Call centers are broken. And unless someone does something about it, contact centers will continue to be the villains of the customer service world, funneling organizations' cash into a black hole, and sucking the life out of customers who are waiting on hold.
The irony is that call centers were invented to save money. According to a 2008 report by Booz & Co., banks adopted calls centers in the 1980s, in order to free bank branch employees from basic transactions like balance inquiries and enable those employees to concentrate on activities that turned a profit — handling loans, for example.
That plan backfired. While customers responded to the convenience of a call center, banks didn't see a decrease in transactions at all. Instead, because customers in the 1980s loved the convenience of checking their balance from home, via the phone, the transactions increased. Today's financial call centers are having the exact same problems as the bank tellers of 1982; a lot of the calls they receive don't actually require a representative to answer them.
Take the example of one particular financial contact center, the subject of a 2013 study by Cognizant Social. According to Dileep Srinivasan, who was then Venture Leader at Cognizant, 70 percent of the center’s monthly calls were related to things like checking account balances, or asking for branch hours or asking how to make a payment. Twenty percent of the calls were related to card maintenance. Only 10 percent of the calls were complex queries that required a human being on the other end of the line.
Such calls might be easily resolved, but they cost money. According to Booz & Co., calls handled by agents cost about $4 per contact. Those 70 percent of mundane calls also clog up the phone lines, causing overworked agents and angry customers. Furious customers are not great brand ambassadors — just take a look at onholdwith.com to read disgruntled tweets from people who are on hold. One AT&T customer was recently on the phone for 80 minutes. Another customer of Verizon, one of the worst offenders, was hung up on repeatedly when agents transferred her calls.https://twitter.com/Christa0104/status/1009492628134645762
Additionally, companies' internal processes also generate a lot of frustrated calls to the contact center.
Booz & Co. found that 50 to 60 percent of the inbound calls within financial services firms are driven by banks’ own errors; internal policies and customer-focused processes that were set up poorly, for example, or bad channel integration that inhibits the sharing of data.
In other words, many call centers are wasting their company's money by infuriating paying customers. It's not ideal, to say the least. How should businesses fix their contact centers? Not by starting with the representatives answering the phone. Instead, they should look to the back office, and the cumbersome business practices that have evolved there.
How should businesses fix their contact centers? Not by starting with the representatives answering the phone. Instead, they should look to the back office, and the cumbersome business practices that have evolved there.
- Customer service organizations need to direct easily-handled or preventable calls to online channels
- Inefficient back-office processes need to be better managed, preferably automated, to eliminate the problems that cause some of the angry calls
What Do Your Back Office Processes Look Like?
Every business has some inefficient processes; tasks that are being done manually but that would be better automated.
Take for example, the worker who has to aggregate customer information from two or three different systems. To get the right information into a form, she has to manually open two windows and input the information by hand. That's a time-consuming process and one that can be subject to human error; once the worker is tired she's going to make mistakes. An automated version of this process would be more accurate and would free that worker up for higher order (and less boring) tasks.
Tools like those produced by K2 integrate data from all of a company's systems, use analytics to kick off business processes at just the right time, and enable K2 partners to build custom solutions tailored to a call center's own back office processes. Savvy call centers are starting to budget for BPM.
One third of the call center leaders who responded to Deloitte's 2017 Global Contact Center survey, planned to make a strategic investment in process automation in 2018.
BPM is being used to improve customer experience across all industries. A 2017 report by AIIM Industry Watch found that 57 percent of process automation projects were focused on improving customer experience.© AIIM 2017,www.aiim.org
One third of the respondents who participated in that report said BPM was crucial to the success of their business; while process automation is delivering benefits internally, BPM was also improving customer service by personalizing their experience online: offering customers options they might like based on their data, or showing them products they might like, for example.
It's important to remember, however, that not every manual task should be automated. According to the AIIM report, the best companies are thoughtful and selective about process automation, taking into account "the impact they will have in changing the way business is transacted, how processes function, and the human interactions required in order to be successful."
Such an audit is not a small task. Most companies may need help auditing their existing processes and seeing the big picture. Done wrong, the full benefits of process automation may not be realized.
Omni's first step, for example, is always to develop a thorough understanding of our clients' businesses. We ask targeted questions to reveal any additional details or issues that might be bogging down a company. Only when our consultants understand our clients' needs do we introduce the technologies that will streamline their processes.
As K2 partners, we then design the custom forms, solutions and workflow that will optimize your business and keep your customers online, using well-designed self-service options.
The Call Center of the Future is BPM-optimized
It is possible to run a call center with low call volume, short hold times, and relatively happy customers. It sounds impossible, but good business process management is the key.
The better your processes, the more engaged you'll be with the 10 percent customers who really need customer service from a human being. Everyone else will be able to use the automated options or — even better — won't have to contact you at all, because the internal errors that might have upset them never happened.
Want to make that mythical call center possible? Work with us.