Customer experience has never been more important. Customer service teams are under increased pressure to deliver the right answers to a growing volume of calls, across a wider range of topics than ever before. For example, over half of respondents to the latest ContactBabel UK Contact Centre Decision Maker’s Guide 2020-21 said that calls had increased due to the pandemic.
When you add in pressure on resources, such as staff absence and potential issues with remote working technology, many contact centres struggle to cope with these high contact volumes, leading to angry customers who are more likely to leave. How can businesses successfully reduce incoming call volumes, while still guaranteeing the highest standards of service?
Based on our experience, we’ve identified four areas where contact centres can make a difference in their operations.
1. Get it right the first time to reduce follow-up calls
Often a customer calls when they have an issue or complaint, meaning that they are already upset. They feel that they are having to waste their valuable time getting in contact – and they want their problem to be solved the first time. They don’t want to have to call back or chase for a resolution. Demonstrating this, across all demographics, over 58% of consumers surveyed by ContactBabel ranked first contact resolution (FCR) among the top three factors behind successful service.
Not only does a high FCR rate lead to happier customers, but it also increases efficiency. Getting it right the first time means agents don’t need to handle the same query multiple times, freeing up resources to answer other calls. Contact centre managers understand this – 81% of them ranked it in their top three factors, with 54% putting it first according to ContactBabel.
Ensuring FCR requires fast access to answers for agents, the ability to collaborate with colleagues when required and the right end-to-end processes to complete the interaction. For example, using tools such as Microsoft Teams enables agents to ask subject experts questions in real-time while still speaking to a customer, avoiding the need to put people on hold (which lengthens call times) or having to arrange a call-back. At the same time, businesses need to ensure that their definitions of a resolved query match that of the customer – it is no good ticking a call as ‘complete’ if the customer is left unsatisfied. For example, if a replacement product needs to be dispatched, it is only when the customer has that in their hands that the interaction is successfully concluded.
2. Focus on keeping your knowledge updated
Getting vague, inconsistent or out of date answers is a perennial complaint from customers. Often this is not the agent’s fault – they simply don’t have access to the latest information and so are forced to either search for it while on the call or follow up with it later via a separate call.
Contact centres, therefore, need to ensure that their knowledge management systems are kept fully updated at all times, sharing a single source of truth with agents, self-service systems and chatbots. This directly reduces calls and improves service in two ways. By making information available to customers through web or IVR self-service, they remove the need to call at all, valuing their time and bring down contact volumes.
Additionally, this knowledge empowers agents handling calls with the information they need to resolve a query quickly and efficiently – without having to ask a colleague or put customers on hold.
Customer needs are changing rapidly, particularly given current conditions, which means that constantly updated knowledge is vital, whether it is about shop reopening dates, COVID safety precautions or future plans. Our research with 1,000 UK consumers found that a quarter (25%) of people were contacting businesses more due to the crisis – and that over a third of respondents (34%) were frustrated by the lack of up-to-date knowledge shared by many businesses. There’s clearly a direct link between successful knowledge management, contact volumes and customer satisfaction levels.
3. Give customers the ability to self-serve
We live in a ‘constantly on’ world, where consumers want answers 24 hours a day. And they are happy to find information themselves, rather than be forced to call unnecessarily, particularly for basic answers.
Organisations should make it easy for them to self-serve, either via the company website or IVR. This not only reduces call volumes but also gives customers control and reassurance as they can access information and find answers to their queries themselves. 83% of UK consumers already use or are willing to use web self-service, according to an Eptica Automation Study, Improving customer experience through automation – with 54% happy to use intelligent assistants such as Amazon Alexa or Apple’s Siri to get answers.
Self-service needs to be powered by up-to-date knowledge and constantly be tuned to meet changing customer requirements. Analyse your incoming calls and look to spot areas and content which needs to be added to your self-service solution or made more visible on your website to successfully deflect unnecessary calls.
4. Invest in chat and chatbots
For customers, live chat provides an increasingly useful alternative to picking up the phone. They can get fast answers without having to change from the web channel – and as agents can handle multiple chat sessions at once it is more efficient than forcing people to call.
Chatbots or virtual assistants take this a step further, automating chat and delivering a fast, effortless and personalised experience. Virtual assistants linked to your knowledge management system can quickly get customers most of the answers they are looking for, although a seamless hand-off to a customer service representative may be needed if the interaction becomes too complex.
Using virtual assistants can typically reduce inbound calls, chats and messages by over 50%, thereby making a significant contribution to lowering contact volumes and pressure on agents. They can also capture all the information provided by the customer (identity and verification (ID&V) and transcripts) to decrease the length of the live chat significantly. As they learn more, they become even more effective to the point where analysts predict they will handle 80% of interactions without requiring a human.
While the future is difficult to predict, one thing is certain – customers will be become more demanding and require faster answers to a higher volume and wider range of questions. Contact centres, therefore, need to focus on ways to give them these answers without adding to call volumes, all while improving the overall experience and service levels.