Automation’s Role in Contact Center Interactions

By Kathleen Fortsch

Providing high-quality services in a cost-effective manner is no easy task, but businesses of all shapes and sizes are expected to do it regularly. The result is a demand for tools that accomplish this. There is a need for easy, automated ways for customers to self-manage their own accounts in order to reduce some of the heavy cost burdens associated with 24/7 support expectations.

Self-service and automation is a reliable way to reduce agent call volume, reduce costs, and actually increase customer satisfaction. In fact, customers are using automation in increasingly large numbers as a preferred method to access information due to speed, efficiency, and convenience.

Applications that power these systems, such as Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and Automated Call Distribution (ACD), give businesses the flexibility to mix and match features to optimize call handling, manage the support staff, and improve customers’ experience. If calling applications are optimized, callers may actually prefer using them to get the information they desire quickly instead of dealing with live customer service. Not only is the customer happy, this reduces the costs of an agent’s time on the phone. Furthermore, these automated solutions are usually scalable, so as the business grows and customers’ needs change, these engagement tools adapt with them.

Understand Your Customer: Understanding your customer base is critical in determining how automation can play a role in the telephony interactions that occur. In most instances, callers today are pressed for time, conducting business on the run, between meetings, or even while cooking dinner at night. Callers are also more comfortable with automation and the speed, convenience, and control that self-service applications provide.

According to “A Benchmark Study of 2010 Enterprise, Contact Center IT Priorities and the Critical Role of IVRs in Achieving those Goals” conducted by DMG Consulting, the top five inbound IVR transactions can be solved with a system that utilizes self-service functionality. Customers are aware of the benefits these systems provide and often want to handle requests on their own rather than get an agent involved. Even from a business perspective, there is no need for agent interaction for routine transactions like providing account balances, order status, and payments. In the instances where it makes sense to introduce automated functionalities, there is a benefit seen by both the business and the customer.

Use Customer Feedback: Businesses can use feedback received in their customer service centers to make changes to better facilitate self-service. Even though some of these functionalities may have been automated, companies need to continually monitor caller experiences to ensure that they are not driving customers away but are providing them with the best mix of self-service and agent interactions.

One of the ways that a business can ensure a better customer experience once the caller has begun the self-service process is to make sure that CTI data moves with the customer. This prevents customers from having to reenter data or repeat information, even if the call is later transferred to a live agent. This helps to alleviate customer frustration, speed up call time, and prevent bottlenecks.

Having access to data-driven knowledge allows organizations to optimize the performance of an IVR application and improve customers’ experience. Reporting and analytics provide insight into what is taking place to better understand the impact that every transaction can have on costs, retention, profitability, customer satisfaction, and brand loyalty. In addition, increased reporting intelligence can help identify within the call flow where to provide up-sell and cross-sell offers.

Tap Consolidated Solutions: A consolidated reporting package provides insight into how, when, and why customers are calling, helping to drive the review process. These reports provide better information to evaluate the traffic occurring between callers and agents, allowing changes to be made accordingly.

Consolidating voice communications can help organizations by eliminating the need to conduct business with multiple vendors. When issues occur, such as dropped calls or an inability to get accurate reporting, the result is often vendors pointing fingers at each other. A consolidated offering eliminates this confusion and helps to streamline the accounts payable process.

A consolidated offering begins with an IVR menu offering self-service options to the caller. When a live representative is needed, the call is sent to the ACD service and transferred over to the call center’s telephony solution, which utilizes VoIP technology. Not only does this pairing reduce confusion and streamline billing, it actually helps to reduce costs as well. Using IP telephony to transfer the calls to live support agents is more affordable than using traditional PSTN lines.

Conclusion: With automation, customers’ real-time interactions with organizations can keep the customer experience new, relevant, and enhanced by keeping the ways we engage our customers and the ways they interact with us fresh. While you want consistency, you want it to feel fresh, real-time, and engaging.

Kathleen Fortsch is director of product management at Intelliverse.

[From Connection Magazine June 2012]

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