Dial 1-800-digital: Modernizing a legacy service for today's business - Canadian Government Executive
BusinessInnovationsTransformation
March 20, 2018

Dial 1-800-digital: Modernizing a legacy service for today’s business

Digital transformation is not about eliminating legacy technologies entirely; it's about leveraging every touchpoint, making intelligent connections between them, and creating seamless workflows that target specific problems your business is trying to solve.

Making a successful digital transformation is tough. It can be costly, confusing, and downright frustrating. However, digital transformations come in many different shapes, sizes and over varying timelines. Those in the tech world can get caught up in the “rip and replace” mindset, where the solution is to completely gut old infrastructure to make way for the new.

I would argue that making a digital transformation is not about eliminating legacy technologies entirely; it’s about leveraging every touchpoint, making intelligent connections between them, and creating seamless workflows that target specific problems your business is trying to solve.

To highlight how this can be done, I’d like to walk you through how businesses can modernize a customer service classic: the 1-800 toll-free number.

Now that everyone has a mobile phone and an unlimited calling plan, the toll-free model has outlived its traditional value to customers. It’s tough for the service to satisfy their primary purpose for businesses because most people now keep their same mobile number for life—no matter where they move—so companies can no longer properly direct customer calls based on area code. Geographic routing is largely broken today.

Despite the limitations, toll-free numbers have actually increased by 200,000 in the U.S. last year, upping the grand total to 41 million, from only 15 million in the late 90s. In the case of 1-800 numbers, they’re increasing because ‘voice’ is still the premiere customer channel.

So, the business challenge then becomes how do we take this legacy, singular-modality service and move it to a digital world that’s multi-channel and context-centric? How do we intelligently transition incoming calls to a robust digital experience, then bring customers back to voice, full circle, when and if required?

Simplify customer access points

One of the reasons 1-800 numbers have increased is that companies use them as a way of segmenting customers. Oftentimes, companies will have separate numbers for customers who have issues with different products or services. Other times, they create separate lines for priority customers. This line segregation seems overly complex when compared to a digital call centre environment, which can quickly leverage user data and attributes to intelligently route customers to the agents who can best serve them. Why confuse customers with 30 different numbers when you can have just one?  With high-fidelity caller ID and context, this is now a reality.

Integrate mobile

With a web browser, SMS and built-in apps, mobile devices are the perfect multi-channel tool. So, when a customer calls your 1-800 number from their smartphone, why not send them a link over SMS that gives them the option of transitioning to a mobile digital experience? Modern call centres can even leverage APIs in popular digital channels (Facebook Messenger, Twitter, etc.) to serve customers where they’re most comfortable, and then connect everything back to their own environment.

Create a contextually-aware call centre

While legacy phone systems can no longer reliably discern where a toll-free call is coming from, a digitally-enabled call centre can instantly glean all sorts of context from customers who dial in with their mobile device—their name, number, postal code, etc.

Compare this scenario to your typical customer service interaction today. A caller is greeted by an automated system that asks who they are and why they’re calling before they’re eventually connected to a live agent who inevitably asks the very same questions again. In a digital environment with biometrics, these time-consuming security assertions are no longer necessary as security checks occur in the background at lightning speed, so agents can quickly verify who they’re talking to and move forward uninterrupted.

And, what about a dropped call? In a typical call-in telephony model, a customer would have zero chance of reaching the same agent if they called back into a 1-800 number. They would just go back in the queue. In a digital workflow model, however, the transaction isn’t complete just because the audio channel drops. A simple automated message, “Would you like to reconnect with the same agent?” would instantly put the customer back on track, sparing time and eliminating frustration.

Meshing a 1-800 service into a next-gen digital environment will provide businesses with valuable context about their customers. Businesses will be able to provide an exceptional customer experience in the most effective and efficient manner possible and ensure that customers always receive the right service on the right channel at the right time.

This approach to augmenting legacy toll-free service proves that businesses don’t always have to replace their entire infrastructure – they just need to pivot—and this pivoting can be done at their pace and within their budget. Digital transformation is about leveraging the legacy services that are already working for your business and bringing them to a modern environment so you can enhance your customer experience in new and innovative ways.

Tracy Fleming is a Senior Technologist at Avaya Canada.

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Tracy Fleming

Tracy Fleming is a Senior Technologist at Avaya Canada.

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