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The Definitive Checklist for Improving Customer Service and Reducing Customer Service Costs

While coronavirus may be abating, the return to work is not a case of business as usual. The virus has had a devastating effect on the revenues of businesses around in the UK and elsewhere. With furlough soon to end, businesses need to rebuild with less revenue but a return of employees. They need to accommodate for social distancing measures in work. And, both in the case of B2C and B2B, rebuild faced with customers with reduced incomes and a more conservative approach to purchasing or investing because of the climate.

In light of this, it is absolutely necessary for companies to go to the drawing board and examine every possible way to reduce costs and improve their contact centre’s customer service. And the time to do that is now. Don’t put it off and try and get by with your present technology and procedures because covid-19 has taught us one thing: disasters do happen, and you have to be prepared.    

This guide is designed as a comprehensive checklist of items to help you make the most of your customer service resources. It covers both technology and procedures and practices – and includes suggestions for large scale multi-national with a major contact centre, small offices sharing the picking up of the phone, and everyone in between. Finally, while the title is customer service, the tips inside address all aspects of customer engagement including sales, customer support; outbound campaigns as well as inbound ones.

Chatbots

The term chatbot has been around for a long time and has built up a lot of misunderstanding around it. Many of the chatbot examples highlight someone talking to a bot about their age, family or favourite music. The news tends to focus on the bots that have started to swear at people. Understandably companies are not sure how they can use one or what effect it will have on their brand. Smaller companies worry about the cost to develop and maintain the bot. While these are understandable concerns, the reality is that a chatbot can help you to automate up to 80% of your customer service now.

Forget the science fiction. A chatbot is just a way to automate your customer service through text conversational experiences. What do we mean? You already have a knowledgebase for your product and an FAQ. It is likely you can search that knowledgebase with keywords. What a bot adds is the ability to search with natural language and interact in a conversational way. Instead of typing keywords and getting a list of possible answers you can type a question in the way you would to a live agent and get an answer in that style. It sits on your website or social channels offering a familiar experience to any messaging app. Consequently, your customer can get an answer much faster than searching through website and won’t need to contact an agent.

Your knowledgebase is uploaded to an AI platform and then you can train it to make sure it answers your customer questions on brand with only the information you want. Platforms like Google DialogFlow are now mature and effective. If you need proof of the fact that conversational platforms are now market ready simply look at Siri and Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa. And a bot is not limited to customer support, you can program it to promote and sell your product or give advice.

Work With Live Agents

It is also not designed to replace your live agents but complement them by handling more routine tasks. Your business benefits as your employees can then spend more time on high value interactions like closing sales or calming customers who may have given you a bad review. In addition, you can engage customers 24/7, create more personalized experiences, reduce queue waiting times and, in turn, lower customer service costs and create happier customers.

AI Virtual Agent 

Not to be confused with a virtual agent – the term usually used for someone outside of your business who may be situated in a foreign country and works in a freelance capacity to do your customer service – an AI virtual agent is in fact a chatbot that can listen and talk. As it is having voice conversations it needs to carry out text-to-speech and speech-to-text as well as natural language processing; however, it is still mature technology with lots of solutions in the market, for example, Google Contact Center AI.

It can be used on your website or social channel but delivers incredible productivity benefits when integrated with your contact centre software, acting as an agent picking up calls and even making them. And, like a chatbot, it can handle 80% of inquiries coming through - in this case voice calls - freeing up your agents to work on more complex calls and improving customer service by reducing call waiting times.

Video Customer Service Resolution

For businesses that sell a physical product or need to carry out field visits for customer repairs, remote visual assistance software is a new tool that uses video to help resolve customer service requests. It allows your customers to show their problems in real time through their smartphone camera. Your agents can zoom in, capture details, and provide AR onscreen pointers – and even add a more experienced colleague to the video call. These additional tools have been proven to improve first call resolution and reduce the need to send agents out to customers’ houses, a major expense.

Hosted Software

Moving to hosted or cloud software providers for all your software needs brings a number of benefits:

Cost

With hosted software you don’t have upfront hardware or on-premise installation costs, and you only pay for the number of users you need at a specific time, with the ability to scale and add and reduce agent numbers with your business requirements. In addition, it doesn’t require the same level of IT support as on-premise as maintenance and upgrades are included as part of the service.

Business Contingency

Homeworking sharply brought to the fore the limitations of on-premise solutions as expensive work around solutions were necessary to make it possible to pick up the office phone at home, or remote desktop software was needed to access solutions in your office. In the latter case, speed issues made using the software very inefficient.

If you used one of those work around solutions, it is best for your business to make the move to the cloud to protect your business from future emergencies. Cloud software enables you to quickly provision your office phone to be picked up from anywhere in minutes without any extra cost, your key applications to be accessed seamlessly as long as there is an Internet connection, allowing your customer service to continue with disruption.  

Attract the Right Talent

Studies have long shown that working from home, for the right individuals, can work for both the employee and the business. However, question marks over providing training and supervision and perhaps the lack of hosted software had kept people in the office. Coronavirus changed all of this, making every company and employee experience working from home. Now, if your employee’s performance was as good or better than before, and they would like to continue to work from home it is in the best interests of the company to get the tools in place to allow them to continue. Companies may even find it now to be an essential perk to offer to attract the best talent.

IVR, skills-based routing, ACD and CTI

These are the core components of inbound technology that work in different ways to manage your incoming calls, making sure they get to the right person first time and that person has the information to resolve the call as accurately as possible.

IVR

An IVR greets a customer with a voice message, giving them options to choose from to go through to the department most suitable for them. While much criticized the situation without the IVR would be worse: the customer would find themselves put through to the wrong department, speak to an employee unqualified to answer their questions, wasting both parties time and getting your customer upset.  

Other IVR Usages

An IVR can do much more than just transfer customers to the right department. You can set it up to give answers to questions so that the customer doesn’t need to wait to speak to an agent. It can address a wide variety of customer needs, from providing status information and updating account details, to fulfilling repeat orders or needs, and carrying out identification and verification. All these things reduce the burden on your customer service staff.

Natural Language IVR

Recently, many IVRs have started to allow you to speak to them rather than pressing a button. This functionality is designed to enable the IVR to get more information from the customer and reduce the number of levels they have to go through – One of the key complaints and frustrations with an IVR.

Natural Language IVR versus AI Virtual Agent

If both of these technologies can understand what the customer is saying what is the difference? Whether you are pressing a button or speaking, an IVR works to a tree like structure, taking you to the next step based on a previous response. An AI virtual agent, on the other hand, allows a more conversational style which includes the ability to change the direction of the conversation. With this in mind, businesses need to think about what they want to achieve in terms of their customer service and from there decide what technology is best for them.  

ACD and Skills-Based Routing

Automatic Call Distribution (ACD), of which skills-based routing is a part, works by enabling you to create rules for who in your company to send a call to - Based on the number dialled. For example, you can create routing rules around the account type (high value/low value), previous purchase patterns, language, and geography, when the customer last called and which agent serviced him, the level of knowledge of the caller, and so on. This information is then mapped to your agent’s skills and knowledge to maximise the chance that the call is resolved first time, quickly, and with a happy customer.  

IVR and ACD Integration

ACD works by gathering information based on a phone number to get that call to the right person, but with new numbers that information is limited. This is where integration with the IVR can help. The IVR can ask a new caller more detailed information and then pass that to the ACD to ensure they are routed correctly.

CRM Integration

Tight integration with your CRM not only makes it possible to sync customer records and gather the information to create better routing rules, it also, through CTI, enables a CRM record to pop up when the agent takes a call giving him access to all the key information necessary to resolve the situation quicker.

Internal and External Collaboration Tools

No matter how well trained an agent is they can run into situations when they need help. The ability to collaborate internally with messaging, file sharing, video and web meetings, and conference calling – as well as externally to add a more experienced colleague to a call – results in better first call resolution.

Social Media

Allowing your customers to reach you on the channel they prefer will make them much happier and more likely to promote your business. Messaging is much cheaper than taking calls, and social networks have great built in tools for enabling you to make mass announcements and more quickly reach all your followers.  

Live Chat

If you are presently only handling customer service by telephone, live chat can significantly improve your sales and customer service. Messaging is actually the first choice of many consumers and being able to reach out to them and answer their question immediately can make the difference between a positive review or not. Messaging is much less frustrating if a customer has to wait in a queue. It is also extremely cost-effective as your agents can handle several chats at once.

SMS

SMS is a very affordable way to proactively reach out to your customers and lessen their need to call in. For example, if you need to quickly communicate an update. Or, to send automated SMS messages to queuing customers to help them to self-serve can avoid costs.

Automated Dialler

If you are making outbound phone campaigns, an automated dialler will make your campaigns much more productive. An automated dialler dials the number for your agents in the background, filtering out voicemail, hang ups, busy signals, no answers, and using algorithms to predict agent availability. The result is that your agents spend much more of their time talking to customers rather than dialling and waiting

In addition, it is possible to segment users, get extra information about the customer, for supervisors to listen in on calls, to recycle leads and create scripts. 

Omnichannel Contact Centre Software

We have just mentioned the importance of multiple channels in reducing costs and engaging customers on their channel of choice. However, if your software for website chat, inbound, social, SMS and email are separate programs, you still have many inefficiencies: customers often contact you more than once and over different channels, with the information from the last interaction locked in other software; the customer has to repeat themselves and gets very frustrated. Getting an omnichannel software suite will resolve this. An omnichannel solution integrates all your channels into one customer journey record, no matter what channel they interacted with you on. Not only do you get the customer journey in one record, you also get cross channel analytics, enabling better insight and context to improve employee and business performance.

Finally, an omnichannel solution greatly reduces administration and management costs that result from having to sync data across, and maintain, several platforms.

Workforce Management

These tools help reduce costs in the contact centre through improving resource planning. They enable planners to see, among other things, busy periods and then makes forecasts and manpower schedules that minimize costs related to overstaffing and ensure the right staff are in the office at the right time. They boost morale and employee happiness by offering self-service functionalities like allowing people to highlight their work preferences and trade shifts.

Call recording and Speech Analytics

Call recording and speech analytics add another dimension to performance improvement by allowing you to listen and get insight from the actual content of conversations. When your performance dashboards alert you to agents who are doing well, the call recording can then be analysed for tone, style and substance to see what made them successful. This information can then be feedback and real-time call monitoring for the right keywords can be put into place to further fine-tune for what works.

These real-time monitoring tools are also essential for ensuring compliance, whether Ofcom or payment. In both cases, saving the company the cost of hefty fines from breaches.

Performance Management

In order to improve something, you must measure it, and that is as true for your agent’s performance as anything else. It is imperative therefore that you can create reports and dashboards that give you the fullest picture as possible. For example, No. of calls being made per hour, by which agents, the average length of calls, and over which campaigns. In addition, combine those statistics with data from all your channels and from customer accounts, CRM, or other back-end information. You should then synchronize with training and evaluations to improve agent performance.

Management Functionality

For managers to do their job efficiently and react quickly to change, it is essential that they are able to easily change routing rules, voice greetings, time-of-day functions, staffing, IVRs, and more—all without having to rely on IT.

Agent Selection and Training

Agents who don’t have the proper skills – both of the product and emotional – will lose you customers and have disastrous results for your business. It is therefore essential that at interview stage and throughout the period they are in your employment, you find ways to evaluate and train them for the skills below:

  • A helpful and friendly manner
  • Strong listening skills
  • High-level cognitive skills (to understand and address problems)
  • Be able to make quick decisions
  • Be able to calm down irritated or angry customers
  • Be genuine and empathetic towards the customer

Understand Your Product and Be Proactive

Don’t just wait for customers to call in with questions to solve regarding your product or rely on the FAQ document provided. Actively analyse reactions to your product across social media, the press, your feedback tools and in your analytics software to find issues and then reach out to your customers to let them know rather than passively waiting for them to call in. A mass communication to tell them about an awkward user interface issue and how to solve, will cost much less than fielding thousands of calls.

Feedback Tools

Build feedback tools into all your communication channels to give customers as many opportunities as possible to share their views on your product, customer service or brand. You should then combine that info with your other analytics to maximise the opportunities to improve your customer service.

Self-service

Most customers are willing to first search for an answer to their problem, rather than picking up the phone. However, if they can’t find the answer easily, they will soon start troubling your agents and increasing your customer service costs. The answer is to make sure you have an easily searched and continuously updated FAQ section, preferably with natural language search.  

Gamification

Gamification is not a novelty. Your business provides rewards and incentives to your employees to perform better and spends money to train and build team and personal skills. Gamification brings those tools online enabling you to foster competition and provide appropriate rewards to incentivize your staff.

Employee Engagement

If you are looking for further ways to motivate and improve employee skills, you can invest in employee engagement software which includes tools for reward and employee and peer-to-peer recognition, as well as surveys and performance evaluations functionality.

Robotic Process Automation

There are probably many repetitive processes your agent has to perform every day. RPA software automates those tasks to increase efficiency, with the goal of lowering operational costs and allowing advisors to focus on tasks of greater value to the business.

Agent Knowledgebase

No matter how good your skills-based routing, agents will come across questions they don’t know how to answer. A powerful, searchable database of answers helps agents to answer questions quicker and reduce call handling times.


About Hostcomm

Hostcomm helps companies transform their customer service. Our solutions enable your business to engage your customers more effectively, communicate with them over their chosen channel, follow their interactions with your company over a unified customer record, close more sales, use AI to reduce customer service costs, and improve team collaboration.

Hostcomm Value Proposition

Hostcomm combines award-winning software, our own value-added applications, and in-house expertise in contact centre operations, customer service excellence and customisation and integration. In doing so we are able to offer packages of features, service, support, reliability and pricing unmatched in the industry.

For more information, a demo or free trial, please give us a call or leave some contact details in the form above. 



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