The vast majority of consumers dread contacting customer support, and there’s a good chance that much of this dread can be traced to that notorious elevator music signifying waiting on hold for a customer service representative. Yet despite the bad rap that call centers get, there are a few things that call centers got right. It’s important to heed these lessons, improve upon them and translate them for the modern world—a world whose consumer base overwhelmingly prefers messaging-based customer service.
1. Intelligent Forecasting
Call centers realized early on that training and retaining agents is expensive. Ranging from $6 to $12 per call, reaching operational efficiency is a top goal and the reason why forecasting software is so valuable. It schedules staff based on forecasted need, reducing operational waste and therefore ensuring that all agents are being efficiently utilized (with minimal downtime).
While forecasting is a great step for workforce optimization, the problem here is that agents are only able to handle one call at a time, and if all agents are unavailable, a queue forms. That wait time is what customers dread, and a lesson to be learned on what to avoid.
This is where chat really shines. Messaging allows agents to respond to multiple customers at once, and gives supervisors the ability to manage their agents in real time. Supervisors can see whether their agents are available and how many issues are in their queues. Using this data, forecasting demand should be even more effective, and supervisors can shuffle agents around accordingly. The best part? Chats average less than $1 per session.
2. Automating Agent-Customer Interactions
In recent years, traditional call centers have employed automation through Interactive Voice Response (IVR) in an attempt to collect routine information and best triage customer needs before connecting them to a human. However, being on the phone requires a lot of effort and time. Customers have to listen to lengthy instructions, which can be extremely frustrating. Adding to that frustration is the high likelihood that a customer will be bounced around amongst agents. This can lead to the worst case scenario, in which the customer grows tired of waiting and then gives up on both the issue and the company. Using automation can be a great tool when used properly—and when done well customers can get their issues resolved efficiently. But when customers call in today, this often isn’t the case.
A phone call is no longer enough to support customers in a multimedia world.
Chat is built for more efficient issue resolution, as routine information can be automatically collected through chatbots. Chatbots can also suggest relevant knowledge articles for instant self-service—and if that doesn’t work, the issue can then be routed to the right agent with a much higher level of accuracy. This should reduce hold time, but also empower customers to go on about their day (in other browser windows) without being held prisoner to hold music. Because the customer is not waiting around, the customer will also tend to be more patient and understanding. Ultimately, with the right automations set up, businesses can handle more issues with less staff—while maintaining a high CSAT.
3. Simplified Communication
Call-based customer service comes from the honorable attempt to provide an easy and simple channel for customers to have their issues resolved without having to be physically present. However, as technologies have evolved, companies have tried to combine different channels of communication, leading to a fragmented, broken and impersonal customer experience. For example, IVR systems sometimes tell customers, “For more information on [blank], visit us online at www.insertcompanywebsite.com”. Or an agent may say, “Please email us the screenshots of the issue you are experiencing”. Interactions like these force customers to go through multiple channels to solve one issue, leading to a higher chance of information getting lost and customer churn. This is ultimately a waste of the customer’s time and the company’s resources.
With messaging, customers only need to go through one channel, whether that be within an app or via the web to share and receive information. A great chat client allows you to send attachments, such as documents and screenshots, right within the application. This reduces the need to break up the customer experience over multiple channels, while giving the agent access to all the information they need to effectively assist the customer. As previously mentioned, chatbots can also automatically pull articles relevant to the issue, and can offer these as assistance for the agent as well.
Retire Well, Call Center
Decades of serving millions of customers have given the call center the experience and the wisdom necessary that can and should be passed on to modern customer service solutions. However, because customers today expect answers instantly, operational efficiency is more critical than ever and call centers simply cannot meet those demands. It’s time to let the call center take the back seat, and apply these lessons to modern chat tools currently available.