5 Contact Center Stories from the Dark Side: A Halloween Prequel

Brian Jameson
Posted: 09/14/2010

Halloween is officially in season. We went to Target the other day to buy a beach umbrella and they told us that they took out the summer seasonal "stuff" to stack the shelves with Halloween gear and goodies… I thought summer ended on September 21st, oh well. It’s also hard to miss the slew of horror movie trailers plastered all over the television, among them are "Saw 3D", "Paranormal Activity 2", and "Let Me In". I'm not a huge horror flick fan, but I am a huge fan of customer horror stories (try Googling "customer horror stories" for some entertainment).

Many of your customers are afraid of calling customer service lines for fear of what might happen or what might NOT happen. The telephone channel is still the most used contact channel by customers, 69% according to Forrester’s North American Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey, Q4 2009. However, in that same study, it showed that 72% of US online consumers prefer to use a company's web site to get answers to their questions rather than contact companies via telephone or email. We have a mystery to solve here, phone is the most used, but at the same time they prefer not to call the contact center. Is it because customers are growing tired of nightmarish contact center experiences? Let’s look at the villains.

1. There is No Web Self Service Option. Forrester reports that 36 percent of online US customers crave (strongly prefer) self-reliance for service. This number jumps up to 46 percent for 18- to 29-year-olds. When there is no self service option, it forces customers to call you (and probably at a significantly higher cost to your business). Customers in the social age are looking for simple, fast resolutions to their problems. By not providing a self service option for your customers, you could be frightening web savvy consumers by requiring them to dial you for basic service requests.

2. Customers Are Required to Navigate an IVR System. Often termed "IVR Hell" for semi-appropriate reasons. Gartner summed up in their 2010 "Key Issues for Customer Experience Management" Report that IVR implementations are usually poorly executed and ultimately lead to worse customer experiences rather than improved ones. The technology is not the primary culprit here; it’s the design and implementation. Companies that can’t mirror the customer processes with the customers’ needs through their IVR systems are setting the stage for a bloody customer encounter.

3. Agents Can’t Solve Problems (fast enough). Let’s be clear that the number one goal is to actually solve the customer problem, secondary to that is how quickly and efficiently the agent can solve it. How many open windows and applications reside on the agent desktop for a customer interaction? According to Ventana Research, 44 percent of contact center agents need to access three or more applications to resolve a customer interaction, and 70 percent say they waste time switching between applications. A messy agent desktop is a recipe for delivering frightful customer experiences. From our experience, "Alt+Tabing" can add between 1 and 2 minutes to a typical customer call. This is an unnecessary evil that’s slowing your agents down and costing your customers time. Companies who can deliver a customer process driven workflow (based on what’s happening on the call) over a unified agent desktop with application data residing on one interface will eliminate unnecessarily lengthy calls.

4. Customers Are Required to Repeat Information. Your customer has successfully or unsuccessfully navigated the IVR system, and now they are being asked to state the same information they provided to the IVR robot. Maybe the customer emailed the company already, and was following up only to find that the agent doesn’t have access to support emails. Perhaps the customer was routed to another agent who asks the customer to restate everything once again because they are on two different systems. Why all the "suspense" in trying to resolve a customer issue? Even in 2010, the reality is that only 15% of companies have multiple interaction channels synchronized according to Gartner. Leverage business process management and integration tools to deliver customer insights from any channel and/or application to the agent’s desktop. Many times this information can be embedded directly into the workflow/script that the agent is following. Rather than ask them to repeat, ask customers to confirm an email address or a phone number.

5. U.S.Consumers Are Most Satisfied by U.S. Based Agents. In a recent blog post, we analyze this impasse between the largest consumer base (American consumption accounts for 70% of US GDP) in the world and the foreign agents who serve them. Additionally, a recent CFI Group report indicates that 79% of customers are satisfied by U.S. based agents versus a 58% satisfaction level from foreign based agents. We compared these results with the responses from various LinkedIn groups. We were able to determine that for reasons right or wrong, U.S. consumers should not be "scared" of foreign based agents, but also have more satisfying experiences with American agents.

Let’s save the terror for the big screen, not the customer experience. Through a combination of leadership, strategy, process, and technology, you can make customers happy and fearless when they contact you. Once you achieve this, you will see your customer loyalty and advocacy grow.

Brian Jameson
Posted: 09/14/2010

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