Customer Service Automation Operational Excellence

How to Excel at Customer Service with a Collaborative Contact Centre

By Simon Brennan 23 May 2022

Contact centres and digital service teams are often seen as being in opposition to each other. Whereas contact centre agents fiercely believe in the power of human connection, digital teams prioritise self-service as the holy grail of customer experience.

Of course, this dichotomy has never really existed from a customer point of view. While 69% of customers want to resolve issues themselves using self-service options first, most use a blend of channels when interacting with brands.

Thankfully, most organisations have realised this and now embrace a multichannel approach, if not an omni-channel one. Now, the norm is to offer a range of support options, including digital self-service and Chatbots as well as ‘live’ channels like contact centres.

But it’s not enough to just offer choices. If you want to excel at customer service ­– and ensure your support teams are happy and productive – you need to foster a collaborative approach between digital and offline teams.

Start by understanding each channel’s USP

Digital journeys will never entirely replace contact centres. There will always be customers who are more comfortable speaking to a real person, and there will always be problems that are too nuanced or complex for a Chatbot to solve.

Equally, some issues, such as those that require almost-instant resolution, lend themselves more to the digital space. Here, it makes sense for customers to self-serve so they can get answers quickly and conveniently.

The key to a collaborative approach is understanding which interactions are best suited to each channel.

Self-service journeys are best…

  • For questions with quick answers
    Blogs, FAQs, videos and AI-powered Chatbots are ideal for resolving basic issues, or enquiries of a specific nature – such as ‘Where is My Order’ – whereby an external data source can play back the information. They allow customers to get a resolution quickly and free up agent capacity for more difficult issues and vulnerable customers.
  • When agent wait times are too long
    Nothing stirs up a person’s irrational rage quite like the automated ‘Your call is important to us’ message when you’re stuck on hold. If your contact centre is overwhelmed, like many were during the pandemic, then giving customers alternative self-service options can be a great way to improve customer satisfaction. (Read more about Sainsbury’s experience here.)
  • When customers need out-of-hours support
    Most contact centres aren’t able to operate 24/7, yet customers often require or expect 24/7 service. Digital self-service channels enable customers to get out-of-hours help without the extra cost of out-of-hours staff.

Agent-powered service is best…

  • For urgent or high-stakes issues
    The greater an issue’s impact, the more likely you are to turn to human help. Research shows that, when stakes are high, customers feel more at ease just knowing they can talk to a real person if they need to. After all, WebMD or NHS Online are fine if you’ve got a sprained ankle, but if you think you’ve broken your leg, you want to speak to an actual medical professional.
  • For complex issues or vulnerable customers
    AI and machine learning are great, but even the most sophisticated Chatbot can’t solve every customer problem. If a customer has a non-standard or complex problem, they’ll be happier speaking to an agent. Similarly, in the instance of a vulnerable customer, the reassurance and support of speaking with an agent directly can offer the peace of mind needed to resolve their enquiry.
  • When technology is inaccessible
    A study by the Pew Research Centre found that 15% of US adults don’t own a smartphone and 23% don’t have a computer at home. Others lack the digital literacy or confidence to self-serve. And then you have people with a disability or impairment that makes technology inaccessible. Contact centres are vital for making sure these customers aren’t left behind.

Blend the digital with the human

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to good customer service. While digital self-service options can be more cost-efficient (research by Gartner found that live channels cost an average of £5.75 per contact), there will always be people who need human support.

By offering customers both options – and by positioning the digital and the human as complementary to each other ­– you can empower customers to get the answers they need in the way they want them. At the same time, you’re setting staff up to provide the best possible customer experience, and increasing their value and personal worth, by ensuring that they are supporting worthwhile customer enquiries and needs..

Want to know more about how your digital channels and contact centre can work together? Download our whitepaper: From Self-service to Assisted Service.

See other posts by Simon Brennan

VP Sales

Simon Brennan has more than 14 years’ experience in the customer engagement sector, working with a wide variety of companies from tech start-ups to FTSE100 organisations. He is an expert in improving corporate customer communication, using technology to supercharge internal processes and deliver increased sales. Simon has a strong track record of successfully delivering cross-channel communication solutions for Engage Hub's corporate customer base, across multiple divisions within an organisation.

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