This article was originally published on the FCR blog on October 4, 2017. Click here to read the original and watch our FCR Solutions Spotlight video that further discusses these strategies.
In a fast-growing company where customer contact volume is increasing at a similar clip to the customer base, there’s no shortage of hard work to be done. But is adding more people to the support team really the only strategy for handling increased volume, or can we be smarter about this? This has been a frequent topic of discussion with several of our clients recently.
In the past, I’ve referred to these as contact deflection strategies which might imply that we’re making it more difficult for customers to contact support. I think of an IVR that forces customers to go in circles, never routing them to a live person. Thankfully, there’s no trickery involved in this article. Our goal here is to make it easier for customers to get the support they need while reducing the need for some to contact support at all. Here are three strategies that a number of our clients have used to scale smarter.
Strategy #1: Constantly improve self-help
In many instances, customers don’t want to contact support at all. According to a 2015 Microsoft study, an estimated 57% of customer attempt to solve their issues online before contacting support. It’s only when they’re unable to find an answer that they contact somebody. A knowledge base is essential to allowing customers to self-solve issues and there are several great options on the market to choose from. Here are a few:
- Chances are you already use a tool with an integrated knowledge base. Start there. Zendesk, Desk.com, Salesforce, and Help Scout all have this functionality built in.
- Tools like Inbenta and Nanorep are great for knowledge management, using AI to find the right answer and tracking the most commonly asked questions so you can go back and answer them later. These create a great opportunity for the subject matter experts on your support team to help answers those questions and keep your knowledge current.
- DigitalGenius and SmartAssist.io use NLP (Natural Language Processing) to understand what customers are asking in their emails and helps agents find the best answer more efficiently. Using machine learning, the system learns and becomes more accurate over time.
When speaking of self-help, keep in mind that this is as much for your internal agents as it is for your customers. If they can more consistently and efficiently find the right answers, this improves quality, first contact resolution, and training time for new agents.
Strategy #2: Present Self-help options before email and chat
A great way to dramatically reduce support costs is to present your self-help options to customers in places where they’d normally contact support. If done right, you can take an email or chat that might normally cost six to ten dollars to resolve with your customer service team and solve it with self-help at a fraction of the cost.
Solvvy is a great tool to accomplish this, using AI to locate and present the best answers to customers before submitting an online support or chat form. If the article answers their question, they can indicate as such, and if it doesn’t, they continue with their contact to support. I’ve spoken with a number of Solvvy customers, many of whom are clients, and have heard fairly consistent reports of a 10-20% reduction in email and chat contacts.
Strategy #3: Guide customers to a less expensive support channel
As I’ve already mentioned, no customer wants to spend time sitting in a phone IVR or queue any longer than necessary. But what if it’s the only option they’re aware of? What if they’d prefer a different channel if presented with the option?
Companies like Chatdesk and OneReach place an option in the phone IVR to allow customers to move their conversation to SMS (text message), chat, or Facebook Messenger. According to Andrew Olaleye, Co-Founder at Chatdesk, they typically see 10-15% of callers select that option and anywhere from 20-40% after hours. They also find that customer satisfaction is consistently over 90% for these channels. Because customers typically call from a mobile device, all they need to do is confirm their caller ID and then they receive a text message to begin their conversation on a text-based channel.
While this might not reduce your overall contact rate, it does move the conversation to a less expensive, higher satisfaction channel. According to Contact Centre Helper, a chat is somewhere between 17 and 30% less expensive than a phone call because of the ability to handle more than one conversation at a time.
The ROI Question
We’re still just scratching the surface of the innovations that are possible for a customer support organization – helping us work smarter, not harder. As you evaluate some of the options, it’s important to have an idea of your monthly cost per contact. If you can break it up by support channel – even better. This will allow you to understand the value of any solution that either reduces contacts, makes your agents more efficient, or moves those interactions to a less expensive support channel. Ideally, you’ll see enough savings to pay for the tools you select and then some.