Annica Ronquist, Head of Global Customer Operations and Services at Teleopti explains why it’s time to gain control of automation to benefit agents, customers and your business
We all know that automated workforce management (WFM) technology is the power behind effective agent schedules. A skillfully crafted schedule enables and inspires contact center staff to deliver an efficient, highly personalized service to customers and the latest automated WFM solutions keep contact centers one step ahead. They are flexible enough to scale with the business which means new agents and communications channels can be added quickly as and when required. They also ensure the right staff with the right skills are on hand to provide rapid responses and a consistent, satisfying and effortless experience across all channels – voice, email, social media, Chat, SMS and Web “call me” requests.
Teleopti customers have seen stunning results through well-implemented automated workforce management schedules including P&O Ferries increasing accuracy to 99.5% and making annual savings of £1.6 million into the process. While Telenor in Denmark added an extra 49 minutes per agent, per day to their customer service team – what’s not to like?
Automation helps customers to help themselves
However, scheduling applies to so much more than managing agent time and talent. Now that the Millennial generation is old enough to be part of the mass consumer market, self-service options have come into their own. Today’s younger customer is tech-savvy, totally at ease with using technology to source and buy products with their personal devices. What’s more they want to do it themselves, at a time to suit them, and while doing other things like watching TV or monitoring social media.
It is fast becoming recognized that organizations which offer self-service options like IVR and the latest Web Chat capabilities are rewarded with reduced costs and satisfied customers. According to TechTarget, industry analyst firm Gartner predicts that companies who integrate what they term as ‘customer communities’ (web-based gathering places for customers, experts and partners to discuss and engage with a company) into their support offerings could expect a cost reduction of 10%-50% mainly from the deflection of calls to a contact center. Similarly, Forrester Research highlights the growing usage of web self-service methods including customer communities and online chat with self-service adoption increasing, in this instance interestingly among people 59 years and older.
Many companies have successfully deployed self-service technology to give their customers the freedom to carry out a wealth of activity in the comfort of their home, in the office or on the move without having to speak to an agent. When was the last time you talked to an agent to get your credit card balance or utility provider to give a meter reading? Chances are your experience was powered by clever Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology or a sophisticated encrypted software package that makes you believe you enjoyed the same brilliant service as when speaking to a human being.
It’s time to take control of self-service
However, it’s all very well providing a wealth of self-service options but how do you get them to work for you? Will it ultimately mean more contact center agents will be required? Will customers expect 24 hour service when 24 hour communication channels are available? Will customers still pick-up the telephone no matter what?
The beauty of cloud-based automation is that it’s easy, especially when it’s combined with a creative approach to scheduling. The trick is to center automated self-service capabilities around your contact center. Here are three ideas to get you started:
1. The latest technology solutions automatically flag up how customers want to interact and which channels are being used. At times of low telephony demand agents can simply log off the telephone so they can respond to text based communication channels such as emails, social media and switch to Web Chat as soon as the system tells them someone is waiting. Agents are free to focus on priority tasks and customers have greater choice on how they interact with you. If call volumes increase the other channels can be switched off, provided the right service level expectations are set.
2. Over time, encourage self-service through Web Chat. Typically, agents can handle three times the number of Web Chat enquiries in the same time it takes to handle just one telephone enquiry, saving agent time. More complex enquiries can still be handled via voice calls typically answered by more experienced agents to ensure first time resolution.
3. Introduce a dedicated self-service portal for priority customers including a free Web Chat service, many mobile providers still charge for free ‘phone telephone numbers. Agents have more time to devote to complex enquiries and customers receive the quick response they want, especially as some solutions make it possible for agents to hold silent conversations behind the scenes without the chatter’s knowledge!
By maximizing the powers of automated WFM technology and simultaneously harnessing self-service in a way that reprioritizes contact center operations, organizations can overcome the limitations of headcount and standard opening hours whilst delivering a seamless, 24-hour service to customers. It’s time to take control and schedule for self-service.