Gauteng Business News

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CALL CENTRES: Meeting the Clients Needs First


Recent Gauteng Business News

When you call a service department, do you care if the call lasts two minutes or three? The fact is, consumers don't. What they care about is that their call was resolved. Correctly. The first time. For contact centres, this has been a hard lesson to learn. A key problem is that call process times are overshadowing client interaction time - and with more 'new media' channels of communication opening up, the problem is only getting worse.

Says Paul Fick, MD of Spescom DataFusion: "Reducing average handle time in call centres is not the magic bullet it was once thought to be in terms of increasing customer satisfaction ratings. The lesson is that reducing call times may reduce costs, but it doesn't make customers any happier. What matters to the consumer is First Contact/Call Resolution (FCR). The solution for many contact centres lies in simplifying the chaos on the agent's desktop."

To find the information necessary to identify customers, resolve their queries and action their requests, contact centre agents often spend the majority of call time navigating through various disparate applications rather than talking to, and interacting fully with customers to understand their problem, he explains. "A balance must be struck between efficiency and effectiveness," he emphasises, "and that means changing the metrics."

In the business-to-consumer world, customer satisfaction and/or customer retention remain top priorities because the cost of acquiring a new customer is almost 10 times higher than retaining a customer. Furthermore, with the advent of new social media platforms (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc), an unhappy customer could cost a company dearly because everyone nowadays has an audience of millions.

Add to this the fact that these new social media platforms will in the long term mean that contact centre agents will need to incorporate responding on these platforms in the accepted formats to their interaction repertoire.
This may launch desktop complexity into the stratosphere. There is an answer, however. It lies in changing the average handle time (AHT) formula to measure the dynamics within the call or interaction - in other words, not just measuring how long it takes to respond, but the quality of the response in terms of meeting the customer's needs and adding value.

In terms of the predominantly voice interactions currently taking place, this means ensuring that more time is spent actually talking to the customer, understanding their needs and responding appropriately - rather than just taking details and confirming dates, numbers, references. This 'balance' can be achieved by using the right enabling technologies.

AHT is a measure of Average Talk Time + Average Wrap Up Time, Fick explains.
Average Interaction Time (AIT), however, will be a measure of Average Process Time + Average Nurture Time + Average Wrap Up Time. Average Nurture Time is the time the CSR actually spends understanding what the customer really needs, recommending additional services, building a relationship, being empathetic - whatever is needed to improve satisfaction and retention.

"The problem is not the time the call takes, but that the majority of the call time is really Process Time and there is no time allocated to nurture the customer relationship," Fick reiterates. "And there is only one way to get there: simplify the desktop!"

A whole new breed of solutions is emerging to address this very issue.

Says Guy Tweedale, Senior Vice President, European Operations of Jacada, a Spescom DataFusion technology partner and a leading provider of unified desktop and process optimisation software solutions for the customer service and support market: "A major business-to-consumer (B2C) company I recently visited had 26 applications on the desktop. It takes each of their call centre agents more than 10 minutes to log in each morning. This company also has to specialise agents because it is just too hard to teach every call type to every agent. Another retailer I called on had 15 applications - it takes 13 weeks to teach its contact centre agents 'the basics'.

"Now consider that the current trend is to add more applications and tools to the business, and more channels of communications with the customer - clearly a recipe for disaster, given the current way of doing things. The solution is not another business applications, it is unification and automation of current solutions."

These solutions can make sense out of disparate arrays of information systems. "The best solutions in this category provide intelligent views of customer data and interaction processes that map to the call type," explains Fick.

"For instance," says Tweedale, "If an agent needs to set up a new customer, he/she will only see the screens and tasks relevant for that call type. If an agent is handling a billing complaint, he/she will only see the screens and tasks relevant for that call type. If a customer calls to cancel service. you get the point. These solutions provide a desktop designed for your contact centre and the way your agents do business. Imagine the possibilities."

The benefits are considerable, notes Fick: "By reducing process time, the agent has more time to 'nurture' the customer and has a much greater chance of achieving first contact, or first call resolution. This makes for happier customers and a greater opportunity for the contact centre to add value in terms of revenue and customer retention. Unification and automation solutions reduce training costs and since agents are happier, they stay longer and deliver better customer service."

Concludes Tweedale: "Give Average Interaction Time (AIT) a look and assess your agents' desktops. Observe the complexity they're forced to deal with on every call. By reducing desktop complexity you can give your agents the time they need to deliver real value to your business."

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