In these tough economic times, we can all agree that retaining customers is more important than ever. Forrester’s March 2008 report, “Business Impact Of Customer Experience” found that a good customer experience correlates highly to loyalty—especially when it comes to consumers’ plans for making additional purchases. When they examined how this might affect the annual revenue of individual companies, they found that customer experience quality could cause a swing of $242 million for a large bank and $184 million for a large retailer.
Today there is enormous pressure on service organizations to deliver an exceptional customer service experience with the same amount or fewer resources than in days past. The essence of right channeling is serving each customer via the most appropriate channel for that specific relationship and that specific interaction. The key to right channeling in this economy is determining the lowest cost channel that will resolve the customer’s issue quickly and to their satisfaction.
First Contact Resolution
When are customers the happiest? When are costs the lowest? Fortunately, customer satisfaction and low cost go hand-in-hand.
First contact resolution data from ServiceXRG shows an incident resolved at first contact costs $49.00, at 24 hours the cost is $61.00 at two days its $155.00 and the cost continues to increase the longer the incident remains unresolved. Your costs may vary but we all know unresolved incidents cost—both in agent hours and customer dissatisfaction.
To reduce costs, it is also important to review first contact closure costs by channel. According ServiceXRG, the first contact resolution cost for phone is $49.10, for email is $36.70 and for self-service is $11.60.
Empowering Agents with Knowledge
A unified knowledgebase is pivotal to right channeling. It empowers both your agents providing assisted service and customers using web self service to achieve success, quickly.
The ROI of a knowledgebase is well documented by industry experts. In September 2008 John Ragsdale, VP Research, Service & Support Professional Association (SSPA), published a report, “The ROI of Knowledge Management: Building a Business Case for KM Investments.” In his report, Ragsdale explains increasing support technician productivity is just one of the benefits. Lower interaction volumes and cost, higher customer satisfaction, additional product revenue and a faster repurchase cycle are other benefits of a KM investment.
The key to right channeling in this economy is determining the lowest cost channel that will resolve the customer’s issue quickly and to their satisfaction.
Ragsdale explains a knowledgebase drastically lowers handling time and increases first contact resolution. As average incident handling time decreases and first-contact resolution increases, Technical Support Engineers (TSEs) are able to handle more incidents per shift, allowing the same volume of inbound interactions to be handled by fewer technicians. Additionally, he states that with accurate content in the knowledgebase, re-open rates drop and the amount of agent training days required decreases.
In the category of interaction volume/cost impact, Ragsdale explains that a knowledgebase can be leveraged to dramatically reduce the costs of eChannel interactions, for example using features such as email auto-response and email auto-suggest. Additionally he points out the positive impact of knowledgebase on web self-service adoption and success.
With its immediacy and low cost, a web self-service knowledgebase is your first line of defense in a right channeling strategy. United Airlines is an excellent example of a company that truly leverages its web self-service knowledgebase. Their customer service link is in the global header of their web site. It takes you straight to their web self service knowledgebase that offers top 10 FAQs and a list of customer service categories. If a visitor prefers they can search the knowledgebase by clicking on the search tab. From inquires about baggage policies to how to get a refund, the answers to traveler’s questions can be easily found by their customers.
With United and all good web self-service knowledgebases, there is an escalation path offered to assisted support. The escalation path to phone is also used for deflection back to the knowledgebase. They put a link back to online support above the contact information for phone support. This gives the visitor yet another opportunity to self resolve before picking up the phone.
While United escalates to phone for assisted service, many companies are escalating to chat. According to Forrester’s March 2008 report ‘The Design Of Chat Interactions’ by Adele Sage, customers appreciate the immediacy of chat interactions. When North American consumers who have used online chat were asked what they liked about chat interactions, consumers cited the following:
- I was able to speak to someone immediately (49%)
- The information I received from my rep was personalized to my situation (32%)
- I had a simple question that would have been a waste to call about over the phone (27%)
- It allowed me to get my product research done faster (19%)
- I did not need to tie up my phone line to get my questions answered (17%)
Chat Boosts Agent Productivity
Contact centers appreciate chat for its cost efficiencies and gains in productivity. Phone agents can typically handled an average of 2.7 customer calls per hour, while a chat agent can handle an average of 11.5 chats per hour. This is a 425 percent improvement in productivity. Therefore, today a well-trained chat agent can deliver a robust service experience at a lower cost per interaction than a phone agent.
By deploying proactive chat capabilities you can also use chat to drive revenue. According to Forrester’s “ROI of Interactive Chat” report published February 2008 a Total Economic Impact (TEI) Analysis found that investment in reactive chat is likely to produce a positive return on investment (ROI) of 15 percent, while an additional investment in proactive chat capabilities will produce an incremental 105 percent ROI and millions of dollars in positive business benefits in a typical business-to-consumer (B2C).
A large financial services company has been able to utilize chat to decrease costs and increase sales. By proactively offering chat to web site visitors, based upon the visitor’s specific financial profile, profitable customers are engaged online to complete their financial transaction.
Pitney Bowes fires proactive chat invitations to visitors who abandon a shopping cart or to those who stay on a certain page for a certain amount of time with no activity. By doing this, they’ve seen an additional uptake in conversion rates of 8 percent to 10 percent.
Email as Escalation Channel
You can also leverage email as the right escalation channel from your knowledgebase. It can be very cost effective when you automate it.
A popular social media company utilizes email to manage membership and other requests. A large volume of emails are triggered by visitors asking about membership and other information about their accounts online. Since a large percentage of the requests can be responded with non-personal information, automation has played a key role here. Utilizing a Natural Language Processing Categorization Engine, integrated with an Email Response Management System, more than 50 percent of emails are handled without agent interaction with a high degree of accuracy. This has reduced the requirement for increased headcount to support the email volume growth.
The focus of driving a customer to chose the right channel to engage the customer at the start and allow that customer to be driven to the best, right channel. This is often best found by starting at the first point of interaction, self-service. From self-service, information from their searches, web page access and other data can be used to choose the right channel to offer.