By Ryan Falkenberg, 02 August 2023 – Originally published by IT Online.
In any contact centre, there are some calls (both inbound and outbound) that essentially boil down to saying the same thing over and over again. These repetitive conversations cover everything from human resources functions (such as people calling to ask how much leave they have) to product support and account cancellations.
Each of these calls comes at a cost to your organisation. There’s the monetary cost of the calls, agent salaries, training costs, infrastructure expenses, technology investments, and overhead costs. And with the acceptable cost for a single call in South Africa ranging from two to 10 US cents (up to R1.80) per minute, those costs can quickly escalate.
That’s to say nothing of the mental burden associated with these repetitive conversations. Most consumers get frustrated if they have to call a contact centre once. Imagine the frustration that contact centre agents feel when they have to explain to the 15th person in two hours that there is, in fact, a fibre outage in their area and that technicians are working on the problem. Any parent who’s done a long road trip with a small child who keeps asking, “how long until we get there?” will be familiar with the feelings involved.
Magnify that and add in multiple disgruntled customers saying unsavoury things and it’s easy to see why employee turnover rates in contact centres are so high. While South Africa’s economic realities mean contact centres here likely don’t have the same kind of 42% staff attrition rates seen by their UK and US equivalents, contact centres should be doing everything they can to keep turnover rates low.
Also remember the impact that burnout and other mental health issues can have on any employee’s ability to perform at their best. Those issues can, in turn, result in more and more agents failing to be 100% compliant with industry-relevant rules and regulations.
Knowing that repetitive conversations are costly in so many ways, the obvious solution is to try and eliminate as many of them as possible. While completely eliminating such calls is almost impossible, automation can greatly reduce the volume a contact centre has to deal with.
Take billing, for example. Calling up customers to pay outstanding bills can be incredibly stressful for both parties and does little to create the kind of customer experience that fosters loyalty. But if you contact the customer on their preferred communication channel (be that SMS, WhatsApp, or in app), they can deal with the outstanding bill at a time that suits them and without putting a contact centre agent in the line of fire.
Granted, early attempts to transfer repetitive conversations to other channels sometimes felt clunky and unnatural, a converging set of technologies mean that no longer has to be the case. Virtual Agents powered by new Conversation Process Automation technologies, for example, can help ensure that these interactions contain the necessary context to help customers resolve issues themselves.
Ramping up automation for repetitive conversations has obvious benefits for contact centres. Perhaps the biggest, however, is that it allows agents to focus on the interactions that most require human conversations. It also means that customers are in a better position to resolve their issues themselves. Given that 81% of customers prefer self-service, that’s a positive ripple effect.
Make no mistake, automation won’t eliminate repetitive conversations. Nor will it forever rid people of the frustrations that come with those conversations. But given the costs that typically come with these conversations (to the organisation, the contact centre employees, and the customer) is it not a strategy at least worth investigating?