Having a call centre that provides excellent customer service is essential for businesses in competitive markets such as telecoms, banking and retail. But the call centre can also have a role in encouraging self-serve options, freeing up advisors from dealing with basic queries so they can concentrate on more complex issues. Here are some of the strategies businesses can use to improve the call centre experience, reduce operating costs and drive customers towards fast, efficient and satisfying self-serve journeys.

Move from reactive to proactive service

Whether it’s a problem with the internet, phone signal, power or water, businesses can save customers the hassle of phoning up to ask when it will be resolved. Moving from reactive to proactive customer service means businesses can automatically share information before customers have even realised that there’s a problem. In the UK, Vodafone moved to a cloud-based platform that gives advisors instant visibility of service issues, allowing them to send out alerts immediately to their customers. This and other service transformation efforts has led to a 45% reduction in customer service operating costs.

Develop personas so advisors can understand their audience

It can be difficult for a 25-year old advisor to understand what it’s like to be 80 years old, a busy working mother-of-three, or a customer who is trying to communicate in a second language. Creating personas that bring different customer segments to life can help advisors to put themselves in the shoes of their customers, creating more empathy, understanding and better communication all round. 

Train agents to think about how the customer feels in the moment

Today’s customers expect a personalised approach. In highly competitive industries like telecoms, it’s easy for a customer to simply switch to a competitor if they’re not getting it. Businesses that haven’t already done so need to transform, bringing in integrated, omni-channel systems. These provide a 360° real-time view of each customer, so advisors can see, where they are in their journey, talk to them appropriately and not waste time. New AI tools can also offer support to advisers, analysing conversations and suggesting suitable responses. 

Offer a callback option

A reliable callback option will cut both frustration and queues when wait times are long, allowing customers to get on with their day rather than waiting on hold. Businesses can decide when a call back message is triggered depending on how long the average customer might wait. They can also   ensure the message is played again, so that, for example, a customer who didn’t opt for call back after a minute’s wait gets the chance to change their mind after three minutes. 

Promote and encourage self-service…

95% of companies reported a major increase in self-service requests in 2021. But self-serve only works when customers know about it. Call centres have an important role to play in promoting and and encouraging self-service. This might be through recorded messages played during wait times, or something mentioned in conversation. Customers will appreciate knowing that they can save time in the future by self-serving online or through an app. 

…and make sure that self-service works well

Good self-service is fast, efficient and available 24/7. But according to a 2019 report by Gartner only 9% of people completely solve their issue through self-service. If the journey fails or generates more questions than it answers, it’s the call centre staff who will have to deal with the resulting spike in demand from frustrated customers. 

Self-service tools need to be carefully thought through in every aspect, from functionality to language. Call centre staff will provide valuable input: they are the experts when it comes to  knowing the high-volume queries that could easily be dealt with through online FAQs or simple self-serve tools such as a chatbot or virtual assistant. They are also a fantastic source of knowledge about the language customers use and the pain points of existing systems. 

Transfer failed self-serve customers seamlessly to an advisor

If a customer can’t self-serve successfully they should be seamlessly transferred to an advisor who can help, whether through live chat or on the phone. That advisor should have visibility of all the information already provided so as not to waste more time. It makes for a better conversation and a customer who won’t be put off from using self-serve in the future. 

Happier staff mean happier customers

Call centre staff perform best when they’re happy and motivated. Gamification provides daily and weekly targets. Ensuring that there’s high-quality ongoing training and clear paths towards promotion will prevent people feeling bored in their job longer-term. Having the right tools is essential; call centre staff need integrated, up-to-date systems giving them a 360° view of the customer. Constantly switching between half a dozen siloed systems is fiddly, frustrating and time-consuming for advisors, and it greatly impacts on the customer service they can provide.

Don’t stand still

Businesses need to have tools in place to monitor and analyse changing demands and behaviours. Call centres can provide valuable data that can reveal where new self-serve tools are needed. And by looking at usage rates and points of abandonment businesses can see where improvements in self-serve options need to be made, whether it’s through greater promotion, improved functionality, clearer language or more contextual information. 

It may be challenging, but all customer service channels, from the call centre to self-serve, need to be in a state of constant transformation. Only by achieving this can businesses stay competitive, and keep pace with the ever-higher expectations of their customers. 

If you’d like to talk to The BIO Agency about strategies to improve call centre and self-serve experiences for customers, contact makesomething@thebioagency.com