companies and individuals around the world have come to rely on time and time again.

No matter what new technology might take the world by storm over the coming weeks, months, and years, voice will once again survive the lovefest that happens with the next new, cool kid at school.

David Baker is vice present of sales at Servion.

[From Connection Magazine June 2012]

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