The coronavirus has totally changed all of our lives. Contact centers must adapt and industry experts agree on what they absolutely have to do flatten the contact center curve.
The global Coronavirus pandemic has fundamentally changed all of our lives. Quarantines and closures have changed how we all do business. The path forward is difficult, but modern technology is helping companies around the world find success.
During this time of crisis, first and foremost the health and safety of everyone should be priority number one. Employees, customers, our families. Keeping everyone safe and healthy takes precedence. As businesses shift to work from home (WFH) and take other precautions to ensure all of our safety, a combination of increased call volumes and decreased capacity could lead to unwanted CX outcomes.
“Start thinking about your ‘Convenience Strategy.’ Look for ways to make your customers’ or clients’ experience with you easy and CONVENIENT!”
— Shep Hyken, CX Expert
Customer Convenience Is Paramount Right Now
According to CX Expert, Shep Hyken, companies must focus on their “Convenience Strategy.” It’s crucially important to focus on how easy it is for customers to do business with our companies, especially during a crisis. It earns customer loyalty, keeps them coming back despite current uncertainties, and reaffirms their trust in your brand and business.
Think about ways you can make your business more customer friendly. Look for opportunities to show how easy you are to do business with. I call this customer management.
— Shep Hyken (@Hyken) April 18, 2020
Start thinking about your “Convenience Strategy.” Look for ways to make your customers’ or clients’ experience with you easy and CONVENIENT!
— Shep Hyken (@Hyken) April 19, 2020
Making customer service easy and convenient for as many customers as possible is easier said than done in our brave new world of WFH. COVID-19 means contact centers around the world are facing increased call volumes and decreased capacity. With the playbooks customer service managers have relied on for years becoming less relevant, how does customer service adapt? As businesses look to cut costs and save money as we face an uncertain future, how can they do so while maintaining fast, convenient customer service?
Self-Service Is Crucial To COVID-19 Response Plans
Brad Cleveland, CEO of the International Customer Management Institute, suggests the right way to control contact center costs right now is by turning to technology. Cleveland suggests, “Chances are, about 20% of call types account for about 80% of the workload our center handles.” That means deploying technology to handle even a small amount of call types can have a huge impact on CX overall. It’s critical that customer service managers track and identify their most important call types right now.
When contact centers know what their customers are calling about, they can move to effectively and efficiently adapt to this crisis. Cleveland identifies important questions to think about once calls are being tracked, “Tracking contacts for each channel and queue can lead to questions such as:
- Should the contact center be getting so many contacts of that type?
- Where can self-service handle more of the load?
- Would better information or facilitating customer-to-customer help reduce contacts?
- Would a campaign to educate customers on contact alternatives help shift the workload to less expensive channels?”
Flattening the Contact Center Curve With Automation
Self-service may just be the perfect answer to our current situation. When contact centers know which call types are most impactful, they can deploy automation and self-service to make those prominent use cases faster, more convenient, and — most importantly — less stressful for callers. Miguel Caetano from the contact center, unified communications, and artificial intelligence powerhouse Talkdesk, explains how new self-service technology and AI can “flatten the contact center curve” in a recent blog post.
As we all adapt to WFH, intelligent virtual agents (IVA) can be a powerful tool for increasing convenience and empowering customers and agents. Caetano calls out three important ways self-service automation can impact contact centers today:
- Addressing most frequent questions: An intelligent virtual agent can address the most frequent calls like information requests, update account information, or even change or cancel appointments, meetings, or trips.
- Providing 24/7 service: Virtual agents reduce customer service pressure by providing service around the clock. A well designed AI-powered virtual agent can reduce live agent load in addition to answering questions during off-hours.
- Transferring to live agents: While a virtual agent can address several issues, customers need empathy and comfort. A virtual agent should be able to transfer any interaction to a live agent immediately whenever customers need it.
As contact centers face increasing call volumes and lowered capacity, these self-service tools are critical for managing spikes and agent workload. Caetano illustrates this well with a chart highlighting the difference between contact centers without IVA and those with IVA. With self-service and other agent assistance technology in the contact center, agents will need less time to answer more calls and contact centers will see fewer calls exceeding their capacity.
The Best Way Forward
Callers waiting on hold for customer service are losing patience. As contact centers continue to find their way through the current situation, reducing average handle time (AHT) and eliminating any time customers have to wait on hold with nothing to do is crucial to increasing efficiency and increasing customer satisfaction (CSAT). Modern self-service tools and IVA mean customers get their questions answered immediately, don’t need to wait on hold, and calls that would have otherwise overwhelmed contact centers are deflected to successful automated channels.
If contact centers lean into modern technology, tools like Visual IVR will begin to:
- Increase CSAT: reduced AHT and increased first call resolution (FCR) means more successful customer experiences and increased convenience for customers already stressed out by the global pandemic
- Empower agents: strained under the weight of switching to WFH and faced with a wave of increased call volumes, agents assisted by integrated self-service tools can focus on the complex calls where their skills are most important
- Control costs: with more and more calls being handled efficiently and effectively, contact centers can reduce waste and more accurately deploy resources where they’re needed
The current global pandemic is changing the way we all do business, but automated self-service technology is paving the way out of the chaos for contact center managers ready to lean into Visual IVR and intelligent virtual agents.