Industry Research : A Tweet Can Keep Clients Sweet
Businesses in the Emirates often use Twitter to make short pitches to shoppers about their products or services.
But a quick scan of tweets sent by companies such as the telecommunications operators du and Etisalat will reveal plenty of back-and-forth digital discussion between them and disgruntled customers.
"Slowest internet ever ... any reason for this?" one woman tweeted to Etisalat on Thursday.
The woman was asked to report her complaint on the phone, and then later replied - on Twitter - that her husband had received a call from Etisalat and was "very happy with the outcome, thank you!"
Increasingly, communications software created by technology firms such as Genesys, Avaya and Cisco is being used by customer service providers to tackle a wide array of complaints and concerns abroad and in the Emirates and wider Middle East. "What we can do is monitor Facebook or Twitter [and perform] analytics on it," said Paul Segre, the president and chief executive of Genesys, during a trip to Dubai last week.
"We can determine if something is actionable, if someone is happy or not. We can get someone to [a representative] with an appropriate skill ... with a tweet, email, SMS or phone. All of that can be designed," Mr Segre explained.
Avaya says it is working with airlines, banks, telecoms operators and other businesses in the Emirates on improving their customer service through various technologies.
Traditionally, people who wanted to comment on service often ended up having to dial numerous different numbers or shouting requests into a voice-activated programme. If all went well, which was not always the case, then a real person would eventually pick up the call.
These days, however, some big businesses are being pushed to invest in more sophisticated means to keep pace with consumers who demand different kinds of contact points.
In Europe, a third of consumers say they would like to use mobile apps to resolve customer service issues. The speed of resolving a problem is what they cite as the most important factor in delivering the best customer service experience, according to the 2011 Global Contact Centre Consumer Preference Report, which was released by Avaya in June.
Residents in the Middle East, and the UAE in particular, have also been asking for more of these mobile customer service tools. And both companies and government organisations, in turn, have started investing more money into them.
"Our focus this year will be on e-government services, and we're working actively in Fujairah to Abu Dhabi to see how we can help change relationships with citizens and government," says Mohamed Afifi, the regional sales director for the Middle East at Genesys.
Of course, companies such as Genesys and Avaya have a vested interested in wanting to drive businesses to a more complex - and costly - system.
But their skills are similarly being challenged by consumers who are moving deeper into the online world. Numerous social networking and micro-blogging sites have cropped up to compete against the likes of Facebook and Twitter, which still tend to get the most focus in the latest customer service software.
Virtual gaming is another burgeoning field consumers are showing more interest in. By 2014, more than 70 per cent of the top 2000 companies globally will have at least one gaming application, according to Gartner, a market research firm.
Some experts argue these kinds of apps will increase engagement between consumers and employees and may play into the customer service experience.
How that actually plays out remains to be seen.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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