Can I put you on hold?

We have all heard the automated message saying, “This call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes” but how often do we actually believe quality improvements are made? Following an inconclusive dialogue with a customer service representative of a specific company, customers who feels poorly serviced is left with few options for change. What often makes things more difficult is the trend of outsourcing customer service to third party call centers, without direct access to all the correct information. While some companies keep this operation in house, other have decided to do this for two primary reasons. The first being their own inexperience managing customer contact processes effectively or they have found it more cost effective to hire telecommunications companies specializing in these processes to handle it for them. However, whether the process is managed internally or outsourced to a third party, the impact of low customer satisfaction as well as poor queue management can be real threats to customer’s perceived value of a company or a product.

Raj Bose, a leader in global retail consulting, says that more often than not quality assurance staff only monitor a fraction of calls so improvements are only slight. However, with the significant advancements in artificial intelligence, it is likely consumers will begin to see more impactful and effective changes in how their issues can be addressed when contacting retail companies. The ability to sysnctly organize calls into specific categories not only allows customers to be serviced more quickly and accurately, but also allows management with better analyze information about their customers needs. These new AI tools that Bose details, allow every conversation to be recorded and transcribed into text, allowing language processing to determine whether an agent said all of the correct things. Over time, the technology will be able to build a log of potential issues and help a company exponentially increase its efficiency in customer service. This changes streamline the waiting line of getting service by increasing the number of lines, channels, and even phases in order to get customers the help they need.

Interestingly, Bose also noted how the most efficient way for tools such as this to be effectively implemented to manage waiting lines and increase efficiency is to closely examine the current processes before the implementation of new technology. Insuring each aspect of the network is working as best it can is an essential factor before artificial technology advancements can be properly applied. To inject technology into a bad process will not provide the results these types of advancements are targeted for.

While the overall impact of technology such as this is beneficial for consumers and their perceived-value, it could potentially hurt telecommunications businesses relying on the outsourcing of other companies customer service efforts. Comprehensive analysis tools such as this can make it easier for management to retain their customer service departments internally and manage directly instead of paying another company to do it. This allows them to have more control over their customer interactions while still having the flexibility to make process improvements and examine service times. Technological advancements such as this will improve service processes in the future and directly help companies connect with their own customers.

 

Sources: https://www.banklesstimes.com/2018/02/14/artificial-intelligence-can-improve-call-center-experience/

https://www.geekwire.com/2018/avaya-will-acquire-spoken-communications-migrate-call-center-technology-cloud/

https://www.itproportal.com/features/raising-customer-service-productivity-with-gameification/

 

6 thoughts on “Can I put you on hold?

  • February 22, 2018 at 12:24 am
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    Robert,

    I love this topic and it is a very important one for every business to consider when accepting customer service calls. Another reason I found this topic so interesting is because the company I interned for this past summer went through a phase when management was trying to decide whether to outsource the calls or to keep them in house. In the end, the CEO decided he wanted to keep everything in house because he hates the idea of a recording answering people’s calls. He believes that using that method would be bad for the company since customer service is so important to them. He figured it was important to keep customer service calls in house to avoid decreased customer satisfaction and any lack of company knowledge that would come from the call center. These two cons of outsourcing are explored me in the article below. A couple cons of keeping the calls in house were that sometimes the phones were understaffed and someone within the company would have to listen to the call recordings to get an idea of the problem at hand. It was a tedious job, but it was a job that the Director of Sales and Membership took very seriously because it was a relatively important and easy way to retain customers/members.

    The use of technology could greatly benefit this company because it would take out the tedious task of listening to all of the calls again and it would allow for someone, who already has so much to do, to get her other work completed more effectively. As this technology starts getting introduced, I will be interest to see if the company I worked for leans toward this method.

    https://www.talkdesk.com/blog/the-pros-and-cons-of-call-center-offshore-outsourcing-2/

  • February 21, 2018 at 10:20 pm
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    Robert,

    This is a very interesting point. We do not typically think of being on hold as waiting in line, but it is one of the most common instances of waiting in line. And yes, they often mention that the call is being recorded for quality assurance purposes. But even though small improvements are made (if any), how do they improve the quality and assess what quality of the process needs to be improved? Is it the reception, lower wait time, or more helpful solutions? An article from callcentrehelper.com addresses this issue as well. The article also explains that the company needs to be able to evaluate a representative sample of actions. It supports Raj Bose’s comments on the small sample sizes because “the smaller the sample, the less accurate your benchmark scoring will be, and you will run the risk of making the wrong decisions.” It is important that a large sample size is recorded to ensure improvement of the real quality issue(s).

    https://www.callcentrehelper.com/tips-to-improve-your-call-quality-monitoring-4732.htm

  • February 21, 2018 at 9:35 pm
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    Robert,

    Thanks for your posts, it was a very interesting read. I am definitely one of those people that gets more frustrated when I’m on the phone with a call center than when I’m actually experiencing the problem. You would think that with all the advancements in technology, call centers would be able to create or find something that would improve their business.

    I think this post is especially relevant to what we talked about in class related to Managing Wait times. People get frustrated with call centers because of the amount of time it takes to be able to speak to the person that can actually help them with their issue. Call centers should focus on creating an efficient call flow management to be able to please both end of the experience.

    I think the idea that you mention in your post should be considered and eventually implemented by companies as soon as possible. Having technology that organizes calls into specific categories is the first step in minimizing a customer’s time on the phone and makes the experience more efficient. Implementing this can take the center from having multiple channels and multiple phases to having a more efficient, multiple channel but single phase experience.

    It might also be interesting to look at how call centers handle priority. I believe most call centers operate on a first-come, first-serve rule, however this can cause lags in the process if an expert on one subject had to pick up a call about something not necessarily related to their expertise. I’m not sure if there is a way to pre-quantify the amount of time a call would take, but if a call center was also able to separate the calls by how short the processing time would be in combination with the first-come, first-serve rule, this could also speed up the process and make the call center more efficient.

    The AI tools who wrote about is just one way the company can improve their CEM (customer experience management) by monitoring and analyzing each customer interaction. Having analytics and data to look back on, understand areas of improvement, and figure out the best way to deal with them.

  • February 21, 2018 at 5:06 pm
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    Robert,

    Like you said, managing customer service in the telecommunication business is certainly a complicated process. Analyzing and improving metrics like customer wait times or time spent in a service system can be so complicated that many companies look to outsource only this analysis service to a third party instead of the entire customer service department. I recently attended Jepson’s EDGE Institute and networking event and met Clique APIs Director of Labs. You can read more in the link below, but this company analyzes waiting lines, customer calls, and so much more. Through their technology and service, Clique tracks wait and service times, generates call transcriptions, and figures out trends from calls to help their client and the original company focus more on the actual customer service at hand rather than the behind-the-scenes work. Their company has proved to be a booming success as a middle man and has provided their clients the time to incorporate Clique’s findings and trends into the client’s in-house call center strategy.

    https://www.cliqueapi.com/voicetech-apis/

  • February 20, 2018 at 6:35 pm
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    Robert,

    I liked hearing about the call center issues and how people like Bose view AI as the next step in advancing the quality of customer call center interactions. I definitely see the applications of this new technology as a way to apply continuous improvement techniques and improve quality, but I do not see this as solving the biggest issue with call centers which is hold time.

    Although an unproductive customer service call can be infuriating, it is only made worse by unbearable hold times. Long hold times, although showing improvement in recent years, remain an epidemic in service industries. Some automation has helped to improve wait times. For example, customers are often prompted to enter info on their own before being directed to the appropriate department, rather than having a call center representative do it. Yet, many companies such as Verizon and Comcast will still take over 30 minutes to answer a basic question.

    To improve this issue, I think some of these companies could benefit some analysis using Little’s law. If they can use the average processing time, average arrival rate, average time in line, etc., they can more appropriately staff the call center with sufficient representatives. Assuming that most companies already do that, an alternative solution would be to better manage the calls themselves. I find it all too often the case that the call center representatives move very slowly and often require several minutes just to gather data. Several solutions can be implemented in order to speed up customer processing time and consequently average wait time.

    For one, representatives should have access to a simple, easily navigable database of knowledge form which they can easily find solutions and data with a quick search. Also, they should be trained and able to monitor the amount of customers on hold and try to pace their conversations to control the queue from growing too high. Additionally, managers should train workers to be clear and succinct with their responses as to avoid further questions or drawn out explanations.

    Obviously there are trade-offs involved with each of these, but I would think that in 2018 we should have the ability to overcome problems like this. Wait times are shrinking across service industries, so hold times should be able to as well.

    Sources:
    https://www.talkdesk.com/blog/reduce-call-center-average-time-in-queue
    http://multichannelmerchant.com/operations/contact-center/12-tips-to-reduce-customer-hold-times/

    • February 21, 2018 at 8:33 pm
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      I completely agree that hold times need to decline across industries. I personally have waited on the phone with Apple for a hour, only for them to tell me to go to the store. While, I understand that with an huge company like Apple there is going to be a large demand for assistance, there must be a better way they can manage their hold times. I like your idea of applying Little’s Law, but I also think that it can be a result of company culture as well. In an article I found called “5 Confessions of an Apple Tech Support Supervisor,” the anonymous interviewee says that the wait times can take such a long time because employees have learned techniques to “duck” their work. Some examples are dropping calls so switching between auxiliary codes. While this an interview with an Apple employee, I am sure it happens at companies everywhere. The issue here is not there is not a supply to meet the demand, it is that the supply is not doing their job. If companies can work to hold their employees to be more responsible than hopefully hold times will begin to decrease.

      https://consumerist.com/2008/04/18/5-confessions-of-an-apple-tech-support-supervisor/

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