…and how AI and RPA can help your customers and your agents
According to Gartner, organizations lack insights into the different types of customer inquiries they receive and the reasons for customer contact.
A contact reason is the reason why a customer may have contacted your call center.
A resolution type is the kind of activity your call center representatives may have engaged in to resolve the customer’s request.
To develop a personalized blueprint for contact center automation, contact centers need to understand the contact reasons and types of resolution activities their agents engage in.
Gartner’s research on voice of the customer classifies customer service inquiries into six categories of resolution. This is a useful place to start to assist in classifying the different types of phone inquiries and keywords and phrases to surface the intent of the caller, and to understand how inquiries could be serviced differently.
Transact: Solving a problem in a self-directed way
Contact Reasons Typically Addressed by the “Transact” Resolution Type
Updates to products, services, orders, accounts, policies, claims:
Renewal / Reactivation
Make a Payment / Transaction
Product / Service Change
It is easy to agree that these interactions should be handled in self-service. That said, it is worthwhile to engage in a 5-Whys exercise here as well to fully understand why your customers are calling in with these simple requests in 2021. An effective solution will not only target the availability of self-service options for your customers, but also ensure your customers’ adoption of those self-service solutions.
Take for example, how a Fortune 50 technology leader, also a Jacada customer hero, understood the importance of the phone channel for customers trying to activate new products and services. So, they designed a Visual IVR that not only boosts self-service rates but also eliminates the effort involved in reading out a long alphanumeric activation code over the phone.
Do your customers call you right after placing an order to inquire about order status? Do you have customers calling in to check on their account balance? How many of them want to talk to your customer service representatives about when those balances would get updated?
Seemingly simple inquiries from a layperson’s point of view can sometimes require nothing short of a goose chase or a private investigation when seen from the perspective of your contact center agents. We will cover the more exotic search for information and answers in subsequent categories. The simpler inquiries are the ones that you should classify as “Confirm”.
Besides gathering relevant insights from your back-end systems, your agents might also consult your knowledge base to come up with a personalized answer to your customer’s questions. Most of these are relatively simple questions with answers that are relatively easy to find.
Confirm: Getting a quick answer or handing off a minor issue that needs to be resolved
Contact Reasons Typically Addressed by the “Confirm” Resolution Type
Inquiry on products, services, orders, accounts, policies, claims:
Product / Service Information
Quote / Pricing
Check a Status
Discuss: Resolving complex situations through human interaction and diagnosis
Contact Reasons Typically Addressed by the “Discuss” Resolution Type
Report issues, analyze causes, explore solutions — triage, troubleshooting:
Product / Service Issue
Order / Purchase
Help / Troubleshoot
We saw how seemingly complex interactions can be effectively handled in self-service. That said, it is fair to assume that, for the time being, most complex customer interactions will be handled by your experienced contact center agents. So, how should you go about streamlining these interactions? Begin by breaking down the complexity into smaller chunks that you can either automate or streamline.
Since most of the interactions managed in the contact center tend to fall in this category, we wanted to share one more example. When a credit card holder calls in to dispute a transaction on their card, the financial institution needs to handle the interaction in a way that is empathetic to the customer, compliant with regulations and company best practices. These rules tend to vary quite a bit across the more than 1200 credit unions served by PSCU, one of the leading credit union servicing organizations in the US.
While you can read more and watch testimonials from agents and executives, the highlight of this initiative has been that our client has almost eliminated the use of a standalone knowledge base during live customer interactions. Check out this case study that shows how to handle contact center complexity by going from knowledge management to knowledge automation.
In a previous section, we touched on how customers rely on the contact center to negotiate better outcomes, and how contact center agents may not be best equipped to arrive at the most optimal solutions for both the business and the customer.
Navigating these requests is incredibly tricky and requires a keen understanding of business policy and the ability to run a quick cost-benefit analysis of going against those guidelines. It is a difficult line to walk for even experienced contact center agents. Most contact centers empower their agents to use their discretion and authorize them to issue credits, or work with their supervisors to process such exceptions in line with best practices. While this is a reasonable approach under current circumstances, there are plenty of risks to consider — customers who engage in high-effort interactions are likely to churn eventually; the contact center may resolve similar customers very differently leading to an inconsistent customer experience that deviates from the brand promise; the business may lose revenue while trying to accommodate workarounds that are not warranted.
Real-time agent assist tools can go a long way toward identifying circumstances where it makes sense to work around policies and knowing when to stand your ground. Putting more analytics in agents’ hands can be extremely helpful as well, helping them better understand the commercial value of their actions when addressing these types of situations. In many cases, contact center agents help your customers understand your brand promise and relate to your processes.
With the right real-time assistance, you can equip your agents to process a workaround request both in compliance to your best practices as well as with empathy for your customers.
Negotiate: Gathering information, learning, and potentially finding a solution
Contact Reasons Typically Addressed by the “Negotiate” Resolution Type
Report disputes, explore workarounds — credits, cancellations, refunds, returns, fee:
Return / Refund / Cancellation
Billing / Dispute Charge
The contact center plays an important role in the overarching customer and business relationship. Customers may turn to contact center agents for validation after they have run into issues with other areas of the business — say, a pushy salesperson — want to be heard.
A sympathetic ear is critical, and it’s important to also be analytical to understand why the customer is seeking validation. If a customer is placing an order online and calling back to understand order status, a well-trained agent might be able to address that request quickly and move on to the next customer.
However, the right agent assist solution can capture insights from the dialog between the customer and the agent to hopefully prevent such a call in the future. Perhaps, the customer called back because the shipping information shared online isn’t clear especially for back-ordered items. The best solution to this problem requires the necessary changes to the customer’s online experience.
While some of these interactions might require the agent to recommend an alternate course of action, the rest don’t necessarily have an immediate problem that needs to be solved. It can be enough to simply listen to the customer and let them know that their concerns are valid and that the company is working to make things right. Advanced speech analytics platforms can be helpful in terms of identifying and documenting these interactions for later review. Again, real-time agent assist platforms can provide the guidance representatives to navigate such delicate situations.
Validate: Seeking advice and empathy from trusted people
Contact Reasons Typically Addressed by the “Validate” Resolution Type
Explore solutions, explain rationale, processes, policies, and constraints – escalations:
Learning / How-to
When customers place orders, they simply expect things to show up in a timely manner. They do not bother themselves with all the complexities of the supply chain that fulfills their order. When something breaks down in that supply chain, they get confused and eventually frustrated.
Check out how this leading business process service provider is helping customers who order checks for their bank accounts. Real-time agent guidance and process automation help agents consistently address complex order related questions and disputes by both empathizing with customers and educating them during such challenging interactions.
Vent: Making one’s voice heard in a public way, for attention or to shame a company into action
Contact Reasons Typically Addressed by the “Vent” Resolution Type
Listen and log feedback, complaints, recommend solutions, if applicable.
See how one of the largest Medicaid managed healthcare organizations is listening to customer complaints and grievances and identifying opportunities for improving the customer experience. They offer step-by-step guidance to their call center agents so that they listen to frustrated members with empathy. The guided workflows also capture and pass along the details to a triage team that analyzes the inputs to glean insights that drive continuous improvements.
Speech Analytics have an additional highly valuable, yet often overlooked, use case. Gartner proposes an excellent use case in its research, “Use Speech Analytics to Optimize Contact Center Costs With Self-Service, Process Improvement and Deeper Engagement”. Given the constant pressure to cut costs, Gartner advocates using speech analytics to discover which types of inquiries could be automated or avoided, before addressing the improvements. In many respects, it is similar to the heat-map approaches discussed above, but using technology to provide additional insight.