Contact centres: How to reduce customer effort

2nd Jul 2014

With more and more of us becoming hooked on smart devices and using interactive platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instant Messaging (IM), the requirement to deliver service via multiple channels has increased. Connected consumers expect consistently high service, regardless of which channel they use and when they choose to interact – something contact centres need to consider when evaluating their customer effort and multichannel strategies.

Yet this is not without its challenges. As multichannel contact management expands, agents are required to handle several different communication paths. Some agents, however, may be unsuited to particular channels or multi-tasking, which could lead to increased queue lengths or an irate Tweet going viral.

Making interactions more straightforward

Whatever channel they use, customers make contact with a goal in mind. It makes sense then that making it easier to achieve this goal will help retain loyal customers and improve the likelihood of them making a repeat purchase. 

To address the rise in omnichannel engagement, organisations should map their customers’ journeys with them to limit the effort they have to make in navigating the contact centre. This should involve a full review of all their channels of communication, taking into consideration how the number of times they make contact and the channels they use (e.g. phone, web chat, email, social media) affect their customer effort scores.

To boost speed and free-up agents, low-effort channels such as automated services can be provided for straightforward transactions such as card payments. Similarly, repeat questions should be avoided for customers calling by phone where they are passed between agents, which contact centre users frequently say contributes to a negative experience.

Measurable improvements

Process improvements can be measured against a scale by asking the customer to rate each interaction. In turn, these scores will reveal if the contact centre is actually delivering answers to customer issues.

To measure the success of any changes, creating a balanced set of customer effort metrics at the outset is key at the start of any process improvement programme. Here, contact centre technology can help harness processes as well as capture and evaluate key performance indicators such as First Contact Resolution (FCR), Customer Effort and Customer Lifetime Value scores.

Having mapped how individual customers interact with an organisation, it may become apparent that contact management processes unwittingly create obstacles. An emphasis on reducing calling time, for example, can result in agents limiting the extent to which they respond to customers, leading to repeat calls and more customer effort.

Supporting sales with successful resolutions

While some contact centres will opt for specialist teams, it can make more sense to train and equip a team of multimedia agents to handle peak demand. Using social media monitoring and engagement technology to integrate social media within the contact centre, could see agents switching seamlessly between channels during peak periods, handling web chat in real time, social media in near real time and email in between. By smoothing out the peaks and troughs, the business will be delivered as normal, whatever the situation.

The huge advantage of social media monitoring and analysis software is that it operates round-the-clock, identifying negative phrases and comments and the degree of influence exerted by the people who post them. If a complaint online turns into a voice call, then integration of systems gives the agent a rounded view of the caller and a detailed history of the issue.

This 24/7 monitoring will give an early warning should an out-of-hours social media storm threaten to blow up. In readiness for such an emergency, an organisation can formulate a crisis management plan so it is never caught out.

Ultimately, this is about much more than corporate image. With strong competition for business, customers are hard to win and can easily be lost. In this respect, the contact centre has a key role to play in supporting the sales process and keeping real and potential customers on-side. In working to understand and improve every interaction, the primary objectives will be to reduce customer turnover and increase repeat purchases.

Richard Farrell is CTO at Netcall.

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