When it comes to providing customer service, the two main goals – providing fast service and cultivating a great customer relationship – can often be at odds with one another. Companies desperate to keep average handle times down may have agents cut corners on greetings, taking time to really listen to the customer, and double-checking information with customers to avoid errors. While this behavior will certainly keep calls short, it will also keep customers away.
Taking the time to make the customer feel valued, on the other hand, may lead to long call queues, which result in long hold times for customers waiting for service. In these cases, doing a great job with a handful of customers is pointless if you’re angering dozens or hundreds more.
A great customer experience and an efficient contact center process are not mutually exclusive. Contact center managers simply need to understand which processes can help achieve both goals, and which practices harm customer relationships or the bottom line. According to Aspect’s (News - Alert) Stephen Ball, one of the best technologies companies can use to achieve a great customer experience at cost is properly crafted self-service, which customers actually like.
“The quickest and most efficient way to reduce waiting times is to empower the customer and give them more than one way to solve their problem – think community forums, social media and the number one preferred customer channel, self-service,” he wrote in a recent blog post.
This isn’t to say that any self-service will do. Poorly designed IVRs with too many menu choices, or FAQ lists that haven’t been updated since 2011 aren’t going to impress your customers. A frustratingly slow and hard-to-use mobile app also isn’t going to do it. Self-service needs to be planned and executed carefully, and then fully tested for faults, delays, missing information and speed. In the case of IVR, it also needs to have an easy path to a live agent.
“IVR is a great tool for routine inbound inquiries, but is often used clumsily,” wrote Ball. “Customers tend to associate it with overlong and redundant prompts, vague commands, and a frustrating inability to speak to another human being when their problem can’t be solved.”
Many self-service technologies have been given powerful makeovers in recent years. More traditional concepts – or traditionally one-way media – are being combined with technologies such as interactive text response (ITR) and automated speech recognition to broaden customers’ self-service choices and continue to have the benefits of a path to a live agent.
Another way to boost quality while saving time is to ensure that customers are always routed to the right person for the query. Transfers between agents – and having to explain problems over and over again – is one of customers’ greatest pet peeves. More up-to-date skills based routing can help.
For contact centers that experience vastly different call traffic from day to day (or even hour to hour), a good callback solution can allow customers to “make an appointment” to be called by an agent at a later time.
One of the most critical ways to ensure great customer service at reduced costs, however, to ensure that agents have every bit of information they might ever require to handle customers’ issues in easy reach on their desktops. When agents have to launch new applications, search multiple knowledge bases or wait to consult with managers, both goals – a great customer experience and lower costs – are out of reach. Smart organizations allow their customer support knowledge bases to “grow” organically, so agents don’t need to solve the same problems over and over each time. Collaborative efforts can go a long way toward turning over a new customer experience leaf.