Customers Are Calling But Who’s There To Answer?
The world is starting to accelerate towards a true end to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the post-pandemic contact center market faces a big question: how to handle increased inbound call volumes when hiring more agents has been made difficult after COVID?
At the beginning of the pandemic, call centers around the world saw inbound call volumes spike dramatically, but those high volumes have remained high. An analysis of millions of calls by analytics company Dialogtech saw the year over year change from December 2019 to December 2020 increase across industries, with retail the highest increase at over 34%.
At the same time, hiring new contact center agents to handle this dramatic increase in call volumes has been difficult. According to reports from Customer Contact Central, “several call center outsourcing vendors have disclosed that training class show rates are down to 40%-50%, some as low as 20%.” The answer for many modern contact centers has turned out to be automated self-service platforms like Visual IVR.
“The answer for many modern contact centers has turned out to be automated self-service platforms like Visual IVR.”
Agent Costs Increasing
Hiring more agents to handle of course more calls means increased contact center costs. In the post-COVID employment landscape, those costs are increasing exponentially. Before the pandemic, the fully loaded cost per call for agent-handled interactions (including labor costs, occupancy, benefits, and telecom) were around $2.70-$5.60 per call.
In 2021, hourly wages around the US are going up in every industry, driving up competition for contact centers looking to hire. Larger companies like Amazon are offering hire wages, and recently announced a $100 signing bonus for vaccinated new hires. As a result, many US employees are changing careers. According to a Pew Research study, 66% of unemployed adults seriously considered changing their field of work, and one-third of unemployed adults say they have already taken steps to retool their skills by pursuing job retraining programs or educational opportunities.
Unfortunately for contact center and BPO providers, most clients still expect outdated compensation and pricing models, putting the squeeze on BPOs. Contact centers have to balance raising wages and costs to stay competitive in the hiring market while keeping prices low to stay competitive in the industry.
“66% of unemployed adults seriously considered changing their field of work, and one-third of unemployed adults say they have already taken steps to retool their skills by pursuing job retraining programs or educational opportunities.”
The Self-Service Answer
As more customers call contact centers and fewer agents are around to answer, the gap between contact center capacity and inbound call volume grows. To alleviate this problem, many BPOs are opting for self-service solutions to automate their most common call types. According to Gartner, “Migrating Contact Volume From Assisted to Self-Service Channels” was one of the most important priorities for 80% of customer service leaders in 2021, followed closely by “Automating Customer Service Processes.” It makes sense. Automated solutions are both cost effective, and reduce the average handling time of inbound calls — both critical advantages in the modern market.
Sitting on top of traditional voice IVR systems, self-service tools like Visual IVR deliver engaging customer service to callers with common use cases, leaving contact center agents available to handle more complex, empathy-driven interactions where their human skills and expertise provide the most value.
25-40% of callers opt in to Visual IVR self-service when they are presented with the option. With impressive containment rates over 70%, a well designed and implemented Visual IVR solution helps businesses enjoy great savings while improving their customers’ experiences.
“These automated solutions are both cost effective, and reduce the average handling time of inbound calls.”
Callers Prefer Digital Self-Service Too
Contact center leaders aren’t the only ones who’ve come to enjoy self-service solutions during the pandemic. Customers want digital automation as well. According to McKinsey, “fully 75 percent of people using digital channels for the first time indicate that they will continue to use them when things return to ‘normal.’”
Much of that sustained digital adoption likely stems from the benefits digital self-service brings to the speed of calls. Because of the sharp increase in calls, during the pandemic average handle time (AHT) has grown from 3-6 min to 10+ minutes. Abandonment rates have also risen, from 2-5% to 10+%. For straightforward, easily automated call types like order status or account management, self-service solutions can deliver results to callers in less than a minute or two on average — much faster than a traditional IVR and live agent interaction.
PwC found nearly 80% of American consumers say that speed is one of the most important elements of a positive customer experience. With the speed, convenience, and reliability of modern digital self-service, it’s no wonder customers are pleased with the industry shifting towards automating common use cases.
“Fully 75 percent of people using digital channels for the first time indicate that they will continue to use them when things return to ‘normal.’”
Customers Are Calling And Automation Is Answering
Most contact centers see 80% of their calls and interactions caused by the same approximately 20% of query types. By innovating these critical use cases, executives can accelerate their path towards digital CX and smooth out their journey towards success. By automating where it’s needed and letting live agents handle the rest, customers and agents stand to benefit.
Solutions like Visual IVR are cost effective and quick to implement, making them the perfect digital self-service solution to adopt in reaction to the increasingly competitive hiring market modern contact centers are facing after the COVID-19 pandemic.
By shifting common calls to self-service solutions, contact center managers can alleviate the pressure of onboarding new agents, answer the surge of inbound calls, and improve customer experience by reducing average handling time all at the same time. Launch a Visual IVR solution in under 4 weeks to unlock the benefits modern self-service tools are providing to today’s contact centers.”