One of the problems with the proliferation of customer channels is knitting them all together.
Examples are everywhere that illustrate that this is a huge and expensive problem. A friend of BillingViews who was in the process of buying a car relays one such case. In the middle of transferring a decent sum of money to the dealer, the banking system crashed. In the UK this is a fairly regular occurrence. The mobile networks do not crash so often, mind you they hardly work in the first place, so it is hard to tell if they have crashed or not.
The insight from the transfer of money to the car dealer malfunction was not the system crashing but how long it took for the bank to wake up. Phones to call centres rang twice and stopped, emails bounced back. Taking to Twitter revealed that the bank was not aware of the problem and was sorry but that Mrs Jones at Number 33 had had eggs for breakfast and was a happy customer. It took an avalanche of angry tweets before the Twitter team realized something was up. Presumably they then rang the call centre and were cut off after two rings.
The point is that service providers are so determined to look all young and leading edge that they add ‘customer channels’ as fast as they appear. This means that customers are being offered a wider and wider choice of ways of contacting their service provider. And this causes nice looking powerpoint strategies to be thrown out of windows.
This must be a case where common sense plus technology holds some answers. As we have already said this year, the trick is the common sense, not the technology. There must be ways to stop the ridiculous disconnects that mean you have to reveal your mother’s maiden name, the make of your first bicycle, the square root of your last electricity bill and what you had for breakfast when you are transferred from one department to another – by the service provider. It is hardly feasible that you have handed the phone to some crook while being transferred – unless you have the same electricity supplier as BillingViews, in which case after 50 minutes of listening to truly awful music, anything is possible.
As partners proliferate, the problem will be the same at that end of the business. Managing them used to be done on spreadsheets, with a little help from vendors. Now they are done on dedicated platforms, bought from the vendors who were helpful when it could be done on spreadsheets. The platforms will now have to address the OTT issue. Now that the industry, once again, has decided that the latest foe is actually a friend (see: Banks), then the whole OTT eco-system will need to be supported. With the advent of toll free access to brands’ web sites on top of everything else, it will prove a challenge.
The communications industry is not alone.
In the payments space, the proliferation of payments solutions will pile pressure on the back end processes to make the experience work. In TV land the sheer number of channels, OTT offerings, web based, cable based, device controlled offerings will result in similar pressure.
Across the board the issue will be the same. Will it mean the re-birth of the systems integrator? Or the rise of common sense?