Key takeaways

  • Half of customer calls originate from a failed online experience.
  • Product design, pricing and marketing affect call volume.
  • Technologies exist to help self-service channels align more closely with call centres.

In businesses looking to reduce their operating costs, customer service call centres are often the first place executives look for efficiencies.

This goes against the customer-centric agendas of many organisations, yet in some instances contact centres are still seen as a cost centre rather than a valuable source of personalised service delivery.

Paradoxically, to reduce contact centre call volumes you need to look elsewhere in the business. No doubt organisations can improve their contact centre efficiency through reducing transfers, better routing calls and right-skilling agents, however the true goldmine in reducing call volumes lives outside the contact centres altogether.

The root cause
of call volumes

Many customer calls can be attributed to complicated design of products, confusing pricing structures or vague marketing campaigns.

But how many call centres are in control of product design, pricing or marketing? Herein lies the dilemma: call centre executives are often tasked with removing costs that are generated through failure of planning or execution by another part of the business. To remedy this, call centre executives must influence their peers in product, pricing and marketing by presenting an insight-led fact base of where the problems exist in the business, based on customer call demands.

A connected
channel strategy

In order to truly reduce call volumes and improve the customer experience, teams that manage the digital self-service channels and call centres need to be owned by the same group in order for either to succeed.

In most situations they have aligned interests: call centres want to reduce volumes and digital wants to increase adoption rates. However, in many organisations these channels are still surprisingly disconnected.

A survey by Harvard Business Review found that a staggering 57% of inbound calls come from customers who first attempted to resolve their issue on the company’s website and failed. The business either didn’t provide a self-service solution, the customer found it too difficult to find or use, or the solution didn’t address their particular need.

To resolve an issue, often users have to navigate their way through a phone directory system to find the correct department, listen to a pre-recorded message about how problems can be addressed via the website, then repeat the process by explaining their situation to an agent.

Why not have a contact centre agent that says, “I noticed you recently tried to pay your bill via our website and had difficulty. I’m sorry that was the case, is this something I can help you with now?”

The technology to achieve this connected channel experience exists. Companies can provide a dynamic phone number (a unique phone number for that customer’s session that links the digital and call centre channels) so the agent who answers the phone can see the customer’s online session and diagnose what help is required.

In future, as businesses successfully build strong digital capabilities and more transactions and service requests can be self-managed online, telephone calls will be more time-sensitive, more complex and require a greater deal of trust and empathy from agents. How many businesses will leave their contact centres offshore and how many will see the value in bringing customer conversations back to their place of business?

Five approaches
to reduce call volume

1. Solve root causes, not symptoms

Address the root cause of the call demands as close to the point of failure as possible. How many calls could you prevent by resolving a failure at point of sale or in the product design?

2. Connect your channels

Connect your channels so transactions can be started in one channel and finished in another. Equip agents so they have visibility across all channels. Prevent customers from having to repeat themselves.

3. Use end-to-end customer journey insights to accelerate change in the business

Contact centres deal with thousands of customers on a daily basis and are the source of many improvement opportunities if appropriately identified. A robust fact-base is required in order for businesses to understand why customers are calling, what skills are required of agents and to inform other parts of the business about what issues need resolving (e.g. product and pricing simplification, marketing execution improvements, and digital self-service capabilities to be created).

4. Prevent future calls today

Based on your historical customer call demands, identify what type of customer queries typically follow a particular call demand and address it at the same time. For example, if customers who sign up for email bills often enquire later about direct debit, then address both issues at once.

5. Balance short-term and long-term initiatives

Tactical initiatives can be identified to help reduce the volume of calls in the moment, whilst longer-term solutions are created to permanently fix the problem.

 

Contributor

Brett Fairbank

Brett Fairbank is a director in PwC’s Experience Centre, based in Melbourne.

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