Enterprises, right and left, struggle with a number of strategic imperatives around customer engagement. One among them is avoiding the call. Competitive pressure and an ongoing desire to cut costs drives organizations to look for ways to automate customer service and elevate the role of their contact center agents by leveraging them for more sophisticated inquiries and complex problems. Automation, however, cannot come at the price of customer alienation. And it doesn’t have to, as it presents an opportunity to differentiate.
Recent Aspect (News - Alert) research shows us that customers actually prefer to self-serve. A third of them even tell us that they would rather clean a toilet than talk to a customer service representative. And if they had a choice, they would pick texting as the preferred method to communicate.
I hear the contact center managers among you counter: “But voice traffic isn’t actually going down as much as you think! Our customers are still calling us, so what are we to do? And besides that, we already have a mobile app for customer care, but it isn’t being used!”
I believe the answer lies in two things: psychology and technology (in that order).
For decades, customers have been trained that the only meaningful way to get in touch with a business is to pick up a phone and dial a number. That’s how we’ve been doing it for almost a century now, and it’s worked great, so why change? I see human inertia at work. So changing that behavior requires some training and re-education. And that’s where we need to come in and become proactive.
Most mobile apps have been developed in silos, which is problematic because there are always cases where the mobile customer needs live help. Forcing customers that are already using a mobile app to call and go through an IVR that then asks them to pre-qualify for their agent contact or offering them a list of phone numbers to dial is throwing away all the precious contextual data from the app experience (authentication, usage, navigation history). Connecting and keeping the entire interaction in one location like the rich environment of the mobile app or a website brings that context together for a far better experience.
Here’s how organizations like yours can avoid the call while actually improving the customer experience.
Integrate your mobile app with your contact center.
Leverage the assets you have. Adding contact center integration does not require rebuilding your app. It just requires some re-factoring as well as a redesign that prequalifies the call where it belongs, thus bypassing the IVR completely and equipping agents with everything they need to know before the first word is spoken. This helps reduce average handling time and increase first contact resolution.
Integrate your website with your contact center.
Add contact center integration and turn your static phone number into an actionable button for help. As a next step, add collaboration and co-browsing to your website so your agents are enabled to help the customer in ways not possible before. “Let me show you what I mean” suddenly becomes a reality. As the final step, introduce video where it makes sense. Video can translate to trust, which is what you need in an e-commerce environment.
Offer callbacks vs. wait times.
Stop forcing customers to remain on the line. It costs you money and your customers time. Tap into the contact center queue for wait times, communicate those wait times on your website and mobile app (hide it behind an authentication wall if necessary), announce it in your IVR, and let your customers schedule or ask for immediate callbacks. There are even ways to predict the best time for you to call your customer back – you still have a contact center to manage after all.
Gracefully lead your customer from phone to mobile channels.
There will still be customers who want to pick up the phone. Show them what’s possible. Offer them a callback when they zero out of the IVR or get to the point of transfer. Better yet, suggest mobile self-service to customers to try while waiting for the callback. Customers won’t lose their position in the queue, and chances are they might resolve their issue in your self-service application.
Bottom-line: Engage your customers where they are. Show them the art of the possible. Do good, and then talk about it. Tell your customers what you are doing to improve their experience. They will thank you, and you’ll reduce costs in the process.
Tobias Goebel (News - Alert) is director of emerging technologies at Aspect (www.aspect.com).
Edited by Kyle Piscioniere