Many organizations are learning firsthand that contact centers play a central role in encouraging and supporting low-cost access channels. For example, the contact center can provide a wealth of information about which contacts can be automated or handled in customer communities, and what can be done to improve customer acceptance of this type of handling. While it may seem paradoxical, providing agent assistance when and as needed encourages customer confidence in these alternatives.
Here are some things you can do to build self-service channels:
- Equip agents to educate customers on self-service options. They should be trained on the uses and advantages of these alternatives so that they can encourage customers to avail themselves of self-service options when appropriate.
- Collect and analyze data about contacts currently handled in the center. Look for opportunities to provide self-service features or to build communities that enable customers to help each other.
- Observe agents handling contacts. Your best agents really know how to serve customers; watching them work can present many opportunities for developing and improving self-service systems.
- Involve agents in system design. Your agents should actively serve on project teams responsible for building self-service systems. They can also help monitor and test systems and interpret customer behavior and feedback.
- Integrate self-service and contact center systems. Integrated systems can enable agents to use the information captured in self-service applications when they are assisting customers.
- Capture customer feedback about self-service systems. This information is essential to improving system design.
- Enable customers to easily reach agents. If customers can’t reach an agent when they want to, they will resent being forced to use self-service systems.
- Track data from all support modes and analyze it for improvement opportunities; specifically, why do customer contacts happen? Which do you want to encourage and which do you want to prevent (as much as possible)?
If your contact center agents view self-service as a low-cost replacement for humans, they may not be overly enthusiastic about helping to improve those systems or encouraging their use. Turn this (misconception) on its head and you’ll be correctly positioning self-service systems as an essential part of providing choices and delivering high-value services.
From the latest edition of Contact Center Management on Fast Forward by Brad Cleveland.