By Steve Forcum, Sales Engineer, Chief Evangelist, and Podcast Host for Avaya
In part 1 of this 3-part series we explore one of the biggest challenges any contact center faces, which happens to be a challenge all businesses face: staffing to meet demand. For many businesses, it’s even tougher during the holidays.
An increase in traffic during the holiday season coupled with an ongoing pandemic might make the task seem impossible. Bah, Humbug!
In a down economy, the focus is typically doing more with less. In a strong economy, managing demand is met with expanding staff. While the economy may appear to be running on all cylinders, there is also an undeniable labor shortage to grapple with. Finding more employees to answer customer inquiries isn’t a realistic option; instead, contact centers can meet these conflicting realities by adopting a down economy mindset – doing more with less – while dealing with the demands a strong economy can create.
Ensuring your contact center is prepared
How do retailers “get into the black” (also known as, how Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving – and the biggest retail day of the year – got its name) by doing “more with less?” The simple answer would appear to be embracing and enhancing automation. If we can’t find more employees to handle customer inquiries, we should invest in robots to do the work for them, right?
Therein lies the challenge – no one necessarily enjoys using automation as it relates to customer service. The goal when calling for help wasn’t to talk to a robot; it was to speak with an expert. Automation is perceived as being an obstacle to overcome, not an assistant in getting the help we’re looking for. Typically, automation focuses on delivering transactional interactions; however, today’s call centers are providing a different kind of service. How can your contact center balance automation with modern customer wants? Like Ebenezer Scrooge in the Charles Dickens’s classic, A Christmas Carol, contact centers are being visited this Christmas season by the ghosts of the past, present, and future, giving them the insight they need to move forward toward a better tomorrow.
The Ghost of Contact Centers Past: automation and self-service
This is not to say that customers don’t want to be empowered in their purchasing decisions. Sometimes, self-service just makes more sense. When the typical consumer books plane tickets, for example, they may prefer to do so in an app. Speaking to a representative to complete this task would take MORE time and lead to frustration. Customers want to click through and be done with it. They want you there when they want you there, but they want you there on their terms.
Doing more with less
When engineering a business strategy and investing in technology, today’s contact centers must operate from the customer’s lens, not their own. This perspective shift is crucial. In the past, automation was built around the contact center’s goals and objectives. “Doing more with less” focused on call deflection, ultimately to avoid putting more staff on payroll – a contact center’s most expensive operating cost. Now, “do more with less” is reversed; we don’t have the ability to readily add staff but are wrestling with a tidal wave of demand. If a company wants to do more with less, investing in automation makes sense, right? Don’t forget about the perspective shift – if you invest, will your customer base use this technology? Or, are your users so conditioned that they’ll still skip around?
Reputation is everything
Getting customers to use automation is, at its heart, a brand issue. Learning our lessons from the past, we now have to figure out how to get our client bases to actually use automation and to realize this is built to service their needs. The first thing to understand is that even as automation becomes so intelligent that it may be able to handle complicated customer issues, the user experience is still painfully inefficient (“I heard you say this, is that what you meant?”).
When a customer calls into your contact center, it’s because they have an issue that is complicated or important, and they want to speak with an expert. When a robot greets your customers and gets them in the queue as quickly as possible, you run the risk of confusing or frustrating callers with complex needs. They’ve followed the prompts, gotten into the queue, and then what? If the automation can’t serve their needs, you’ve wasted their time (and likely their patience).
What happens if we put that perspective shift into play? When we replace technical engineering with social engineering, we can give callers what they asked for. This might look like greeting them with a confirmation that their place in the queue is secure, and then asking them if they’d like to use your automated solution while they wait in the queue. By eliminating the risk to the caller’s time, adoption of self-service will likely skyrocket, and the call center fulfills its objective in doing more with less.
To learn more about automation and how Avaya can help, reach out to a sales representative today.