Since COVID-19 crisis disrupted just about all walks of life, companies that have traditionally had telephone lines as their primary customer support channels are now looking to add modern ways of communicating with customers. The pandemic outcomes included agents working remotely and the rapid need to handle a lot of interactions with fewer resources. Phone calls are expensive, and customers get annoyed and are left frustrated with being put on hold for long periods of time. Personally, I experienced so much of that frustration and eventually I had to hang up because I couldn’t wait any longer. The pandemic has put agents under pressure they’ve likely never experienced before. Wait times ballooned as many customers were calling in with problems that customer service agents couldn’t answer.
An AI company, Tethr, studied one million customer service calls made to 20 large companies in various industries over this period. They found that difficult interactions had more than doubled from before the COVID-19 crisis — accounting for a hefty 20% of all calls. These sorts of interactions became increasingly common as contact centre agents and managers struggled with new remote working arrangements.
Offer your customers the channel of their choice at the right time
The use of digital channels for customer service provide many advantages. Some of the more prominent among these are time saving, alignment with customer habits, and access to the history of interactions. Today, more customer interactions take place via an array of digital channels, giving customers a wider choice to connect. Tech giants are making it easy for businesses to interact with customers digitally. Facebook Messenger, Instagram, messaging apps, WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat, Google’s Business Messages, and Twitter offer additional opportunities to engage customers. As tech firms double down on building better consumer-to-business chat solutions, the importance of digital support is only set to grow.
Transforming customer service doesn’t have to be complicated
Digital-first, always-on communication is a reality. Younger consumers are mostly positive about digital as their preferred interaction channel. As this demographic becomes the dominant consumer group, businesses will need to respond to their preferences. In fact, consumer communications have changed and the pandemic has accelerated that change. This is why keeping up with new technology is increasingly important. Customers choose a channel based on their habits and convenience. Perhaps they are active on WhatsApp but not Facebook. Or they prefer texts to emails. Companies that only offer phone and email run into problems very quickly during peak volume periods. We know customers don’t like long waiting times; offering phone support comes at a cost. Companies simply cannot hire their way out of increasing support calls, they must adopt new technologies to optimise at scale. There’s a smarter way to resolve issues faster.
Call deflection strategy
What is call deflection? It’s about decreasing the volume of calls by redirecting requests to other channels. The goal is to provide alternatives to calls, not to avoid interaction with a customer. It’s when you offer a customer an alternative digital channel either before or during a call.
Call deflection is an effective strategy to improve the customer experience by making it easier to manage a high volume of incoming calls and deflect a portion of those calls to more efficient digital channels. These alternative channels are generally digital live chat, messaging or email. It can be more cost-effective for the business and more convenient for the customer. And you can manage your customers activities more easily and reduce your costs by encouraging asynchronous interactions.
Avoid customers having to repeat themselves
Forgetting previous interactions and asking customers to repeat information are the most common ways to give your customers a bad experience. Whenever possible, when implementing a call deflection strategy, avoid asking customers to repeat themselves. Provide your agents with context to help resolve issues faster.
The context represents all the user’s information and history with your brand, and can include user identities, previously visited pages, and contact reasons. This type of information is often stored in your CRM. When switching between channels, the context can be taken into account and sent to the agent via a secure token. In addition, the agent (or chatbot) who manages the contact on the new channel can respond to the request in a more relevant way because they know that the user has already been deflected from a call.
Greater efficiency at a lower cost
Those troubled by complex problems, such as payment disputes or missed deliveries, are more likely to seek help from a real person on the phone. They want to talk or chat to an agent to escalate issues that frustrate them.
On the phone, agents can talk to only one person at a time, putting other customers on hold, unlike on social media and messaging apps where your agent can deal with multiple queries simultaneously. In this way, digital channels offer far greater efficiency at a lower cost. RingCentral helps brands connect quickly and easily with their customers on messaging channels. Over half of customers prefer to contact companies via email, chat, social media, and other digital channels. It’s a no brainer: moving away from being on hold helps give customers a better experience and increases their satisfaction rates.