By Suzette Meadows, Lead Consultant, Contact Centre/Unified Communications, Exponential-e
Contact centres aren’t averse to a challenge. For years the familiar phone call has seen its role in customer service challenged by other modes of automated communication promising fast, first-time resolutions and tangible cost savings. The reality is that right now, many of these platforms lack the automation and access to real-time customer data needed to deliver seamless, autonomous customer interactions. They will form an integral part of omnichannel communication going forward, but their integration will take time.
For that reason, contact centres remain as important as ever within customer service. They’re evolving at breakneck speed too, with cutting-edge technology increasingly powering efficient, resilient processes. Throw in the fact most contact centre agents now work remotely, and points of customer contact are spread across multiple channels, and the speed of their evolution becomes clear.
All these simultaneous changes can be difficult to navigate though, and have the potential to negatively impact customer journeys, a punishing financial and reputational prospect. That’s what makes the study of failure demand so critical to contact centres, and I want to explain why.
Studying how you fail in order to succeed
There’s been some discussion in recent years about the value of assessing failure demand in contact centres, with certain voices including IBM arguing businesses need to start focusing on engaging customers across all channels. That approach belies the unique role of failure demand in enhancing the customer experiences. It allows you to create a culture of feedback where you identify potential weaknesses in current processes and customer journeys, and then take positive, proactive action to mitigate them. Its study is a critical ingredient in ensuring the longevity and continued success of your business for as long as you are operating a contact centre model.
In practice, failure demand can typically be divided into four categories:
- Speed: When a customer had to wait longer than anticipated for a response, or didn’t receive one quickly enough.
- Accuracy: When the information provided was inaccurate or incomplete, meaning follow-up communications were required.
- Simplicity: When the customer journey was too complex, involving multiple processes, departments, or channels of communication.
- Clarity: When the response delivered was unnecessarily technical or confused the customer, and required further explanation
Prioritising performance assessment
With this understanding of how to categorise failures, contact centres can begin assessing their performance, and the potential root causes of any recurring problems.
But where should you start? That’s simple – with your agents. They will have a better idea than anyone where there are issues with your tools or processes, so speak to them to identify potential issues in everyday workflows.
Each agent won’t have a full picture of performance across your operation, though. That’s why interaction data is so valuable. Capturing data which details all instances of repeat contact, and reviewing it to identify any common trends within complaints, produces valuable insights into where customer service can be streamlined to deliver better outcomes.
This process can be made even more sophisticated if you categorise the specific details of each customer contact once you’ve captured details of the interaction. Previously this would have been fairly time-intensive, but various systems are now available that automatically capture and categorise both customer complaints and agent feedback for you. When used correctly, they provide a far more holistic and qualitative view of each customer’s experience and agent’s performance, helping establish specific patterns of performance, and producing insights into potential factors contributing to failures.
All of these steps are crucial to assessing performance, but they’ll prove futile unless you have innate knowledge of the journeys customers are taking within your organisation. That’s why it’s so important to map out your projected customer journeys; doing so means you can compare the outcomes you want to drive against actual current journeys, measure whether expectation meets reality, and act accordingly if there is any discrepancy between the two.
Developing a clear strategy to minimise failure demand
So now you’ve established the contributing factors to failure in your call centre. Of course, the contributing factors in each case will differ greatly, but the ideal strategy to mitigate them will typically comprise four key steps:
- Equipping agents with the tools they need: Giving agents the tools and information needed to deliver first-time resolutions at their fingertips, wherever they are connecting from, should be the basis of any strategy. A lack of appropriate resource is one of the most common contributors to failure demand, but equally one of the most straight forward to identify and fix
- Automating simple tasks to free up agent capacity: Automating routine tasks that do not require their specific expertise, such as identification and verification, ensure customers are connected to the agent best placed to help them with minimal waiting time, ensuring queries are resolved more quickly.
- Consolidating and streamlining internal processes: Bouncing between different departments and channels of communication often causes customer communications to break down. Adopting an omnichannel approach to communication should allow you to provide effortless support and consultation to customers on the channel of their choice, without compromising their experiences
- Analyse your data to draw your insights: Once you’ve captured, consolidated and stored all your data securely, then it’s time to start driving value from it. Make it instantly accessible to those managing customer service channels so they can run analytics against it and generate insights that they can use to proactively address and improve processes in their teams.
Contact centres are constantly evolving in response to shifting customer expectations and changing business priorities, meaning there is no set blueprint for how a contact centre should be run, or specific level of performance that it should aim to reach. Each one operates in its own unique way.
That said, every successful contact centre should aspire to match best in class CX with efficient and effective customer interactions. Ingraining awareness of failure demand across teams, and putting the right tools and strategy in place to mitigate it, will ensure contact centres continue to play an important role in surprising and delighting customers on a daily basis.