Contact centre technology expert John Duffy reviews practical ways of balancing on what he says is the ‘tight rope’ of good contact centre cost management and customer delight
For the cost centre manager, maintaining high cost efficiency and equally high customer satisfaction scores can sometimes be a tough balancing act. With digital transformation and a move away from the traditional outreach channels of mail and phone, it’s getting even more challenging.
Challenging – but there are ways out of this impasse. Contact centre leaders and the brands they support have told us their most common issues, as well as some practical ways to solve them.
So-so response rates
Response rates to outbound calls have been impacted dramatically due to endless telephone scams and too many unwanted cold calls just as householders are sitting down to eat. In parallel, email is suffering from too much volume, with 80% of unsolicited mails unopened and 30% identified as spam, making people wary of opening anything from people they don’t recognise [http://www.radicati.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/Email-Statistics-Report-2015-2019-Executive-Summary.pdf]. Few marketing lists secure anywhere near 50% open rates from campaigns [https://help.campaignmonitor.com/topic.aspx?t=89].
Our first recommendation is drop snail and e-mail and switch to SMS (text). Mobile is a top three communication channel for the under 55s, and brands and customers in key demographics consistently tell pollsters they prefer it. Figures show 90% of texts get viewed in the first three minutes, so adopt this medium over email as much as possible.
Poor insight into user sentiment
How do you know what you do is what customers want? Specifically, how do you know how well your brand or services are faring? That matters, as it helps you improve your outreach, plus provides you with data to improve your offering in the future. This is compounded by poor ways of helping customers, which can equate to less than industry-standard CX (customer experience) scores for your brand.
More and more businesses are recognising that being able to offer a consistently good customer experience is a source of competitive advantage. Our suggestion here is to automate the CX side of things to get consistency and better data capture. This can apply across the mix, from collecting payment to delivery management or following up customer service queries. The best way to do it is via automation, which our customers find will deliver self-service capability and speed up response times.
Your agents too busy helping to actually help
Many of the enquiries call centre agents manage are low-value, high-repetition tasks that could easily be moved to proactive self-service. Having the vast majority of these routine enquiries managed by call centre agents not only uses expensive resource, it can tend to cause delay to the customer in getting their issue resolved. Today, most tech-savvy customers would prefer to be guided to solve their own problems, if they trust the system understands what they want.
So help by automating as much as you can – automation that doesn’t have to be a highly sophisticated AI, just extending the means by which agents can listen to and communicate with brand followers. By moving to a text (SMS) based interface with customers, for instance, your contact centre team can work with multiple clients at once – far more than they could manage through individual one-to-one calls.
Staff time eating into your margin
One of the most significant line items in the contact centre budget is, of course, staff costs. For most it’s the biggest, and some industry veterans say it could be as high as 70% of all your budget [https://www.callcentrehelper.com/how-is-a-call-centre-managed-51308.htm].
That means making the best possible use of this valuable resource is key to ensuring your return on investment is maximised. So our fourth suggestion is to offer a spread of channels beyond voice, as it’ll mean customers can choose the medium they like best (usually, low-cost SMS). Use software to handle the vast bulk of your customer contact, reserving agent shift time to dealing with the critical or complex issues. This not only promotes consistent, quality CX, but it also saves costs, as agent time is so expensive compared to automation, and will deliver more value-add tasks to the human link in the response chain.
We value your call – but we’re not sure what to do with it
While the overall volume of inbound calls may be falling, customers often want to default to a human voice for complex or high-importance interactions. When they do, ensuring you have the right staff to help is critical to ensuring quick resolution and continued customer satisfaction – easier said than done when agents are engaged in low value, simple calls.
Our fifth and final piece of advice, then, is to take back some control here by encouraging customers to call specific numbers at the time you’re best equipped to help them, e.g. at quieter times/end of shift. That means both quicker resolution of customer service issues, and more timely responses to maximum efficiency.
The proactive customer engagement future
Based on what we see in the field every day, being able to offer a consistently good customer experience is a source of competitive advantage. That means contact centre managers can’t afford not to acknowledge the move to what emerging sector best practice see as proactive engagement.
Proactive means using technology to anticipate customers’ demand, resulting in boosted satisfaction, solving of customer problems quicker, and improving that balance between team time and profitability that we identified at the start of our discussion as the tightrope the call centre manager needs to walk every day.
The good news is that by introducing intelligent, proactive customer engagement solutions, it is possible to transform the way you manage customer engagement – and walk on that tightrope to a successful destination for you and your brand.
John Duffy is Account Consultant at proactive customer outreach services leader VoiceSage (www.voicesage.com)
These issues John raises here are dealt with in more depth in this special VoiceSage and Engage webinar, available for free download here [ http://view6.workcast.net/?cpak=4124716884348434&pak=6343265626381929].