In a noble effort to cut costs, many businesses use interactive voice response (IVR) systems at contact centers. While this does lower contact center costs by reducing real-agent answer time, it also reduces customer satisfaction by a whopping 93% overall.
Let’s face it. At one point or another, we have all been frustrated by an annoying IVR system. And we know that endlessly screaming commands into a phone aggravates an already testy customer. The reality is that even though technology has advanced considerably over the years, customers still often want to interact personally with your business.
Studies have shown that automated systems like IVRs have not helped companies develop positive customer relationships. In fact only 7% of customers feel IVRs have provided them with a satisfactory customer service experience.
That is too bad, because research also shows that after a bad customer service experience, 86% quit doing business with the offending organization. When it comes down to it, losing good customers due to a bad experience hurts your bottom line more than you saved by employing IVR. Think about the age-old rule: Retaining old customers is way more cost effective than acquiring new ones.
But is the problem with the technology or the implementation? The answer may lie somewhere in between. There are ways that call centers can integrate useful technology while still enhancing customer experience. Here are strategies to make that happen:
- Text Chat: More than half of customers prefer to text rather than call. Plus, by implementing text chat you can drastically reduce your contact center costs. A text chat system allows customers to text, while allowing agents to quickly respond through already-established web chat system channels. The added benefits are that the customer still gets to speak directly with a person rather than a robot and agents can manage multiple conversations at a time using a system they already know.
- Web Chat Automation: If you prefer to use IVR to perform simple tasks or for directive purposes, web chat automation can handle that. Think of it as a way for customers to help themselves. According to a 2013 ZenDesk study, 53% of customers think it’s important to resolve their own product or service. Automated web chat allows customers to do just that, increasing efficiency for both agents and the customer while decreasing costs.
- SMS Automation: Automation using text chat can help customers with simple tasks—like resetting their account password or checking an order status—without ever having to speak with a live agent. Customer information can be easily integrated using platforms such as ZenDesk, Twilio, and SalesForce. Of course, it makes sense to include an option to reach a live agent at any time if help is needed. Using text automation, you can reduce call center costs and provide customers with both a positive experience and a very quick resolution.
- Channel Pivot: To create the best customer experience, companies need to allow customers to transition from one channel to another without missing a beat. We at OneReach call this the “channel pivot.” Based on a customer’s preference, the task being pursued, or environmental conditions, certain channels are more appropriate than others to accomplish a task. For example, in a sound sensitive environment (like in a meeting or on a bus) pivoting a phone call to a text chat conversation may make the most sense for your customer.
- Seamless Transitions: In addition to multiple-channel support, companies must also be able to provide a seamless transition from one channel to another. This means pivoting not just the client, but their conversation history and relevant information as well. According to the Zendesk study, only 7% of customers are extremely satisfied that brands provide a seamless, integrated, and consistent customer service experience across channels. It is important to make sure that if you pivot customers to a different channel, you are still providing them with a good experience. Don’t make your customers repeat themselves when switching channels, and allow them to pivot back if necessary.
Customer experience is still considered the most important element of business operations. Yet most companies seem to implement technology for their own benefit rather than that of the customer. Only when businesses start to focus instead on the user’s experience and build their technology solutions around that will they finally improve customer loyalty, boost their Net Promoter Scores and meet their goals. Even if they have to tame a few robots along the way.
Interested in learning more about how to improve the customer experience? Check out the following blog posts:
- Can I Text Your Call Center?
- A Q&A With Ashley Verrill about Proactive Customer Service
- Is Your Company Making These Webchat Mistakes?