In the late 20th century, companies recognized that serving customers remotely was more cost-effective than serving them face to face. The contact center industry was born.
Since then, interaction volumes have risen sharply, as has the number of agents employed to handle them.
The greatest cost is people. Thomas Moroney, writing for Customer Think, estimates that HR costs including wages, benefits, and recruitment, account for more than 70% of the contact center’s total costs.
Interaction volumes may vary from hour to hour, so staff numbers required will do likewise. In many jurisdictions in Europe, local laws require employers to pay their staff a premium of 50% for overtime work, making staffing flexibility an expensive proposition.
Where interactions can be made self-service, the cost of
handling them will fall by 70%, even if the handling time increases.
Customers also benefit from using a well-designed self-service offering. They can get answers to their questions on a 24/7 basis. They do not need to wait in a queue for an agent to become free. They do not need to pay for an expensive phone call.
Concepts of self-service
FAQ pages on the company website – if well designed and publicized, a simple FAQ page should be able to address customers’ simpler concerns in multiple languages.
Interactive website pages – through these, customers can purchase goods, check account balances, check the progress of an order, etc. Like FAQs, they can be localized into the customers’ major languages.
Out of hours IVR responses – businesses configure their IVR systems to send customers to their website or book a call-back during working hours.
IVRs diverting customers to self-service options – when configuring an IVR structure, organizations include an option to divert customers to a self-service platform for specific questions or transactions.
Use of text and voice-based ChatBots to handle simple transactions – cloud technology has made these affordable to a wider size range of companies. Cloud-based contact center providers such as Omningage and Amazon Connect have made the configuration of such chatbots easier than ever.
Setting up a self-service operation – keys to success
Cloud technology has made setting up a self-service platform more affordable than ever, but it takes more than paying monthly subscriptions to make these platforms work. Here are a few key principles which experts suggest.
Define your self-service strategy
This has two aspects.
Define the aims of the self-service process in terms of customer needs. The self-service offering needs to give the customer an experience as good as, or even better than, speaking to an agent. The process must be as simple, self-explanatory, and as quick as possible, allowing customers to get things done when they want and with minimal effort.
Select a limited number of processes to make self-service. They need to be simple enough that the customer can follow them without any assistance and frequent enough that cash savings from an agent not handling them will bring a solid Return on Investment (ROI).
Make it easy for customers to escalate to a human when needed:
Artur Michalczyk and Justin Robbins, writing on the CallCentreHelper website, both recommend that customers be given an easy route to a human agent if the automated process does not provide the assistance needed.
Where loyal and neutral customers cannot escalate to a human, they may turn into hostile detractors who damage the company’s reputation.
Treat self-service as part of Omnichannel:
Omnichannel involves storing all data from all channels on a common database and making it available to the staff handling interactions with customers.
This also applies to self-service. Customers calling in with challenges because of the self-service channel will feel frustrated. Having to repeat the details of the transaction they could not complete to an agent will make these feelings worse.
Use speech analytics and natural language processing with ChatBots
Frustrating IVR paths to either an agent or a self-service channel can be replaced with voice-activated chatbots. The customer simply says what she wants, and the chatbot will route her to the correct human or automated queue.
Voice or text-based chatbots can guide customers through simple processes, handling their requests quickly with no waiting.
Measure self-service performance in as much detail as you measure agent performance.
Self-service processes should be measured in as much detail as agents’ activities. The self-service offering is intended to replace some or all of the “Tier 1” services that human agents offer.
Appropriate KPIs will include self-service interaction volumes versus agent-led interaction volumes, post-interaction customer satisfaction measurements, and the percentage of self-service interactions that are escalated to human agents.
Mining escalation conversations with analytics makes it possible to identify common themes. These can be the focus of further work to improve these workflows, so reducing the number of escalations.
Self-service requires continuous monitoring, maintenance, and improvement
The original self-service offering will be based on a set of assumptions about the customer base and their needs when started. The world changes very quickly, as do customer requirements. A constant eye must be kept on the self-service process’s KPIs and other data to ensure that it is still meeting customers’ needs.
How can Omningage help?
Omningage is a cloud-based interface for agents, supervisors, and leadership running on top of Amazon Connect.
The reports it provides can measure self-service interactions just as easily as human interactions.
Amazon Connect integrates seamlessly with other AWS products, such as Amazon Lex and Amazon Polly. It provides automated bots to handle specified interactions using AI-powered speech analytics and natural language processing.
Omningage provides consultants to analyze your business requirements, set up the appropriate contact flows on Amazon Connect, and configure other AI-powered tools.
To find out more, contact your AWS integration partner or Omningage Sales Director.