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THANKS to the revolution in mobile computing and the rise of social media, companies are being forced to rethink the way they interact with their customers.

Expanding on this point, Stewart Bloom, CEO of Aspect Software, told BizIT: “Think about a world where now there are not a billion but 6 or 7 billion smartphones in the hands of consumers who, with one flick of the finger, can change channels, sign up with a different bank or sign up with a different cable provider or a different service provider.”

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Aspect Software is a leading provider of customer contact, enterprise workforce optimisation and Microsoft platform solutions,

Historically, one of the main areas of contact companies had with their consumers was their call centre. That model has since had to change with the widely varying methods of communication that the consumers can now use to contact their service providers including text, social media, and Web and mobile applications.

One such channel that has come to the fore is the use of social media as a quick mode of communication to provide immediate assistance.

“Which company would not want to embrace an op-portunity that would allow them to engage so easily with their end-consumers?” Mr Bloom asked.

He noted that social media could no longer be viewed only as a form of marketing assessed on a quarterly basis; it is now one of the most free-form and unstructured means of communication where con-sumers are able to convey their feedback as and when they like – and they often ex- pect an immediate response.

Dealing with social media interaction is not always easy as there is often no set response to the varied comments, and consumers may wrongly discern the tone of written correspondence as compared to verbal communication. Hence training is required to ensure the responses do not convey the wrong message, Mr Bloom noted.

There are also different levels of social interactions. These include the self-or-ganising blogs or forums which offer peer-to-peer assistance and require moni-toring by companies. Another is a curative form of social media which provides access to information related to customers’ queries that may not be found on the company’s website.

There could also be the companies’ own social media platform which markets their brand.

These different social interactions have to be carefully managed by the company as part of a whole social media presence. In addressing this, managers of the contact centre will also need to have visibility as to how much of their social media has been addressed

Mr Bloom: S’pore’s among the most receptive to trying out new tech to improve the customer experience to allow for a holistic planning of the company’s interactions in the public sphere, the Aspect Software CEO noted.

Prompt and efficient customer service which differentiates the experience of a consumer can still make or break a deal for a company. Hence companies are now beginning to give consumers freedom of choice by catering to the consumer’s preferred mode of communication to empower the consumer and provide convenience.

Some consumers may prefer using multiple chan-nels at once, which requires companies to adapt their systems to allow a contact centre officer to be able to see all of a consumer’s in-teractions on a single page without them having to repeat all of their concerns.

Moving forward, the Asia Pacific region is set to be one of the major growth areas in the relationship revolution with countries such as Singapore among the most receptive to trying out new technology to see which provides the best experience to the customer, Mr Bloom said.

The path of transition is not all smooth. Companies have to consider the challenge of bringing together the various aspects of the new components in the relationship which include the mobile, Web and voice contact into a seamless harmonised programme, despite that currently, the different aspects could be governed by disparate parts of the organisation.

“How are we going to rethink a unified customer service strategy and pull its underlying processes and technology together to manage this programme?” Mr Bloom asked.

He added that the future is exciting with predicted shifts towards self-service, as organisations move towards completely digitising their operations while retaining voice as a complementary component to provide the human interaction that we still enjoy.

The voice component may change as well. Voice applications such as Apple’s Siri may in the future be integrated with companies’ systems so that the setting up of appointments and locating information can be a seamless experience, he added.

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