Don’t Answer the Call: How Fewer Contacts Increases Customer Satisfaction

Re-Thinking Call Center Investment   

The conventional wisdom is that investing in call centers increases customer satisfaction. In some circumstances, that’s true.  Most of the time, though, reducing costs actually results in increasing customer satisfaction. While this may seem counter-intuitive, most customers don’t want to call anyone these days and are annoyed when they have to take that extra step. When you eliminate complexity and make sure your FAQ’s and query capabilities across platforms are continually updated, customers are better able to self-serve so they no longer have to call when they don’t want to.  Once you remove unnecessary calls, you can reserve your small, lean call centers for “moments of truth” – those rare times in a customer’s life when only a human will do.

The Problem Starts Upstream:  Work the Intersection

In most call centers, anywhere between 15-30% of calls can be eliminated.  Start by understanding why people call and why they call back.  Make sure your value proposition is easily understood, with no tricky terminology or policies surrounding fulfillment, coupons or renewals. Within the call center, first-contact resolution should the key metric across channels; unit cost is meaningless if it requires three “units” (calls) to solve an issue. An outside expert who has experience across disciplines – marketing and operations, for example – but is not beholden to any one group can help accelerate progress by identifying cross-functional solutions that internal leaders with an understanding of only their own discipline cannot see. Go upstream from the call center and work at the intersection of organizational boundaries – that is the surest way to drive satisfaction up and costs down.

How Much is That Call Worth: How to Tailor Service Levels

A  new study, co-authored by Professors Philipp Afèche and Opher Baron at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, and Mojtaba Araghi at Wilfrid Laurier University, links customers’ future behavior to the service quality they experience at call centers and to the operational decisions to achieve that service. Here, Professor Baron top lines their findings:

“Companies can get more bang for their buck by better coordinating marketing decisions that drive customers to call centers with operational decisions about handling customers once they get there. Companies need to have a more complete picture of the lifetime value of a customer and the value of a call. We urge companies to answer important questions such as: How does a particular customer behave if they don’t get served? What’s the chance that they will leave the company, or spend more, depending on the service quality they’ve received? The answers provide companies important guidelines on how to tailor different service levels for different types of customers.”

Martellus in Action: Are You Setting the Right Goals?

Martellus Expert Beth Lacey spent 25 years at American Express where she designed and deployed exceptional services that improved the customer experience across a broad range of channels. Here, she shares her advice on optimizing call centers.

1. Make first-contact resolution everyone’s goal. This includes customer-facing employees as well as process managers, policy and procedure developers and other “behind the scenes” players.

2. Use handling time as a coaching tool for managing effective conversations.  Hard targets will only force call-backs.

3. Hire people who love interacting and helping others.  You can teach the rest.