February 1st, 2017
In the face of wage and operational cost increases, reducing call centre costs can seem like an insurmountable task. There are a lot of decisions to be made, and several people to convince. But customers now want to contact businesses online, and that means call centre models need to change. The ease with which a tweet or Facebook message can be sent has bred the expectation that a reply should be received with similar efficiency. It's also lead to an increase in the number of contacts per order, and that means that call-dominated customer service centres simply can't keep up; they need to evolve into webchat and social-led contact centres.
Transforming a traditional call centre into a contact centre allows you to reduce customer service (CS) costs by changing phone calls into text-based, online contacts. An operator that was previously only helping one customer at a time on a phone call can now assist multiple customers at once (via webchat), or handle similar queries in a much smaller timeframe (social messages). Simply giving customers what they want optimises your customer experience whilst reducing CS department spend. The great news is this has never, theoretically, been easier. The bad news is that last sentence has the word “theoretically” in it.
Our cost reduction calculator means it’s easier than ever to work out how much you can save by transforming your call centre into a contact centre. Here are some in-depth reasons for moving to an online contact centre and how we became experts in the field.
Customers want fast online communication channels
Email and phone calls are no longer the preferred channels when customers want to contact a business. In fact, 59.2% of customers will use social media or connect to a webchat facility before even looking for a phone number. So over half of consumers have shifted to more modern methods of communication. This is great for your operational costs, but it could spell problems for your customer experience.
Mobile internet has enabled people to communicate at any time, from any place and such ready access has produced an expectation of faster responses. Thirty-two percent of customers contacting a business on social media expect a response within half an hour. Sounds pretty reasonable, right? The actual average social response time is ten hours, and the maximum amount of time most customers will wait for a reply is four hours. Oh.
Long response times are usually the result of a small social team – often an outcome of a business’ continued dependence on traditional channels. Our solution to this problem has been to cross train our operators so they're well-versed across multiple channels, and can jump onto the team that needs them most at any given time. This is combined with real-time monitoring to make our customer service teams truly agile in their response to contact volumes.
Long response times will lead to a customer losing hope of a response and moving their query to another channel, and 36% of them will shame you publicly on social media along the way. Treat them well however, and 75% will share their experience on their profile. Your social audience just got a whole lot bigger.
The moral of this story? The move to digital channels needs to be accompanied by a team with the resources and training to meet the needs of the information age customer. This transition, whilst beneficial, comes with a few challenges.
Transforming your CS saves money
Would you be surprised if we told you that a single customer service phone call is, generally, five times more expensive to a business than a single webchat or social media interaction? A continued reliance on telephony is costing businesses five times the amount they could be paying for a service most of their customers would prefer. Are you put off by the cost of moving to an online-focused model? Or are you worried about how public social media is? Either reason is going to end up costing your company in the long run.
Wanting to avoid criticism of any potential social mishap is understandable, but ultimately misguided. Ignoring messages has an effect on your bottom line – 30% of people will go to a competitor if you don't respond to their messages. But if you start reaching out to them, 70% of people are more likely to use your product or service. Embracing social customer care protects and grows your long-term profit margin, for what is actually a relatively low setup cost.
Training your CS operators
Shifting to new customer service channels also means that advisor skillsets need to evolve. The largest barrier to contact centre transformation is likely to lie in the need to retrain or replace current advisors. Spelling and grammar become a higher priority when all communications with your customers are written (and when bad examples have a potential to go viral), and this could mean additional training for advisors that fall below the mark; a time and money cost that isn’t exactly enticing.
Tone requirements also change by channel – social posts with the formalities of an email feel unnatural. Webchat requires a chattier style of communication. Advisors need training that equips them to recognise the need for different tones across channels and what said tone sounds like. This will also be influenced by industry – a bank, for example, will need to be a lot more formal than an online fashion retailer.
The department is also changing as a whole. Customer service departments have traditionally been split into teams that deal with discrete parts of the customer journey. Advisors were a member of the returns team, or the complaints team, and each had their own training path and skillset. But, this isn’t what the modern CS department looks like. Customer service advisors are having to evolve into highly skilled, versatile professionals. An operator on your Twitter team would need to be able to handle any query you would expect to receive.
That sounds like a lot of training but it doesn’t necessarily need to mean additional money out of your pocket. We’ve spent years making sure our operators have the skills and support needed to thrive in an online support team. The best CS providers already have highly skilled teams ready to deliver high quality online customer service.
What type of contact management software do you need?
The shift from traditional telephony to online contacts almost definitely comes with a need to adopt a new contact management software. Multichannel software options are varied and picking the one that best meets the needs of your business is vital. The real game changers enable you to provide omnichannel customer service. This seemingly small distinction is an important one. Our experience with multiple providers has shaped our belief that omnichannel software is the backbone of a successful contact centre.
Our preferred provider, Gnatta, enables us to communicate with customers seamlessly across channels. We can help a customer across social media accounts, email, and webchat, and all their contact history with our client is available to our operators in one, easy-to-read user interface. Any technological handover has its headaches and when it has the chance to affect the customer experience it’s important to minimise any disruption. Progression towards a contact centre able to keep up with the demands of a large digital consumer base however, necessitates such a transfer.
You’d be forgiven for thinking a move towards digital channels means a larger contact volume by necessity. More ways of contacting you must mean more queries, right? Well, the answer isn’t no. But a lot of businesses have moved towards providing in-depth FAQ facilities on their websites to answer customer’s questions before they feel the need to connect to an advisor. Millennials are used to finding their own answers, and they don’t like contacting anyone if they don’t have to. Making their lives easier will make the work lives of your operators a lot calmer.
That said, intuitive, comprehensive website “help centres” can require a lot of developer time. User experience is a pivotal part of customer experience, so it’s worth the extra time and, yes, money, to make sure this part of your website is well executed. Tiered question structures, starting on a topic (like “returns”) and ending at detailed answers, are more user friendly than a list of questions in alphabetical order. FAQs are only worth the development time if they make the answers easy to find. But, should a customer be unable to find an answer to their question, contacting you via webchat or social media messaging should only be a click away.
Chatbots, and other forms of automation, are currently the most exciting things on the CS horizon. Well, we say horizon – plenty are already in play, including those developed for big names like Mastercard. They enable easy, FAQ-style questions to be answered without adding to your operators’ contact volume, letting them focus on the more complex queries that get sent your way.
A successful strategy means you need to be ready to make big changes
Simply offering social media and webchat channels isn't going to provide the benefits we've described above. If they aren't managed effectively (either by your actual CS managers, or by a software solution that isn’t quite up to the task), the valuable time and effort put in to providing them will be wasted.
The most efficient software solutions offer a degree of automation. Our partnership with Gnatta enables us to collect user data before customers even reach our operators, reducing the frustration and time lost in confirming a customer's identity.
Insufficiently trained operators aren't going to be able to meet the standards expected of customer service advisers by consumers. Higher contact volumes per order, and an expectation of more personalised service (even online), means greater demands of CS operators. Giving them the training and support needed to succeed is integral to successfully transforming your customer service.
Transformation isn't just about moving your customer service to new channels. To provide a great customer experience and reduce CS costs, these new channels need to be attacked with enthusiasm. Cutting corners with operator training, software, or channel management will limit any advantages.
Ultimately, once any operational qualms have been settled, the biggest question is “how much is this going to cost?” Luckily, we’ve got that covered.
Want to see how much you could save by transforming your call centre into a contact centre? Check out our cost reduction calculator. Give us the average number of queries you get in a month from customers, and how they’re usually received. We’ll then show you how you can transform your customer service into a more cost-effective model that brings customers closer to your business. We’ll ask for your contact details, and get back to you within 24 hours. Cost saving has never been more straightforward.