As a contact center professional, you’re well aware that many company consider the contact center a necessary cost for appeasing customers. But innovations in technology are enabling companies to transform their contact centers into a strategic tool for managing customer relationships personally and proactively. With the right architecture and the right strategic approach, businesses can put their focus on making their customers feel like what they truly are–important.
Here are a few technologies that your company should consider implementing, if it hasn’t already, in order to optimize effectiveness and efficiency in customer service—and to subsequently reduce costs, decrease customer attrition, and increase customer loyalty.
1) Self-service: Providing high-quality self-service is a growing trend that gives customers a convenient option for choosing when and how they initiate customer service interactions. In fact, self-service is now the number-one method of contact among businesses and consumers. Therefore, when calling a business, the quality of the interactive voice response (IVR) interaction is key.
Feedback on touch-tone IVRs indicates that consumers are comfortable using them if they are easy and efficient to navigate. But when menus become too long or the process takes too much time, consumers become annoyed with both the process and the company overall. Businesses that have experienced greater success managing wait time and transfers are the same ones that have invested in and implemented well-designed IVRs.
2) Speech recognition: More and more businesses are turning to speech-enabled IVRs as a way to improve usability. These systems prompt customers to say what they are calling about and then quickly connect the customer to an appropriate agent or self-service system. Consumers are highly receptive to speech-enabled IVRs, as long as they work the way the consumer expects. Of those businesses already using speech recognition, the vast majority say user adoption of the technologies has met or surpassed expectations, and many have reported return on investment within 12 months of deployment.
3) Customer call-back: Another dynamic solution for better managing service quality during peak times involves offering the customer the option of requesting a return call from an agent – at a time they prefer – rather than remaining on hold to speak to someone. This technology takes advantage of intelligent routing capabilities to prioritize requests and then route them to the agent most skilled to handle them. This strategy also offers the chance for agents to return calls at times known to be quiet periods for the contact center. This helps drive out volatility, increases predictability, reduces costs, and improves customer satisfaction.
4) Integrated channels: Customers increasingly expect all systems – online, IVR, or live agent – to be seamlessly integrated and consistent in terms of the information and capabilities provided. Linking all systems also provides agents with a comprehensive view of the customer experience, which can ultimately lead to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty.
For example, have you ever called a company to explain a problem and ask for advice, only to call back 15 minutes later with a follow-up question and get a different agent who has no record of your earlier discussion? This experience likely affected your overall impression of the business and your likelihood of using them or that method of interaction again. In today’s electronic age, it only takes a click of the mouse for customers to take their business elsewhere.
5) Matching agent skills: Connecting the customer, all relevant information, and the most appropriate customer service resource is fundamental to optimizing the effectiveness of interactions and achieving the best possible outcomes. For example, linking business outcome data to call data on a call-by-call basis can provide additional value — such as knowing which agents sell better to which customer segments. Once you’ve identified such skill sets, you can route calls in a way that takes advantage of the selling skills of particular agents. Meanwhile, nonsales or routine customer interactions can be routed to agents with different skills.
You can modify this routing strategy depending on call volume. When traffic is light you can aim for optimal probability of a sale. When it is heavier, you can opt for greater efficiency. This allows the contact center to more effectively match the calls with the volume to help reduce costs, ensure more responsive service, and maximize sales opportunities.
Wes Hayden is president/CEO of Daly City, CA-based contact center solutions provider Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories.