A manager named Molly has been putting on a big show of the significant investments she’s making in her contact center’s IVR and agent systems. She states with a glint of triumph in her eye, “We’re going to save money, and we have automation to thank for it!” But behind closed doors, it’s a different story. With a frustrated sigh, Molly throws her hands up in the air. “I don’t get it,” she says.
It turns out she hasn’t come close to realizing the ROI she was expecting.
Unfortunately, this sad tale is all too common. And many others would also confess that customer service is the same, or worse, their own contact center costs remain too high.
I believe one of the leading reasons for this unnecessary frustration and misuse of investments is based on the starting point of most technology projects. Someone voices a problem, and without missing a beat, an executive pounds their fist on the table while declaring with reassuring authority, “Don’t worry! Technology will save us!”
You’re Looking at Technology the Wrong Way
As a technologist, this type of thinking wounds me.
It hurts to see this gross mischaracterization taint the actual value newer technologies and design can bring. The real problem lies in the attempt to make every project address every call type in the exact same way.
“We added speech to our IVR and never saw any incremental value.”
The traditional, bottom-line-first strategy of “improving” a contact center is to just force all calls through an IVR and self-service applications as an alternative to the high cost of agents.
Does this sound like you? If so, I have some bad news. The robots can’t solve everything.
Robots Aren’t Always the Answer
I know. It’s an awful thing to admit, and I’m sorry you had to find out this way. But if you’re running a contact center and have an itchy trigger finger about automation, you need to accept this. Self-service options can only tackle so much, and there are certain types of problems that can only be solved by a living, breathing human agent.
So while the automation-over-people argument makes sense when you’re trying to save a few bucks, in reality you’re often just shooting yourself in the foot. Putting burdensome automation in front of these calls is counter-productive and potentially costly in losing revenue opportunities or driving away valued customers.
Of course, doing nothing is not an option either.
The Questions You Need to Answer
It may sound obvious, but the right approach in developing an improvement strategy starts with asking yourself two very basic questions:
1. What calls or callers are critical and should be handled by a real person?
Knowing this, explore design strategies that can automatically identify this class of call/caller, and automatically route the call to the appropriate agent. Then you can go nuts with your technology, in the form of “intuitive IVR” design and intelligent call routing.
2. What calls are noncritical?
These are the calls/callers that should be the focus of advanced automation in effective self-service applications to keep the agents available for those critical calls that need a little bit of person-to-person TLC.
The concept of “intuitive IVR” design is very simple if you can identify the caller (phone number match to CRM or backend system), then you can guess (with reasonable certainty) why the customer is calling, and what to do next, immediately taking them down either the “critical” or “noncritical” path.
And, by avoiding the static and generic menu-based IVR, the critical calls/callers get desired immediate service, and the known noncritical calls/callers are immediately directed to the appropriate self-service function. This immediate transfer to self-service will also minimize the “pound zero for agent” syndrome that drives up the unnecessary live-agent calls.