Nobody likes having to call customer service. From wading through endless menu options, to screaming “representative!” into the phone repeatedly, to spending the entire afternoon on hold, there are many problems and pitfalls that frustrate customers.
With a little planning, customer interactions can be turned into a satisfying and pleasant experience. Here are a few of the most prevalent problems with call centers and what you can do to fix them.
Unification of Data
When a customer calls many companies, the first thing they’re usually asked to do is to provide some basic information to confirm their account. There may be several different tiers to this process, such as saying or keying in their account number, phone number, PIN, date of birth, etc.
The next step is to ascertain the reason for their call. This is where the endless menu options come into play, leading the customer down a rabbit hole of increasingly specific categories until they reach the one that best fits their issue.
Then, once they’re finally connected with a customer service agent, they’re forced to start from scratch. The representative asks them for all the same identifying information to access their account and walks them through the issue they’re having.
At that point, if they should need to be transferred to a different representative, or another department, they need to start all over again, explaining their entire problem from the beginning — often including detailing the steps the first rep has already taken them through.
A common root issue causing this problem is the use of disparate software systems for the interactive voice response (IVR) solution that live representatives use when dealing with customers. By integrating all information from both channels into your overarching customer relationship management platform, you can make the process much more efficient and frictionless for everyone involved.
As soon as the customer is connected to a representative, the representative automatically receives all their account information. They know who they are, the issue, and what’s already been done to help them. This, in turn, helps calls flow more smoothly and get resolved more quickly.
To cut call center costs, companies try to automate as much of the process as possible. It makes sense on the surface, but often, this is where that rabbit hole of menu options comes from that frustrates the customers. The more a customer can take care of on their journey without the need for a representative, the more efficient the process is, and the less cost there is to the company.
However, the reality is that even with an extended menu of automated options, around 35-40% of calls still require human assistance. Meanwhile, companies that emphasize automation tend to make it virtually impossible to get through to a representative. Rather than saving money, this just leads to bad company reviews.
As artificial intelligence evolves, automated systems become more sophisticated and capable of handling more customer issues. However, it’s important to note that they’re not quite at the level yet that your business might hope.
Even if the automated system is capable of helping the customer, some people simply aren’t comfortable with AI-generated responses and don’t navigate them well. This uncomfortable customer experience ultimately leads to hitting the pound or zero digits with much aggression. Therefore, customer service reps still need to be easily accessible to those who want them.
A Better Contact Center Experience
As mentioned earlier, a much better method of streamlining calls ties in with importing a customer’s account information, but it takes things a step further. A good analytics tool can help predict what the customer might be calling about based on their existing data. It’s not foolproof, but often there are clues in their recent activity as to what they might want:
- Is their bill almost due or past due? They likely have a question about it.
- Did they just purchase a product from you? They could be having a problem getting it to work properly.
- Did they order a three-month supply of something about three months ago? They might be calling for a refill.
There are plenty of other clues in a customer’s account which can provide insight into what they need. A representative viewing their account for the first time might miss these clues, but an intelligent system leveraging existing customer data can surface relevant data to give the representative a basic overview as they pick up the call. This can save time and hassle, helping the representative take care of the customer more quickly and efficiently, ultimately leading to better satisfaction.
Businesses can gain insight into their mood and temperament by monitoring the customer’s interactions with the automated system before reaching the live representative. In particular, by monitoring voice inflections and speed as they talk with an IVR system.
If the caller gets to the point where they’re yelling, “representative!” repeatedly, it’s clear that they’re angry and frustrated. By alerting the representative to that fact, they are not surprised and better equipped to calm down the customer with a wealth of data at their fingertips.
Omnichannel Contact Centers Bring Flexibility
Another essential aspect of customer service in today’s world is flexibility. For some customers, talking on the phone is a burden. Many companies have expanded their customer service to include an online chat option. This is a great start, but it still only scratches the surface of what’s possible.
Some customers who want to get in touch with a company reach out on social media. It’s important to have representatives ready to respond to comments, inquiries, and other posts and make sure customers receive the care they’re looking for.
Other customers may prefer to communicate via text or email. Whatever they’re most comfortable with, it’s important to be prepared to provide them with that option. In this way, companies are moving beyond the traditional call center into omnichannel contact centers, equipped to make any type of customer communication smooth and seamless.
This can also help improve efficiency. At a legacy call center, representatives can field only one call at a time. On text-based platforms, such as chat or text, a single representative could be helping three or four customers at once.
Call centers and their technology have evolved by leaps and bounds in recent years. The familiar problems that frustrate customers and drive them away no longer must be suffered. With the right resources and planning, companies can create a full-service contact center that resolves customer issues quickly and efficiently while saving money and increasing overall satisfaction.