Saved by Zero (Contact Resolution)

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For years, the contact center world was taught to believe that first-contact resolution—the ability to address customer issues without having to pass them on to second-tier support agents or other channels—was paramount. Today, with the massive uptick in artificial intelligence and robotic process automation, first-contact resolution is no longer good enough. Contact center leaders need to focus instead on zero-contact resolution, a simple and novel concept of resolving cases without expensive contact center agents ever touching them at all.

AnsweriQ, which was acquired by Freshworks in February, is a pioneer in this area. It endorses the technology as a way for companies to bring down customer service and support ticket volume by up to 25 percent.

Some of the underlying technology that enables zero-contact resolution has been around for many years, but recent advances in communications, chatbots, artificial intelligence, voice recognition, and natural language understanding, coupled with increasing customer expectations around ease of service, makes zero-contact resolution more viable than ever before.

AnsweriQ’s own research found that the average contact center ticket costs between $4 to $8 to resolve, based on volume, how much time agents devote to resolving issues, and how much agents earn. This cost can be brought down to less than a dollar using automated zero-contact resolution solutions, it suggests.

But lower costs are not the only benefit businesses can expect. Customers have become much more comfortable with automated self-service and have even come to expect it, says Jen Snell, vice president of product marketing at contact center software provider Verint Systems, pointing to the explosive growth of intelligent virtual assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. Nearly half of homes today have at least one virtual assistant-enabled device, with the percentage on the upswing.

“Customer expectations have grown a lot over the last two years,” Snell says.

In the telecom industry, for example, adding unassisted customer care channels, including mobile apps, websites, and online videos, has led to huge improvements in customer satisfaction, according to the J.D. Power 2020 U.S. Wireless Customer Care Full-Service Performance Study.

“It’s become crystal clear in our data that wireless customers—particularly younger customers under age 35—appreciate being able to help themselves whenever they want, without having to wait for a customer service representative or talk to someone on the phone,” said J.D. Power managing director Ian Greenblatt. “This is foundational for network operators who can receive upwards of 100 million customer service calls per year. With an average cost per call of about $9 to $12, the ability to migrate customers to self-service channels without compromising customer satisfaction is a critical advantage for those who get the formula right.”


AnsweriQ cites the following as ideal use cases for zero-contact resolution: order modification; order cancellation; and automated refunds.

In each instance, zero-contact resolution is much faster and reduces the chance of agent error, AnsweriQ argues.

Norhanie Pangulima, an outreach consultant at self-service troubleshooting app provider Centriq, also recommends using zero-contact resolution for the following:

• Targeted outbound communications: Instead of waiting for customers to contact them, companies can reach out to customers to let them know about issues that could affect them. Additionally, if a company discovers a potential problem with a product or service, it can notify customers.

• Event-driven communications: Specific events can create unique opportunities to inform and engage with customers. After a customer purchases a certain product, the company can inform her of related accessories or service contracts available.

Many of the use cases are commonplace in retail, so it’s an ideal industry for zero-contact resolution. But the concept applies to many other businesses with many repetitive tasks, adds Anand Janefalkar, founder and CEO of UJET, a provider of customer service technologies.

Several experts also pointed to the airline industry as a prime candidate for adopting zero-contact resolution, to notify passengers about flight delays, cancellations, and recommendations for rebooking.

In each of these instances, zero-contact resolution rids contact center agents of repetitive tasks that they find mundane and unappealing, several experts said. But with nearly 43 percent of agents still spending considerable amounts of time on repetitive tasks that could be automated, according to the latest Contact Center World market study, there’s still a lot of room for growth.

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