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Making the Right Call with Contact Centers

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By Alim Bhanji, Consultant
Published: May 30, 2016

Categories: Articles

How to Keep Costs Down and Customer Experience Up in an Omni-channel World

Chances are you’re no stranger to omni-channel service – almost every company engages its customers through multiple channels, from phone to web. However, businesses are often too quick to equate high-touch – and high-cost – agents with a better customer experience and lower-cost digital interactions with a worse one.

The reality: Depending on the transaction, the product or simply how they’re feeling, customers prefer different channels at different times. For example, some people would much rather pay their cable bill online than have to speak to a call center agent. Companies must give consumers a choice of how to engage but also direct them to the most efficient channels, provided the customer experience doesn’t suffer.

Why Omni-channel Matters to Your Business

Contact centers play a vital role in shaping the customer experience. They’re a front-line touch point for key interactions, often when the person at the other end is the most upset. Their impact on loyalty and willingness to recommend a product or service is profound. For example, consumers who have a poor or unresolved interaction at the call center are 30% less likely to promote a company and 16% more likely to defect.

As contact centers change to meet evolving customer expectations, it’s important to remember two things:

  1. Contact centers are going omni-channel, enabling customers to choose how and when they interact.  The upshot: Companies need to deliver a digital offering on par with interactive voice response (IVR) and voice. As research firm Aberdeen Group notes, 99% of businesses use two or more channels to engage their customers. Meanwhile, 58% of callers have visited the web before calling and 34% are online while talking to an agent, omnichannel solutions provider Genesys reports.
  2. Customers are more time-constrained and want their issues resolved promptly.  Contrary to popular belief, investing more in the amount of time that agents spend on calls does not drive significant customer satisfaction. Research by McKinsey & Co. and Nielsen Co. found that 33% of consumers would recommend a brand that provides a quick but ineffective response, whereas only 17% would recommend a brand that provides a slow but effective solution.
Three steps to building a better call center

Contact centers work best when they align with customer expectations. With the right model, you can enable an extraordinary customer experience and reduce costs at the same time.

1. Give your customers a choice of contact channel, but direct them to lower-cost channels if it doesn’t affect the customer experience.  

Determine what is important to consumers and what they value. Ask your customers those questions: Their service preferences may surprise you. When it comes to other service options, make sure you’re diverting the right call and customer types. Use digital to improve the customer experience and reduce your costs.

2. Strive for efficient interactions that offer a superior customer experience but also benefit your bottom line. Here are some ways to strike the right balance:

  • Route calls to the agent with the most appropriate skills. For instance, a rep handling a simple billing change or an upgrade may not need training in diagnosing problems with a wireless modem.
  • Ensure a satisfying customer experience by determining the most efficient call lengths and aiming for high first call resolution rates.
  • Make sure agents have the right metrics on their scorecard so they are focused on customer preferences.

​3. Optimize your call center operations by using data analytics to measure what matters and plan efficiently.

Contact centers have a wealth of data at their disposal, but many aren’t using it in the right way. Take advantage of this information by forecasting call volumes and measuring what’s important.

  • Putting the correct operating model in place requires taking a data-centric view. Use tools like Arena to simulate your process with varying call volumes and constraints; this will help you to make the best staffing and call routing decisions throughout the day and year as volume fluctuates. Better forecasting helps to reduce overtime and boosts customer satisfaction, thanks to lower wait times.
  • Measure the right metrics to promote the right behaviour. Track where your agents are spending their time and optimizing productive time. On the consumer side, two key metrics are first call resolution and customer satisfaction.

We have used these principles to identify several significant improvement opportunities. For past clients we have helped isolate sources of agent inefficiency, determine sources of excess cost that do not affect client experience, and redesign the agent scorecard. As a result cost savings were realized, employee satisfaction improved, and customer satisfaction scores were at the top of the industry.

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Alim Bhanji

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