Jobs in every sector have seen some attrition recently, and this has placed an enormous strain on workers in every sector, including those working in call centers. In these challenging times, call center agents are managing very real worries of their own while dealing with stressed out consumers.
No doubt support for call center teams is a concern by HR and empathetic management. An easy solution for managing numerous customer inquiries in a busy call center is mobile messaging, which lightens the load and adds valuable new revenue streams.
Burnout is real and its costs are mounting
A recent Gallup poll shows that eight out of ten workers experience burnout (a state of physical or emotional exhaustion often as a result of long-term job stress) at some point in their career. What’s more, research conducted by Indeed shows that 67% of workers they spoke to feel that burnout has gotten worse over the past two years.
Things get even bleaker when looking at call center agents, with findings from Toister Performance Solutions showing that a whopping 74% of call center agents are at risk of burnout.
We know that agents’ jobs are made more difficult in the face of tough KPIs, along with inadequate technical support and poor communication. Additionally, as consumers face the growing pressures of making ends meet, tempers are short and customer frustrations are often directed at agents. Sadly, consumers have been behaving so badly that more than a third of agents have been threatened with physical violence!
Given their predicament, it’s unsurprising that the turnover rate for agents is high. The Quality Assurance & Training Connection places the average call center agent turnover rate between 30%-45%. These are shocking figures when compared to the average US voluntary turnover rate of 13%.
This revolving door doesn’t just add costs in a call center for recruitment, training, and onboarding, companies also must put a price on the quality of their customer service. When a new employee with limited experience is faced with a high call-volume scenario, delivering exceptional service is risked.
Helping customers channel their queries lowers temperatures
Every person who has had to deal with multiple customer service channels to try and obtain the most basic information or assistance from a brand knows first-hand about frustration. How many times have you experienced an unanswered email, an ignored Facebook post, or an unintuitive bot which simply can’t seem to direct you to the information you need. By the time customers (who are often already irritated) finally reach a call center agent, they are not in their best state of mind. When an overburdened agent picks up his sixtieth call of the day, you can imagine what he feels when a customer launches into a tirade.
One of the most significant challenges facing many brands, both large and small, is inconsistent, disconnected customer journeys across multiple touchpoints. Worse still, many brands are simply out of touch with how their customers want to engage with their business and aren’t providing the channels they want to engage on.
We now see that today’s consumers are increasingly comfortable communicating via mobile messaging and businesses need to act to enable them to use the channels of their choice.
For instance, Gartner has predicted that by 2025, 80% of customer service organizations will abandon native mobile apps in favor of messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Supporting this is a recent Chat Commerce Trends Report that showed 79% of consumers use messaging apps daily;89% of millennials want to do business via a messaging app and 93% of these customers think there are benefits to engaging with their favorite brands via a messaging app.
The travel industry provides valuable lessons
Most airports and airlines found themselves overburdened in the wake of countries opening their doors to travelers as COVID restrictions were lifted. Images of queues outside the airport doors and frustrated passengers sleeping on the floor dominated the media.
In November 2022, low-cost airline carrier Frontier announced it was moving away from customer service phone calls, entirely eliminating its call center in favor of website, mobile, and text support. The airline said it found that most customers prefer communicating via digital channels and that if customers needed to step up their queries, they could quickly reach an agent via live chat. Also, the airline noted that the change would help it lower labor costs and speed up transactions. This kind of pivot is now viable because customer service using mobile messaging is exceedingly well received by passengers desperate for a quick, simple way to access information and services they were looking for.
We may expect more airlines to use mobile messaging like SMS, WhatsApp, and Apple Messages and smart new mobile messaging services to connect, interact, and transact with travelers. Why? To satisfy and create loyal customers through trusted and immediate two-way digital conversations on their mobile phones from anywhere, anytime.
In a chat commerce or messaging commerce use cases, travel agents and airlines during a booking can offer seat upgrades, with some travel agencies even offering suggestions for places to stay at their end destination, complete with special offers and promotions – all in mobile messaging.
Asurvey found that 87% of consumers would interact with a travel chatbot if it could save them time and money. In addition, 37% said they would actually prefer to use a bot, rather than engage with a human.
Far from threatening call center jobs, these transactional mobile messaging channels can take a huge burden off understaffed call centers, many of which are still struggling with strict health protocols.
In the case of Frontier Airline, the efficiency of mobile messaging finally has landed with business leaders.
Mobile messaging as an integral part of the solution
The bold move from Frontier also highlights the fact that for many businesses, the real answer to great customer service is based on a smart and considered omni-channel strategy that includes a mix of appropriate channels.
There is no doubt that digital channels are quickly gaining traction with customers and opting for a call center as the primary (and sometimes only) means of engaging with your brand is a real risk. Global consumers have made their wishes clear and 2020 datashows that 57% of customers would rather contact a company via digital channels, with just 3% saying they enjoyed using Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology – the traditional answer to call center automation.
Mobile messaging remains a very real catalyst for digital transformation. Nevertheless, it’s unlikely that mobile messaging will replace call centers in every business. Rather, mobile messaging will have a significant role to play in optimizing the consumer experience through call center deflection and automation.
More particularly, mobile messaging will form a vital part in how businesses design and operate their call centers going forward. Either deflecting calls from overworked agents or allowing them to manage multiple live chats quickly and easily will boost efficiency and create a healthier, happier workplace.
The human touch remains key to high performing brands
Mobile messaging also will allow agents to have flexibility to adapt to their customers, whose needs will be change in the coming years given today’s accelerated pace of digital transformation.
In fact, one aspect companies and call center managers may not have bargained for is just how starved for personal contact consumers may be in years to come. As part of its customer service prediction last year, Gartner raised an interesting societal conundrum that should form part of customer service planning. According to the research firm, by 2026, three quarters (75%) of customers who call customer service and support organizations will be doing so out of loneliness, and not because of a service issue.
While brands may not see serving the personal needs of their lonely customers as a business priority, it does further make the case for having an appropriate omni-channel mix that includes the human touch of a call center agent.
More importantly, it again raises the need to make sure that companies are giving their call center agents the very best support to keep them fresh, alert and able to deliver outstanding service when they do engage with their valuable customers. Mobile messaging forms an integral part of that solution.