Contact center efficiency is always a top concern for contact centers, looking to handle ever-increasing contact volume without burning out already stressed agents. In the past, we’ve talked about improving customer experience benchmarks, and the baseline benchmarks that companies need to meet to satisfy customers. Today we will look at ways contact centers can improve efficiency and lower costs.
As always the standard caution applies: FCR must be king.
When improving efficiency, it can be tempting to only focus on AHT and the rate of call-deflection as the metrics that matter. However, lower AHT isn’t going to improve efficiency if customers’ problems aren’t being solved. The customer is just going to call back, duplicating the time and effort that went into handling the first call. Any program to improve contact center efficiency needs to have First Call Resolution as its cornerstone.
How can contact centers improve efficiency and cut costs?
1. Use customer data to improve efficiency
One of the benefits of contact centers is that they generate massive amounts of customer data. Rather than storing and ignoring that data, companies should be tapping into that data to improve customer experience by:
- Identifying the root cause of issues so they can be tackled head on, rather than adding to the problem by requiring agents to use inefficient work-around solutions.
- Proactively identifying new issues and trends before your team gets swamped. Getting in front of an emerging problem will help to keep both call duration and customer hold time low.
2. Use social for customer care
One social customer service interaction will cost your contact center an average of $1, as opposed to $6 for a typical customer service phone call. This is largely because social media, like other digital channels, is asynchronous, which allows agents to conduct multiple concurrent interactions. Phone-based customer service interactions, which are synchronous, can only be conducted one at a time.
The savings can be dramatic. T-Mobile Netherlands reports saving approximately $15,000 on calls to their contact center after a single campaign, which made customers aware of their social customer service option. Over the course of the campaign, they also saw improvements to their average response time.
3. Provide smart self-service that is user-friendly and up-to-date
Your customers would rather not call you on the phone if they could avoid it, so make it easier for them to get the information they need to solve simple problems on their own. Some widely-used options for self-service include:
- Searchable knowledge bases
However, there are two important caveats when providing self-service options:
- Content needs to be kept current. If you think customers hate calling you on the phone, wait until they must call you after information provided through your website knowledge base was incorrect or out-of-date.
- Self-service options must be periodically reviewed for usability and customer experience from the customer’s point of view. When done well, self-service options should provide a good customer experience. But done poorly, self-service options often just aggravate customers further.
3a: Make sure your self-service options are mobile-friendly
More than half of all web traffic is now mobile, and yet there are still so many companies neglecting their mobile customer experience. Take the time to ensure your self-service options are accessible and easy to use from all types of devices.
4. Don’t just implement new channels – tell customers you will support them on those channels
In digital customer service, it’s not enough to say, “build it and they will come”. Consumers want to connect with your company digitally, but they must first know it’s an option. At the very least, you need to tell customers waiting in queue about your other service options. You should also make the self-service options on your website prominent, easy to find, and easy to use. As the case of T-Mobile Netherlands demonstrates, you should also consider running promotions advertising that you provide customer support on other channels.
5. Invest in a solution that consolidates channels with an integrated CRM
The average contact center agent uses seven different programs on two monitors to access information needed to solve customer issues. That kind of task-switching exhausts your agents’ mental resources and can result in as much as a 40% drop in agent productivity. Improve agent experience by investing in a platform that eliminates this cognitive exhaustion by consolidating all digital channels into one platform, integrated with your CRM.
This will allow your agents to fully assist customers from one window, saving time and aggravation.
6. Address inefficiency caused by attrition
Agent turnover is one of the biggest causes of inefficiency in any contact center. The problem of agent turnover is complex and deserves a bit more attention than we can give it here, so stay tuned for our next post where we’ll dive into the problem of solving agent attrition by improving agent experience.
Finally, efficiency is great, but set realistic expectations for contact deflection
You’re never going to eliminate the need for human agents, when a customer has a complex issue or is dealing with a tough situation that calls for understanding and empathy, there is no substitute for a skilled human agent who can provide that human touch. And that’s a good thing! Today’s consumers aren’t loyal to brands, they’re loyal to experiences. Being able to provide caring and empathetic customer service when it is needed will increase customer satisfaction and create customer loyalty.
Do you have questions about finding efficiencies in your contact center? Contact us to speak to one of our digital customer service experts, or get a demo to see our digital customer service platform in action.