Call reduction: Four ways to cut customer contacts without sacrificing service

Many contact centers think cutting calls, emails and chats to live agents is a great way to cut costs. However, the only centers that actually experience such savings over the long haul are those that realize cutting such contacts can be a great way to improve the customer experience.

If you’re focused on reducing contact volume merely for the money, many of your customers will end up taking their money elsewhere. If you’re focused on reducing contact volume because you know many of those contacts could be avoided via better service tactics, your customers will not only stick around, they’ll thank you from the bottom of their wallet.

Following are four ways that top contact centers cut live-agent assisted customer contacts without sacrificing the customer experience:

1. Dynamic speech-enabled IVR

If you don’t want every customer to opt out of your IVR to speak to (or scream at) a human, present customers with an IVR that exhibits some humanity.

Powered by natural language processing, today’s speech-enabled IVR systems can provide a much more personalized and human experience than traditional touchtone ever could. Such systems, when designed well and equipped with powerful knowledge bases, can vastly reduce the number of steps callers must take to get what they came for, and the number of callers who can’t wait to escape the system. No longer must customers listen to long lists of menu options and touchtone instructions; when interacting with a good speech-enabled IVR, customers can interrupt the automated attendant at any point to say – and receive – exactly what they need. Abrupt and pushy customer behavior is not only tolerated, but encouraged. That same type of behavior would drive most live agents out of the center and into therapy. So embrace speech-enabled IVR – you’ll save your agents from early burnout and give your customers early resolution.

2. Customer-centric web self-service

Contrary to popular belief, the terms “customer-centric” and “self-service” are not mutually exclusive. There’s nothing inherently oxymoronic here, but there is something inherently moronic about rushing through the implementation of web self-service apps without considering the customer experience. Too many organizations, eager to cut costs and live-agent contacts, do just that. They offer poorly designed and difficult to decipher web self-service options, which generally results in frustrated customers calling, emailing and chatting with agents anyway. It’s the epitome of ‘defeating the purpose.’

Smart organizations, on the other hand, adopt the following web self-service best practices:

  • Create fresh, relevant and highly visible FAQs.
  • Invest in a searchable knowledgebase solution featuring natural language processing capabilities – and keep it stocked with strong content.
  • Provide customized, CRM-powered portals for each customer. (Think Amazon.)
  • Regularly test and monitor all apps… from the customer’s perspective.
  • Actively promote web self-service (via queue announcements, your agents, emails, marketing materials, etc.) so customers know all about it.

3. ‘Smart’ mobile self-service

Now that half the planet owns a Smartphone, many consumers expect companies to adapt their customer access strategies accordingly. You see, self-serving customers don’t like getting dizzy or going blind while trying to navigate an organization’s regular website from their mobile device. The most progressive customer care organizations are answering the call, developing mobile self-service sites and applications that make even the most demanding Android- and iPhone-carrying Millenials happy.

Any contact center serious about reducing live-agent contacts while simultaneously enhancing the customer experience would be wise to follow suit, according to current research. For example, a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive showed that 70% of consumers feel that mobile service apps are key to customer satisfaction, interaction and loyalty. Another study, by Nuance, found that 72% of consumers have a more favorable view of a company if they provide a mobile customer service app. Finally, a study by Compuware found that 57% of consumers will not recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site, and 40% will go to a competitor’s site after a bad mobile experience.

Looks like its time for contact centers to make like Don Adams and ‘get smart’.

4. Lively social customer communities

According to the previously mentioned survey by Harris Interactive, one in four consumers say they are using social media more and more for customer service. But social customer care isn’t all about having agents handle complaints and inquiries via Facebook and Twitter. Forward-thinking organizations have incorporated crowdsourcing into their social strategy to simultaneously assist and empower customers.

Social customer communities are specifically designed for customers to interact with one another and share experiences and insight. And since customers can get many of their questions answered by community peers (as well as by reading helpful updates, tutorials and blogs strategically posted in the community by the organization), these communities help reduce the number of routine customer calls, emails, chats and death threats that contact center agents have to contend with. In addition, social customer communities serve as an invaluable source of customer feedback for the company, who can then use that feedback to provide services and resources that lead to customers leaving agents alone even more.

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Be realistic with contact reduction

It’s impractical – and unwise – to try to eliminate all contacts that require live agent assistance. Many customer contacts require an agent’s attention and special touch. Customers who have complex issues or who are considering big purchases more often than not will need or want to interact with a well-trained human. And that’s a good thing, as such interactions – when handled well – are how true customer engagement and loyalty is created and sustained.

That said, by embracing the practices and approaches discussed in this article, contact centers can do a lot to reduce the number of mind-numbingly repetitive calls, emails, chats and tweets to agents. And those agents – who will now be handling more intriguing contacts worthy of their skill and intellect – are less likely to quit after two weeks or to punch themselves during calls just to feel alive.

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[TELUS International] has a lot more to offer than the average call center; they make it as enjoyable as it can get, [and] it gives me better vibes. As a site, they try to boost momentum and take care of employees.

Caitlyn, customer service representative

Did you know?

Best-in-class provider relationships encompass end-to-end service metrics rather than just narrowly focusing on service level agreements. By doing so, total cost of ownership will decrease and customer satisfaction will increase.