Dec 10 2016 “Pound Zero For An Agent” Syndrome Is Robing Your Contact Center



Achieving Cost Reduction Goal

For years most contact centers have made significant investments into their IVR’s and agent systems. But if those companies would be honest they’d tell you they still have not come close to realizing the ROI they were expecting, and many suggesting customer service and contact center costs are worse.

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 – “technology is the answer”. As a technologist, it saddens me to see this mischaracterization taint the available value newer technologies can bring. The real problem is in the attempt to make every project address every call type, the same way. (Example; “We added speech to our IVR and never saw any incremental value”).

The traditional financial perspective 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. The flaw in that approach is that certain call types and/or certain customer types should always be handled by live agents. Putting burdensome automation in front of these calls is counter-productive and potentially costly in losing revenue opportunities or driving away valued customers. But doing nothing is not an option either.

The right approach in developing an improvement strategy starts with:

What calls or callers are critical and should be handled by a live agent? Knowing this, explore design strategies that can automatically identify this class of call/caller, and automatically route the call to the appropriate agent – ‘intuitive IVR’ design and call routing.

What calls are non-critical? These are the calls/callers that should be the focus of advanced automation in effective self-service applications to keep the agents available for the critical calls.

Intuitive Self-Service

The concept of “intuitive IVR” design is very simple – if you can identify the caller (phone number match to CRM or back end system), then with high certainty you can guess why the customer is calling, and what to do next; immediately taking them down either the “critical” or “non-critical” path. And, by avoiding the static and generic menu-based IVR, the critical calls/callers get desired immediate service, and the known non-critical calls/callers are immediately directed to the appropriate self-service function. This immediate transfer to self-service will also minimize the “pound zero for an agent” syndrome that drives up the unnecessary live-agent calls.