If you run a contact centre you want to ensure that it is being run as efficiently as possible without reducing the quality of the contact centre. The most pressing challenge for any customer services director is to reduce as much cost as possible. Let’s say that if you have a contact centre with 300 people and 10% or even 1% of your team isn’t performing effectively then that could end up increasing your service costs by thousands if not millions. As a Director of a contact centre you will be focused obsessively on that 1% or 10% of your contact centre that is not performing effectively. As a Customer Service Director you are focused on ensuring that all of your resources are working efficiently for the customer, employee and the business.
So while focusing on the 10% or 1% of your team that isn’t performing effectively might seem a bit extreme, small improvements will lead to a massive saving for your organisation. If you run a large service team that handles millions of calls a month then achieving a 1% saving can reduce the cost of your contact centre by thousands of dollars. While contact centres and customer service teams focus on creating efficiencies its important that this isn’t at the cost of service quality. It’s great to trim costs but if its at the expense of service quality then that will affect customer loyalty and word of mouth sales. Service efficiency needs to be focused on creating the balance between customer satisfaction and reducing the cost to serve.
Reduce the Cost to serve
Companies calculate the cost to serve in a variety of ways, but it usually includes headcount, desks, chairs and a range of miscellaneous costs. The main challenge for reducing cost of your service isn’t necessarily about getting rid of your equipment or buying cheaper hardware but managing your case load. If you are able to handle customer queries on a first time basis, reduce your internal hand over rate between agents and help customer self serve then you are on your way to reducing the cost of your contact centre or customer service team and maintaining your customer loyalty and advocacy.
The key is to focus on tactical service efficiency not blunt service efficiency. If customers are not getting their problems the first time they call your centre then this will increase the cost of service. Imagine that you have a million customers calling your service team and 25% of customers are having to repeat contact your team to get the issue solved. That’s a staggering 250,000 repeat calls and queries entering your system monthly. It’s not just an extra cost but the fact that a customer has to call your customer service or contact centre team repeatedly will affect customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.
In addition to this if agents are handing over cases to other agents or departments then this only increases the workload for your team. If 10% of your cases are being passed from agent to agent not only is it another case adding to the volume but also it causes undue stress for the customer. Excessive hand overs between agents increases the time spent on cases and increases the stress for customers.
Reducing Customer Effort
If your contact centre or customer service team is making it hard for customers to solve their problems or queries, then that will affect your customer loyalty and your customer advocacy. If you can reduce the number of touch points or hurdles that your customers go through then you can increase efficiency and maintain the quality of the customer service that you provide for customers. In our experience we have known of a customer calling a contact centre 70 times and eventually had to be contacted by the contact centre director to understand the issue.
If you want to reduce the cases coming into your service team and help customers to self-serve then you can do this through chatbots and portals for customers. This however solves the issue of the volume of cases coming into your customer service team. The next step is then to measure the internal hand off rates within your service team. When you measure the internal hand off rates you can start to see if agents need particular training on a particular cases type or if there is a problem with the process. If you find that billing cases are leading to the most internal hand-overs then you can start to design specified training courses for individual agents rather than conducting general training courses for the entire team. It is also important that all of the measuring and reporting takes place natively in your salesforce system. In our experience we have seen that once one of our clients started measuring internal handoffs, they could see that 35% of cases were being internally handed off. They also found that some agents were able to deal with a cancellation process 85% of the time in the first instance while other agents could only manage it 20% of the time.
With the development of AI technology you can now utilise this to help make solving customer problems much easier. At In-gage we developed AI technology that sits within Salesforce that categorises customer cases and ensures that it is directed to the right person and team, reducing the customer effort and eliminating the need for internal handoffs.
The Vexed issue: Average Handling Time
Then there is the vexed issue of putting in place the right service efficiency metrics for your service team. This takes us to the issue of the most common metric used for efficiency: Average handling time (AHT). It is thought that by reducing average handling time you can reduce the cost. It’s an important metric but can negatively impact the quality of the service that you provide for your customers. The problem with average handling time is that it drives agents to fix problems within a fixed time frame, which can lead to agents cherry picking cases or handing cases over to other agents.
All of the data in the real time can help speed up the process and help the training in the contact centre. Return on investment through the efficiency’s improvement. As a service team director you can put efficiency alongside customer loyalty if all of your data sits within your CRM in particular Salesforce.
At In-gage we developed our Salesforce Contact centre app with the aim of allowing contact centres and customer service organisations to monitor their first contact resolution, measure agent handovers and overall service efficiency. Our Salesforce app also allows service organisations to measure how many customers are repeat contacting and re-opening support cases. With the AI technology in our salesforce app we can help increase customer satisfaction by routing cases to the appropriate agent and team and ensuring cases are solved speedily and effectively.