When I led a contact center in southern New Mexico, I used to love hanging out on the smoking deck-- even though I am not a smoker. You hear the best conversations on your call center smoking deck during breaks. I tried to spend some time on the deck, not to hear the latest gossip but to hear business-related problems that confront my associates on a daily basis. On one sunny afternoon, I caught the jest of a familiar problem from one of my frontline representatives: the customer calls back after they receive their first bill. The customer service representative complained about how the person that sold the "policy" should have done a better job of explaining the prorated fee schedule to avoid dissatisfaction, misperceptions, and possible risk of losing the account. The representative said that they get 4 or 5 of these calls a day. 4 or 5 a day! The interactions are always lengthy and uncomfortable. The most troubling statement was that about half of these calls result in the customer canceling their service.
It does not take long for me to add up the impact of these calls after the first bill follow up interaction: 4 or 5 calls a day add up to 20 -25 calls a week with 10 -12 lost sales per week per rep. Add this to the cost of staffing for this unintended call volume as well as the reduced satisfaction and increased effort for the customer. It is like an unending cycle: SALE+INVOICE+INBOUND CALL+COMPLAINT= CANCELLATION!!! In the customer experience business, we call this follow up interaction an adjacent issue. Good contact centers increase satisfaction, drive down cost, and increase retention by forward resolving these types of issues. This discipline is known as next issue avoidance and the best contact centers realize the value of this management practice.
"According to the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) 60% of issues require additional contact". These additional calls add cost to the operation because they are unscheduled and need to be staffed to handle. Often times the representative who will handle this follow up call may lack the knowledge and skill to address the adjacent issue from the initial sale. This interaction becomes an opportunity to frustrate the customer and lose the new business, rather than a chance to showcase your agents’ skillsets. In the words of Contact Center expert Justin Robbins, "the best type of customer contact is the one that doesn’t happen".
You can actually help mitigate the frustration and confusion of an adjacent issue like the one I described by using Artificial Intelligence (AI). For example, you would integrate the automation with your CRM, giving the system access to quickly scan the account of the inbound caller. If the customer had recently received the first bill, the AI automation recognizes the caller, authenticates him or her, and offers a proactive handling response like, "Are you calling about the recent bill you received?" A positive reply would trigger a high priority agent transfer with all customer information attached. This shows customer centricity while strongly preparing your agents for the conversation to come.
Another way you can institute next call avoidance is by accompanying first bills with outbound calls or SMS texts that explain what to expect. The outbound contact could guide customers to the website, FAQ page, mobile app, or a video. The idea is to use an omnichannel approach to help preempt customer issues, rather than scramble to figure them out once the customer is already frustrated.
SmartAction can help you improve the customer journey with other AI-powered automation options you can use for this and other initiatives in your contact center.
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