November 20, 2018

Calls volume in the digital age

With digital technologies, organizations transform the way they engage with customers; yet paradoxically, call volume remains high

More and more organizations are increasing their investment in digital solutions to engage with their customers. They aim to facilitate customers’ access to services and focus on any touchpoint that may represent a competitive advantage. Within the framework of this strategy, call volume reduction is often considered a number-one priority.

Most executives believe they can achieve this goal by replacing telephone calls with new digital touchpoints, eventually being more cost-effective.

In this article, we approach the issue from a different perspective.
Based on Comways’ observations of projects across the contact center sector, we can see that the phone calls-to-digital transition may take years. Much depends on end-customers’ profile (i.e., age and geography, among other factors, must be considered). Even more depends on the organization’s ability to prioritize customer experience in its strategic digitalization effort. In fact, most executives prioritize digital solutions over any other operational contact-center technology, but the expected impact on phone calls has been surprisingly non-existent. Topping the list are the websites, apps and AI-powered chatbots. These digital solutions, which simulate human interactions, can free human agents to deal with requests that cannot be automated, but human contact is still essential.


How can organizations make the most of their investment in digital technology?
There are many reasons why organizations struggle to obtain the projected benefits and ROI of their investments in digital technology. In many cases, this is due to a lack of harmony in the design and deployment of these new digital channels. To overcome this problem, organizations must adopt a more global approach and pay specific attention to the following areas:


1. Empowerment of the human agent remains key
Although the development of automation takes basic transactional calls away from the contact center, more complex enquiries are still directed to the human agent. These calls take more time to handle, and thus create pressure on the related KPIs (e.g.: handling time, first call resolution, etc.). Moreover, in most transformation processes, digitalization also means a reduction in the number of branches, increasing the flow of calls to the contact center. Obviously, the contact center cannot be completely “call-free”. Although w may find ways to eliminate some types of calls, the remaining ones still require talented and extremely well-trained agents, agents empowered by a 360° view of the customer’s experience. In a reality where more and more agents work part time and from home, managers must now shift their focus and find ways not only to keep their workforce highly trained, but also to enable operation from remote sites, without breaching security or reducing quality levels.


2. All customer touchpoints must be continuously monitored and improved
The contact center is not the organization’s only customer-facing component; however, quite often, it is the primary doorway for customers who fail to receive satisfactory information via other fronts (e.g.: unclear invoice, non-compliant order confirmation, inconvenient scheduling, contradictory information, etc.). Analyses of the reasons for these calls can provide the organization with precious opportunities to identify areas where improvement is required. Surprisingly enough, our experience shows that the causes of these calls are not numerous and they can usually be resolved with easy-to-achieve, simple structured solutions.
This kind of cross-process helps to break organizational silos and drives customer-centric approaches.


3. Help your customers go digital
When investing in new technology, make sure you know who it will serve. Not all your customers are ready to go digital or can be converted to digital interfaces. Even if they can be converted, you must ensure that their digital experience is appealing and user-friendly enough to deliver a real added-value. This is one of the keys for successful adoption. To accelerate adoption, the following actions are recommended:
• Implement educational onboarding: This will support the customers and accompany them through their first digital experiences.
• Plan, budget and support the transition: None of the new solutions are just “plug and play”; even if the process goes according to expectations, the transition and change process must be carefully planned, budgeted and supported.
• Offer incentives: Encourage customers to switch by offering them incentives, better SLA and benefits when using these new channels.
• Maintain balance: Lastly, you must ensure the right balance between automation and human service. Never put your customers in a situation where they cannot “escape” your robot and reach your human agent.


Lastly, what is likely to be automated?
As the world becomes more and more digital, call-center automation is inevitable. We believe that any phone conversation which can be accomplished by an agent’s simple search in the organization’s database is a candidate for automation, providing it is repetitive enough to justify the investment (e.g.: stock availability, nearest store, delivery date, appointment setting, balance check, booking, ordering, etc.).