Macros, canned response, scripts, templates…call them what you want. They boast a number of benefits for contact centers handling text-based support channels like email, chat, SMS, social media, and more, including:
- Improved speed and accuracy when interacting with customers
- Reduced time to full resolution
- Faster time to full proficiency for new agents
But so often we hear the horror stories where an agent accidentally wrote “Dear [Insert Name]” to a customer, failing to insert the customer’s name. In other cases, a macro is used to answer the customer’s question, but only addresses one of the many questions the customer asked. Finally, customers are put on edge when they suspect that they are talking to a robot, not a human being. Yes, macros often receive a bad rap. What’s at the root of this?
The problem is that macros are a tool and so many contact center leaders are trying to hammer a nail into a piece of wood using a screwdriver. In this article, I’ll present the three major problems with macros and give you recommendations that will help your contact center get the most out of this essential tool and realize the benefits listed above.
Problem #1 – Rogue macros
In contact centers handling text-based customer interactions, it’s not a question of whether or not agents use macros. The fact of the matter is that all savvy contact center agents use them. The real question for leaders is whether or not the macros are provided in a centralized location or agents are required to “go rogue,” keeping their own personal document full of responses.
Put yourself in the shoes of a contact center agent who’s required to keep their average handle time around six minutes but is also required to type out the same 10-step process thirty times per day. Can you blame them for saving that response so it’s an easy cut and paste? In fact, they should be praised for their ingenuity. As a young contact center agent myself, I had my own such document and have seen these many times over in contact centers.
Here’s the problem with these rogue documents. Leaders have no control over the quality of the information — and I think you’ll find that quality ranges from exemplary to cringeworthy.
Recommendation – Centralize your macros.
Most popular, cloud-based ticketing systems offer macro functionality. But this can also be as simple as one shared document that the entire team works from. An internal knowledge base will also do just fine.
In addition to selecting a central location, you need to round up all of those rogue documents. And when you do so, use that as input from your agents to understand the most important macros and build out your repository.
Problem #2 – Stale, outdated macros
We recently introduced a new quality assurance process with our customer support team, and as such, I’ve been reading through emails to customers and then coaching agents on ways they can improve. More than once I’ve read through an email and felt it left a lot to be desired, only to realize that almost the entire message was a macro. In the context of a customer interaction, it’s helpful to see where a macro-driven response aids in resolving the customer’s issue or detracts from it.
A quick scan through our macros shows that we have somewhere around 75 to 100, written over the course of a few years, and by several different authors. While it’s great to have a robust bank of responses for agents to use, this creates several challenges — the greatest of which is the challenge of keeping the information up to date.
Consider that some macros may be sent dozens of times per day and we can ill afford information to be incorrect. Also consider that the more macros that exist, the more time and effort required of agents to sift through and find the right ones.
Recommendation – Review all macros quarterly.
We are currently in the process of reviewing all of our macros to ensure that they are up to date. Here are some of the things we’re checking during our review:
- Check to make sure any links still work and look for opportunities to add helpful knowledge base articles so customers know how to self-solve their issues in the future.
- In some cases, macros say the same thing that a knowledge base article says. There’s no need for this redundancy.
- Check for proper grammar and spelling and consistent formatting.
- Ensure that all information is still correct and accurate.
- Trim them down so they communicate the message as clearly and concisely as possible.
- Have the courage to delete some that simply don’t get used. This will make it easier for agents to find the right macros.
I encourage you to regularly sweep through your macros. Also, be sure to empower your team to speak up if they spot any of these issues. While rewriting an inaccurate sentence might seem trivial, consider that your team might be rewriting the same sentence several times a day and you have the opportunity to save them some time.
Problem #3 – Macros that sound like macros
I regularly read through post-interaction survey comments from customers, and one of my least favorite and most preventable comments I see is, “The agent didn’t actually read my question and instead sent me this canned response.” The truth stings, doesn’t it? A response that isn’t perfectly tailored to the customer’s situation can in fact be incredibly offputting. Again, agents need to know how to properly use their tools.
But there’s another problem that exists in contact centers. I once conducted training for a team looking to improve their customer satisfaction scores. As I observed their work, I saw that agents were quickly finding the best macro for the situation, sending a response, and moving on to the next email. When I began to show them how to write better, more personable emails to customers, one agent quickly stopped me and said, “Oh, we know how to write that way. But management told us to send emails as quickly as possible to clear out the queue.”
Recommendation – Train AND allow agents to properly use macros.
First, agents need to be trained in the use of macros. They need to understand that their response to the customer should be perfectly personalized to connect with the customer and then address their issue. At the start of every email response, I always recommend agents include the following four elements:
- A personalized greeting to the customer including their name.
- A restatement and acknowledgment of the issue or issue(s) presented by the customer.
- A statement of empathy or excitement depending on the mood and tone of the customer.
- A declaration of willingness to help and ownership of the customer’s situation.
In reality, this comprises two or three sentences and should be written in the agent’s unique voice and style. This is how agents make a connection with the customer, laying the foundation for the rest of the interaction.
Then, the next step is to solve the customer’s problem and this is where the macro comes in. The macro conveys consistent, thorough information with helpful steps to troubleshoot and resolve the issue. And customers appreciate this as long as it perfectly addresses their issues.
As I said earlier, training is one thing. The other is that management needs to recognize that tailoring a response to a customer using macros takes a bit more time than quickly slapping a canned response on the situation and moving on to the next. On occasions of major backlogs, it can be tempting to emphasize speed over accuracy, but one must decide if the decrease in customer satisfaction and first contact resolution is really worth it.
In conclusion, I absolutely recommend using macros in your contact center, that is if you centralize them, keep them up to date, and train and allow your agents to properly use them. Do these things well and you will harness a perfect blend of both speed and accuracy in your contact center.