I was fascinated by a story about the cost of complaints based on a study by the Institute of Customer Service. The research suggested that time wasted by customers making complaints, and the cost to businesses and their suppliers in dealing with them, cost the UK economy £190bn a year in lost productivity. Jo Causon, the Institute’s chief executive, said companies should deal with problems promptly and get the balance right between technology solving the issues and human interaction with customers.
And that got me thinking about where technology can add value and where there is no substitute for human engagement in the call centre.
Our own study earlier this year into the sources of churn in the UK highlighted that 61% of people used the phone to contact a supplier about an issue. Our study in the US found 45.8% prefer to use the phone to contact a supplier. This shows that they prefer to deal with a human being when they have a problem. So how can technology help?
I believe technology, particularly speech analytics technology can help in three ways:
- Identifying the root causes of complaints so they can be eradicated
- Reducing the effort customers need to make to have a problem resolved
- Delivering a much more effective complaint handling experience that keeps customers loyal
Identifying the root causes of complaints
Every time a customer complains they provide enough data to help identify the root cause of the problem. Engagement Analytics enables you to analyse automatically every interaction. All you need to do is to create analysis ‘categories’ for complaints. Armed with these categories the analytics software will find every occurrence so that the root cause of the complaint can be isolated, and steps taken to fix the issue. With the addition of artificial intelligence, you can progressively refine these categories to the point where it is possible to be predictive about the sources of complaints. This will enable organisations to avoid taking decisions that will create downstream issues.
The great thing about this kind of categorisation is that it will help you identify potential sources of complaints before they become a major problem. For example, one of our clients was able to identify a problem with a product by identifying a small number of keyword occurrences. This enabled the client to send proactive messages to owners of the product to advise on the action to take. Our study showed that consumers really care about proactivity. In fact, over half (51.4%) said, that to keep them loyal, they want suppliers to be more proactive about informing them about a problem.
Taking the pain out of complaining
One of the benefits of alerting customers about problems, and what you plan to do to resolve them, is that it will significantly reduce the number of complaints you receive – and thus cut the cost of complaint handling. However, you can also take the pain out of complaining by ensuring that your processes are optimised to make this as simple as possible.
Again, engagement analytics can help identify the routes customers use to complain and the words and phrases associated with complaints. The analysis can show you if you make a bad situation worse by having an ineffective call routing system or agents who aren’t trained and coached to show empathy when they are handling complaints. For example, our study uncovered what annoys people most about their call centre interactions – see the chart opposite. All of the these ‘sins’ are avoidable. They include call routing that doesn’t recognise you have a problem and route you call accordingly and, having to repeat yourself from one agent to the next.
One of the simplest things to get right is to just listen. In fact, wanting to be listened to, when you call with a problem, was the #1 emotion before a call for almost half of consumers (46%). The fact that only half that number (23%) felt they had been listened to after the call shows that many organisations are shooting themselves in the foot by not training agents to show empathy.
Sending customers away happy
The final way to limit the cost of complaints is to send the customer away happy on the first call. Real-time engagement analytics has made this much easier to do. Delivering real time insight helps agents manage the call by alerting them if keywords or acoustics indicate that the call is deteriorating. The analytics solution can automatically provide ‘next best action’ guidance to get the call back on track. You can increase the probability of success by supporting agents with access to back-office experts. One of our clients won an award for the most innovative use of technology by doing just that. For complicated complaints, they connect the agent with key experts who have the specialist knowledge to resolve the issue while the call is live.
This is a great example of how you can use smart people and smart technology in tandem to cut the cost of complaints.
Learn more data from both the UK and US surveys from CallMiner: