Driving efficiency in contact resolution is one of the biggest challenges brands face in their contact centre operations, but the effort is more than worth it. It is essential for protecting your organisation’s bottom line, securing business for the future and growing your business. But, delivering a positive customer experience (CX) is equally important.
Driving efficiency within your contact centre operations is a must if you want to position your business for growth; however, delivering exceptional customer experience is a key component of of your growth. In fact, our own research shows that 73% of customers are prepared to sever ties with a brand after a single poor experience. So, how do you balance driving call centre efficiency with delivering customer experiences at the level your customers expect?
Setting and monitoring contact centre KPIs is only a piece of the puzzle. Metrics help you see where effort might need to be focused, but creating long-lasting efficiencies can mean stepping back to reimagine how your contact centre operation works. Efficiency is an essential component of sustainable business performance. And in contact centre operations, where efficiency is about more than simply cutting costs, it’s about elevating the customer experience.
So, what constitutes a good customer experience? For 71% of U.S. consumers, this means a fast resolution. Indeed, 83% of global consumers now take it for granted that even if their issue is complex, it can potentially be solved by interacting with a single person in a single live channel.
Therefore, the challenge your organisation faces is balancing call centre efficiency with delivering a customer experience focused on first-contact resolution.
There will be an urge to immediately turn to key performance indicators (KPIs) in order to identify opportunities for efficiency and agent performance improvement. While metrics certainly play a role in highlighting the as-is state of your customer experience as it relates to the contact centre, KPIs come into their own once changes have been made so effectiveness can be accurately measured and new benchmarks set.
Likewise, for many organisations reorganising your existing contact centre operation will generate some efficiencies. But, to make lasting change that brings mutual benefit to the business and the customer, you need to start by examining your processes and customer touchpoints.
Your contact centre should be a last resort, not the first port of call for a customer with an issue. One of the fastest and most cost-effective means of reducing contact volumes is through self-service solutions – 86% of consumers, globally, now take it for granted that your organisation will offer a self-service option. In fact, 73% of customers will have already visited your website to try and solve a problem before picking up the phone.
A well-maintained set of online FAQs, use of customer forums, conversational or visual IVR systems or a dedicated chatbot trained to respond to the most common customer issues can all deflect the most common call drivers. This leaves your agents free to focus on more complex issues and customer engagements. In addition to reducing contact volumes and driving customer satisfaction, self-service significantly reduces CX-related costs. The average cost of a self-service customer resolution is $0.10 per interaction, compared with $8.01 per customer for resolution through live channels.
Leveraging the right types of technology can identify where and how to create engaging digital experiences for customers. It can also help to identify aspects of contact centre agents’ work that can be automated and accelerated.
For example, applying speech and text analytics automatically captures all relevant information from every interaction every customer has with your organisation. It can then monitor all conversations to ensure quality control and compliance. Manually selecting, analysing and checking a single call for quality reasons can take 60 minutes. Not only does this mean organisations are unable to analyse more than 1% of their calls, it also means it’s too late to apply any insights gathered from those conversations or to address any mistakes agents are making that could lead to further customer interactions or escalations.
With this level of data mining at your fingertips, it’s easy to apply customer analytics to identify touchpoints that demand too much effort or where customers are experiencing friction. These insights also highlight common call drivers that could be addressed by improved self-service functionality and help identify which contact centre actions are resulting in the highest and lowest levels of customer satisfaction.
The artificial intelligence (AI) powering speech and data analytics means that more data is captured, more quickly and more accurately, than agents manually inputting customer information could ever match. This provides real-time insights to be used to further streamline processes that unlock efficiencies within agent roles as well as underlining any potential gaps in agent training and any changes to existing scripts that could improve speed to resolution.
The next step is to apply robotic process automation (RPA) to further automate repetitive activities that would otherwise have fallen to agents to complete.
For instance, 45% of customer call time is taken up by the agent searching for information while the caller is on hold, or while a caller waits to be transferred. With RPA capturing and inputting data – or automatically retrieving knowledgebase content – average handle times (AHT) can be significantly reduced. RPA and intelligent automation can eradicate as much as 29% of contact centre agents’ workload, while wait times, errors and cost to serve could be cut by 25%.
Any organisation with a longstanding contact centre operation can identify efficiencies through reviewing and revising its existing approach to voice-based customer support. But, it’s also possible that by focusing on existing operations, or making the mistake of viewing your contact centre outsourcing partner as little more than a supplier engaged to deliver year-over-year cost savings, organisations may have missed how much contact centres have evolved. Today, they are far beyond banks of staff on short-term contracts sitting in cubicles waiting to take voice calls.
As well as being a hub for omnichannel customer engagement, the modern contact centre is populated with a wider-than-ever pool of talent thanks to flexible scheduling and breakthroughs in cybersecurity, which have enabled widespread adoption of remote working. When brought together in virtual teams, they bring a greater flexibility, depth of experience and range of skills to every campaign than any team recruited solely from the local area could deliver.
Modern contact centres are adept at accurate workforce planning. Therefore, work closely with your outsourcing partner to identify and understand the impact of predictable fluctuations in contact volumes. Hold them accountable for ensuring you have just the right number of staff to manage ramp ups in a way that maintains both cost efficiencies and customer satisfaction.
Cross-skilling agents is another area where efficiency savings can often be uncovered. Organising customer contacts such as calls, emails, chat and messaging into as few staff as possible. Or by creating pools of agents who are adept at all channels, but focused on resolving a single-issue type, you can drive down costs and improve average handle times and first contact resolution.
Leveraging the inherent benefits of a network of home-based agents enables the seamless management of unexpected spikes in contact volumes and to provide cover due to sickness or absence and without the extra cost of adding extra physical FTEs to a brick-and-mortar contact centre.
Over the course of 2020, organisations with the opportunity to call upon the services of work-at-home agents maintained business continuity in the face of the pandemic. As we move forward, a hybrid approach that blends in-centre, at home, nearshore, onshore and offshore agents will become best practice within the outsourcing industry. This provides organisations with even greater opportunities for business growth without negatively impacting on operational efficiency.
For instance, organisations can quickly set up central hubs for certain languages and certain contact types that are located in the most cost-efficient location for a specific task.
Brands that are already streamlining their resource needs, making use of technology to minimise live contacts and applying the right metrics to reflect customer needs and business objectives can take contact resolution efficiency a step further.
Analysing KPIs for first contact resolution patterns then drilling down with interaction analytics identifies the top performing agents and the activities driving their success. With those factors identified, interaction analytics can be used to drive in-the-moment coaching and generate real-time agent scorecards to enable proactive performance management.
Finally, interaction analytics can be applied as the foundation for automating agent activities that have the greatest positive impact on customer experience. As it listens to and analyses every customer conversation, across all live channels in real time, interaction analytics provide agents with the information they need, when they need it. And, it prompts them to take the next best action in order to resolve a customer issue.
Through the intelligent application of technology and a proactive approach to resource management, support and training, any organisation can improve its customer experience in line with customer expectations and simultaneously reduce operating costs. However, the definition of a good customer experience is – and continues to – change and evolve. What your customers prioritise today may be at the bottom tomorrow. Therefore, it’s imperative you continue applying the metrics that matter and use them to guide investments and resources to enable continuous improvement.
Analytics enable you to identify customer pain points that are driving up contacts or stopping customers from self-serving. Visualisation tools ensure the insights are shared in a way that is easy to understand. Make your data work for you to uncover insights that can drive customer satisfaction and deliver cost efficiencies for today and tomorrow.
Learn more about how EXP+™ Explore from Sitel Group® helps brands uncover insights from across data sources, driving enterprise-wide decision making. EXP+ Explore integrates seamlessly with EXP+ Evolve to channel to deliver leading-edge digital experiences – through data-driven and AI-enabled self-service and automation – to deliver a superior CX.