Call centres need self-service balance

Read time 2min 40sec

A lot of contact centres are making use of self-service technologies in order to cut cost; but if not deployed prudently, these services can drive away customers from the business.

So says Paul Fick, MD of Spescom DataFusion, who notes that in theory, self-service reduces the load on agents while giving customers a better experience.

He adds that using self-service technology enables customers to deal with certain issues themselves without the need to speak to a live agent.

According to Fick, for any contact centre the biggest cost will always be the agents who are required to handle calls and queries.

“However, sometimes organisations take self-service technology too far - having too many options for callers to choose from and not even offering the option of speaking to a real person,” says Fick.

“This ends up having the opposite effect to that which is desired like alienating and irritating customers, degrading the customer experience and potentially driving customers away from your business.”

He explains that for simple queries such as checking account balances, self-service works well, as customers can get what they require quickly and without fuss.

Nevertheless, he notes, more complex transactions may require a human operator and giving people long lists of possible choices with no option to speak to a person may be frustrating and may discourage people from calling.

Fick believes it is vital to strike the right balance between self-service and live agent options so that customer service quality is not compromised and costs can be optimised.

In unison, Saartjie Wait, Avaya's channel account manager, says self-service can satisfy business and customer needs only when correctly designed and deployed.

“The underlying architecture of the contact centre platform needs to be scalable and able to meet future vision. Applications should address not only the business goals but the needs of the user as well,” she says.

To get the most out of the latest generation of self-service technology, Wait adds, it is imperative to firstly understand customers and their demands, as well as the various self-service options available.

She says how these technologies interact is important for getting the mix of self-service solutions right.

“Secondly, optimising self-service solutions that fit today's dynamic environment can help to meet the changing needs of customers to meet their current needs,” she stresses.

Finally, Wait explains, leveraging self-service as a competitive differentiator can not only help to improve customer service but can also give businesses access to important information and insights into their customers.

“At the end of the day, self-service is about serving customers better. It is, therefore, important for organisations to ensure that they do not get caught up in saving money at the expense of service quality, and that they find the right balance to give their customers the most useful service possible,” Fick concludes.

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