Guest Blogger

By Annie Weckesser

A customer’s voice has never been more important. With the pandemic, social unrest and a looming recession, people have many reasons to contact healthcare providers, government agencies, financial institutions and other essential services. While companies have always had an imperative to listen to customers, a recent survey by Uniphore shed some light on the current role voice plays in those conversations: Nearly 80 percent of respondents said they prefer to contact customer service through a phone call. Only 12 percent said they preferred a chatbot.

Customers are desperate to use their voices to communicate with brands and swiftly solve problems, many of which are newer and more pressing than ever before. We all want to be heard, and when customers know somebody is listening, they intrinsically believe their needs are being addressed. As a company, you must be prepared to listen.

These important interactions with customers can, and should, also be influenced by your internal teams. As the chief people officer and chief marketing officer at Uniphore, everyday I see the parallels between the employee and customer experiences, especially during uncertain times. Correspondingly, I believe your company should treat employees like customers and prioritize listening — and if you combine human resources, marketing conversational analytics and AI to steer the ship, you will enhance your organization’s ability to listen and respond to everyone’s voice.

Leverage the power of voice for customers.

Focusing on the human voice has a myriad of customer experience benefits.

First, it allows people to more quickly and directly solve issues. When we speak to another person, we feel heard and that our needs and wants are promptly being addressed. This is vital for maintaining excellent customer service during the pandemic, when we often feel overwhelmed with problems and challenges.

Second, voice is incredibly convenient. In fact, my kids assume every object and device can be controlled by voice — while that’s not true now, it will be in the future. Currently, tech companies are spending billions of dollars on developing voice assistants as a way for humans to interact with software and devices. Indeed, voice makes interacting with people and devices effortless.

One thing is certain: Most customer service engagements will continue to be facilitated via voice, given its current usage rates and rising ease of use. But how will that evolve, and importantly, how can your organization harness the power of voice right now?

Fortunately, there is a range of tools to ensure your customers are being heard while still managing to lower the cost of support. When coupled with AI and machine learning, customer service agents can focus on the conversation with the customer and listening to their voices while automation determines a caller’s intent and automatically performs mundane tasks -— such as administrative note taking and after-call summarization work — on the backend. Customer service agents then are allowed to focus on what matters: the conversation. And it allows them to be more proficient and productive.

Right now, any brand that can quickly and effectively address customer problems are ahead of the curve. According to Uniphore’s survey, 72% of respondents said they have ended a call with a company while still waiting on hold, and 68% said they would stop patronizing companies with which they have had a bad customer experience.

Your company stands to gain a competitive financial advantage when you are able to efficiently harness the power of human voice. You will address more customer complaints, boost the overall experience and ultimately save money.

Leverage the power of voice for employees.

And it’s not just customers who are struggling. Times are tough for employees, too. In a recent survey by Mercer, nine out of 10 employees said they were concerned about the coronavirus pandemic and economic fallout. Another 72% said companies should provide more reassurance on pay and job security, and 68% said organizations should keep people informed with daily updates.

Given the current volatile economy, listening to employees is vital, and you should employ the same tactics for customers and employees: prioritize satisfaction, ensure their voices are heard and readily respond to feedback.

To truly hear employees and address concerns, managers should be available and regularly check in with subordinates. Managers also should be approachable and use their voices -— rather than chat applications or emails -— during discussions with colleagues to maintain authentic, human connections. Especially right now, I recommend managers be prepared to give frequent, empathetic advice and guidance using their voice.

All hands meetings are another way to capture employees’ voices. Right now, these meetings are likely completely virtual -— but the goal remains the same. During these, company leaders should actively communicate feedback to the company, dole out praises to employees and underscore that they have a voice and are appreciated. These are tough times to be productive, so complimenting and discussing employees’ meaningful work will reinforce their worth, lift up attitudes and make them feel valued.

I also recommend implementing employee sentiment surveys to track what employees are thinking and how they are feeling: Are they overwhelmed? Is your company doing enough to foster diversity? Do they feel productive? How are they reacting to the news? Are they taking care of themselves and their mental health? Collect these responses and analyze them. Most importantly, discuss the answers personally or during all hands meetings to foster feedback and build a culture of listening.

Lean into the customer and employee experience.

Leading these two paralleled departments has shown its advantages in many ways, including understanding that when companies establish more visibility and communication between human resources and marketing teams, customer and employee experiences benefit massively.

We know voice has never been more important. During isolation, mandatory work from home and civil unrest, humans desperately need to feel connected. With voice AI software and data, your company can proactively listen to everyone during this critical period. All you need to do is make it a company priority.

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