Technology from customer view: A lesson from AT&T

An experience over the past weekend got me thinking about how contact center technology is deployed, and who likely within the organization is driving these decisions.

Last Sunday, I got a text on my iPhone that my AT&T; bill was now available.  “to pay, call *PAY from your mobile phone” was part of the message.  So, I did that immediately.  What I was connected to was a recording that told me the ‘customer service center was now closed. Please call back during regular business hours…”  While I tried to get my head around who at AT&T; decided that this text message provided me any value, it also occurred to me that AT&T; is missing an opportunity to improve customer service while driving down service and receivables costs.  Was this text the creation of a marketer that had access to an SMS campaign application?  Perhaps it was someone in Finance that saw an opportunity to reduce DSO.  Whomever, the campaign clearly wasn’t approached from the customer’s, or even the holistic enterprise point of view.  There are simple, common contact center technologies that could have made this a much more positive experience. 

A better solution: 

  • Send me the txt (AT&T; got that part right)
  • Offer me to either return text *PAY or call *PAY from my mobile
  • If I text, AT&T; knows who I am, just go ahead and charge the credit card they have on file and be done with it
  • If I call, AT&T; knows its me calling, offer me an IVR to review my balance and pay through the keypad

How would this have been better?

  • DSO?  AT&T; would have collected payment right there instead of me forgetting about it for another three days when I finally went on line and paid the bill
  • Cost to serve/collect?  Opportunity to reduce that by at least 80% via return text or IVR, which ever channel I chose. 
  • Customer sat?  Well, this post would have had a completely different twist I assume

I can’t imagine AT&T; doesn’t have these capabilities currently within their contact center architecture.  So, then I’m left to conclude again that this was a break down in process, with a lack of solution planning and design from the customer and enterprise perspective.  The broader lesson here is important to note.  As technologies become more distributed across the enterprise and into the cloud, requiring less and less IT heavy lifting, it’s becoming even more critical that business stakeholders engage IT for strategic technology planning and design.  While business stakeholders may not readily see the need, I think this example shows that its needed now more than ever.

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