International VP Enghouse Interactive
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If attrition is such an issue why do call centres drive customers away?

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11th Jul 2013
International VP Enghouse Interactive
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Technology can be the solution to - rather than the cause of - customer churn when it comes to the contact centre. 

A massive 73% of UK consumers have chosen to abandon a business purchase or defect to a competitor. And it’s not just about price – service, accessibility and personalisation all play a part and yet these are the factors that appear to be regressing in the face of inevitable cost cutting in contact centres. 

Yet, in reality, there are many different approaches and techniques that businesses can employ to deliver good customer service and keep customers loyal that don’t cost the earth.

In focusing on churn reduction, companies first need to recognise  that today’s customers are more sophisticated than ever and have at their disposal a greater range of tools with which to contact the vendor or service provider. They want to communicate wherever they are and at whatever time and they expect their contact to be successful, first time, every time.

The exact solution chosen by the provider will differ widely depending on the customer. A young employee commuting to the office on the train might want to communicate digitally via a mobile phone on their journey to work. An older, more traditional high net worth individual would be more likely to want to use a voice connection to a personal banker or relationship manager - a trusted individual with whom they have dealt before. Companies need to recognise these distinctions and tailor their service accordingly.

New technologies are now coming on stream, helping to support this focus on positive interaction between a business and its customers. Voice biometrics is a case in point, enabling organisations to recognise a caller from his or her voice print. Not only is this an extremely secure approach, it also heavily cuts down the identification and verification time and effort that customers go through. The ever-increasing use of mobile devices by consumers gives organisations the opportunity to further personalise their offerings by tailoring customer services products and promotions, based on prior data usage and subscriptions and past preferences. The use of video communication including, with costs in mind, the free service Skype, also helps provides a more personalised experience – even extending to customer service experts showing callers how to solve problems.

Personalised service increases loyalty

Sometimes though, positive customer engagement is as much about the application of an intelligent human approach as it is about innovative technology. A key element of this is not being content with a catch-all approach to customer service but instead tailoring that service to the specific needs of each individual customer.  This can be as simple as ensuring that the agent greets them by name to automatically routing that caller back to the representative they last dealt with and who is therefore familiar to them and with their issues.

Companies can also draw on the rich knowledge inherent in their CRM systems to ensure they have the history of a customer to hand when they call and they can tap into the awareness and understanding of their skills-based workers so that all calls are dealt with intelligence rather than running the risk of the rules being insensitively applied by inexperienced members of staff.

The latest technology provides further opportunities for personalisation. As already referenced, video offers great potential in this area. In the future, it seems likely GPS technology will be used more to deliver a service matching users’ individual needs. Already today, organisations can use this kind of technology to pinpoint where their customers are at any given point. A breakdown service, for example, could use this capability to rapidly pinpoint the customer’s location; commit to a specific timeframe and provide regular updates as they get closer.

The 80/20 rule

This need to customise is particularly important when it comes to managing the approximate 20% of customer interactions that need managing in detail. Most businesses are structured around an 80:20 business model. So 80% of the customer interactions they have are passed as straight-through processes: they go straight through the business without needing to be touched by the human hand.

One time URLs and self-service methodologies are, of course, unlikely to be anywhere near as effective for high net worth individuals from the baby boomer generation, for example. This kind of customer is typically going to want to phone a personal relationship manager. They will want to speak to a staff member in person – someone they can trust to solve their problems for them. It is at these key moments of truth where the organisation concerned can either shine or fail; where they can incur massive costs or a huge amount of customer churn by alienating their business users.

Having a system that provides agility and ensures the right agent is linked to the right customer is key to ensuring the customer is answered quickly and their issue resolved first time. This may sound simple but balancing staffing resources to customer demand it is one of the key issues facing contact centres – and yet getting it wrong is the main cause of customer attrition. Workforce optimisation solutions provide the tools to match customer demand with skilled people yet cost will always be a constraint to a utopian solution. 

Sometimes the key to reducing churn is for businesses to just be more proactive in engaging with their customers, offering them new incentives, making new technology available to them and providing new approaches that might make life easier for them. All of this helps to create a personalised relationship; a rapport with the customer, that encourages loyalty rather than creating frustration and driving them away.

Jeremy Payne is international VP marketing at Enghouse Interactive.

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