With increased call volumes over the past two years and a direct link between customer satisfaction and customer retention, the quality of the caller customer service journey has never been more important. However, most respondents to a CCW Digital survey say the voice experience hasn’t improved for callers. The good news is the technology now exists to rectify that and exceed current caller expectations.
1904labs’ Director of AI-Enabled Customer Service Solutions, Tom Thelen, and UX Designer and Researcher, Lisa Bruce, recently hosted a webinar entitled How to Lower Contact Center Costs By Enhancing the Customer Service Journey With AI in which they broke down the caller customer service journey and analyzed how intelligent virtual agents (IVAs) can improve the experience for the caller - and the business. Here are three of the key takeaways.
Takeaway #1: The current customer service journey is full of friction for callers
Anyone who calls a business knows the feeling of instant frustration when their call is answered by an IVR. Many instantly try to escape and either press zero or say “agent” or “operator."
This isn’t only because the initial menu you’re usually presented with is long and unhelpful (although it oftentimes is) - it’s because the whole experience is made up of unnatural and frustrating interactions that take you away from achieving your goal.
In our typical caller journey map, we broke the overall journey down into the following steps:
- Greeting and prompts - the caller disengages
- Intent determination - caller needs are unmet
- Identification and authentication - the caller is frustrated and has to repeat themselves
- Routing and handling - several paths lead to waiting, unhappy callers
- Call resolution - often unsuccessful or unsatisfying
- Follow up - the caller lacks agency
Each of these points come with a degree of friction. Some are worse than others - for example, callers often find the routing and handling stage the most frustrating, while follow up is less of a problem. They all cause some degree of friction in the customer service journey, though.
Takeaway #2: IVAs give the caller control
Many of the friction points listed above can be boiled down to a simple issue: throughout the customer service journey, the caller lacks control. They’re at the mercy of the IVR and the prestructured options that may or may not fit the caller’s needs. IVAs differ in that they put the power in the hands of the caller.
The caller can have a conversation with the IVA, engaging with them from the start rather than trying to decipher if their query fits into the listed options, and then determine intent and authenticate the user so it doesn’t have to be done again. The IVA can then help the caller solve simple problems at the routing and handling stage with self-service options, or at least start to assist them before they reach a live agent. If their issue is too complicated or the caller doesn’t have time to wait on hold, an IVA can offer them a scheduled call back that allows a live agent to call them at a time when they’re less busy. All of this helps the caller solve the problem more simply and quickly in a way that they are able to control.
Takeaway #3: Improving the customer service journey with IVAs will reduce costs if done right
Most technology initiatives - and anything aimed to bring improvements - are generally going to cost more money. And while, yes, transforming your contact center with AI will come with an upfront cost (as we spoke about in our previous webinar on how to get your contact center investment right the first time), your long-term investment in the caller experience should lead to reduced contact center operations costs.
The options above do more than just give the caller control - in fact, by saving the caller time, you are also saving your live agents time. By investing in IVAs, you are able to reduce the time your agents spend on intent determination and authentication, achieve resolutions more easily and on the first contact, decrease your average handle time, and increase your containment rates. As Tom noted, this can result in your live agents spending 5% less time on calls with customers, which is 5% less that you need to spend in labor costs. For large businesses that employ thousands of people in a call center, this can quickly get into the millions of dollars in savings.
Watch the webinar replay
The full replay of Tom and Lisa’s webinar is available to be viewed here. If you have any follow up questions or what you’d like to see in future webinars as part of this series, reach out! We’d love to hear from you.