• January 1, 2015
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

In Customer Service, It's More Efficient to Be Effective

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customers a premium for the same lousy service that others receive for free will surely backfire.

Concierged service is "a Band-Aid, when companies should be fixing customer service across the board for everyone," says Nancy Jamison, a principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

Alternatives Exist

Companies would be better served by having enough agents to handle their call volumes and then providing those agents with the right tools and technologies to do their jobs well, according to Jamison.

"It's more a matter of careful planning, scheduling, and optimizing your existing resources," says Paul Stockford, chief analyst at Saddletree Research. "It's more about efficiently scheduling agents."

Stockford, therefore, advocates for much greater use of workforce management solutions in the contact center space. "Currently about 80 percent of the workforce management solutions out in the market are being underutilized," he states. "I would look toward proven solutions like these to improve scheduling rather than introducing new services [such as pay for support]."

But even under the best circumstances, the need to place customers on hold is sometimes inevitable. When that happens, "various virtual hold technologies can reduce the time customers have to spend waiting around," Dawson points out.

With the callback option, for example, callers on hold can schedule a callback without losing their place in the queue. They enter their name and phone number into the system and can hang up. Virtual placeholders keep their places in line and maintain first-in, first-out call treatment.

More advanced systems allow callers on hold to schedule callbacks at times that are more convenient for them if they don't feel like waiting.

Callback solutions can be triggered automatically when certain thresholds are reached for average wait time, the number of people in the queue, service levels, or call abandonment rates, for example.

Genesys, which earlier this year launched a callback offering developed with Virtual Hold Technology, says its solution has led to a 35 percent average reduction in speed of answer, a 25 percent average improvement in service levels during peak periods, and a 40 percent reduction in abandoned calls.

Build a Better IVR

Modern customer service phone interactions almost always involve an IVR of some sort. The technology has been around for decades, yet even today there are many poorly designed IVRs that needlessly waste customers' time. Systems require customers to press and repress keys, speak to a machine that misunderstands most of their responses, and navigate complicated and seemingly endless menus that lead to nowhere. Frustrated customers now know that they can usually hit zero or say "operator" to get to a live person and skip the menu maze, but companies can take steps to speed up the interaction.

First and foremost, when it comes to the IVR, less is more. Too often, IVRs become a tangled mess of menu options that take too long to follow. Companies need to reduce the number of options and keep them as brief and simple as possible.

Next, they can enable barge-in for experienced callers who know exactly what they want to do and where to find it within the system prompts. Don't force these callers to listen to the same menu options every time they call in. Let them interrupt the system and quickly navigate through prompts to get where they want to go on their own.

One of the most frustrating things for callers—which still happens very often, according to analysts—is the need to repeat information at different stages during the interaction. How often does a customer enter her account number into an automated system, only to have to 

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