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The Ultimate Playbook for Contact Center Automation

What Customers Want When They Call Contact Centers

…and how AI and RPA can help your customers and your agents

customer service agent

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.

There are different ways in which you can classify your customer interactions based on resolution types:

Use conversation analytics and classify interactions based on phrases and keywords that characterize certain contact reasons and resolution types.

Leverage your contact dispositioning system, if it offers the level of granularity to reliably map your contact reasons with resolution types.

Map your contact reasons to the resolution types based on inputs from an informed group of peers.

No matter which option you choose at the outset, you can always develop a more robust mechanism to rationalize these benchmarks over time. It is important to get started. To help you along the way, the following sections detail the recommended solution approach for each of the resolution types featured in Gartner’s research. We have mapped the most popular contact reasons we have observed in contact centers with the resolution types for your reference. Your mileage may vary, but we think this could serve as a thinker’s block at the very least.
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#1. Transact and Solve Simple Problems

You might still have customers who call in to make a payment or make simple changes to their account information. In many cases, these are simple requests that can be better served in self-service. Your agents, for the most part, know exactly how to handle these requests and most of them get in and out of your systems, updating data in relevant screens in a jiffy.
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:
registration activation
Renewal / Reactivation
makee a payment transction
Make a Payment / Transaction
Product / Service Change
account changes
Account Changes

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.

Fortune 50 Tech Leader Case Study

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.

#2. Confirm and Provide Quick Answers

why customer calling customer service

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:
service information
Product / Service Information
Quote / Pricing
registration activation
Account Information
check status
Check a Status
general inquiry
General Inquiry
The Belgian Post Group Case Study Clearly, this is another category of interactions that should be handled in self-service. Belgium Post, another Jacada customer hero, uses digital self-service to help customers track and trace packages and avoid a call to the contact center.

#3. Discuss and Solve Complex Problems

According to Gartner, your agents are discussing your customer’s requests and relevant solution options for the most part. That makes sense. When customers call in with more complex requests, it is only logical that your agents engage in dialog and diagnosis to fully understand the root cause associated with your customers’ requests.
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 issue
Product / Service Issue
order purchase
Order / Purchase
Help / Troubleshoot

customer service agent

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.

Telefonica Automated Technical Support Using Dynamic Process Guidance Software Here is a leading communication service provider from the UK, a long-time Jacada customer hero, providing a case study. They streamlined complex technical support interactions across two tiers of agent groups using guided workflows that enabled agents to triage technical issues, test relevant solutions and escalate calls to subject matter experts with complete documentation that had been automatically generated. Read on to see how you can break down complex situations into simpler modules you can 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.

PSCU Optimizes Contact Center Experience for Credit Unions with Jacada

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.

#4. Negotiate a Workaround

customer service agent and manager

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.

Priceline Delivers Empathy at Scale with Personalized Guidance

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
payment arrangements
Payment Arrangements
Billing / Dispute Charge

#5. Validate and Educate the Customer

customer talking to customer support

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.

Leading Business Process Service Provider Transforms Order Managemtn with RPA

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.

#6. Listen to the Customer Vent

Sometimes a customer just needs to vent to someone. Like validation-based calls, these types of interactions are all about giving the customer an avenue to be heard. In the heat of the moment, it can be difficult to keep a cool head and effectively manage these interactions. It’s important for agents to look past the customer’s frustration — or even outright anger — and drill down to the underlying issue that has them so upset.
Taking an analytical approach can help agents deal with a tense situation. Rather than asking your agents to meditate more and read a couple of books on stoicism, consider taking that stress off their mind by using an agent assist solution that can diagnose the situation and recommend actionable solutions. Your agents also deserve your empathy, as in many cases, there may not be a “next best action” besides listening to your customers vent out.
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.

AmeriHealth is Improving Health Outcomes with Agent Assist

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.

A very good methodology is outlined in Forresters “Use RPA To Deliver Better Customer Service Experiences” research brief where a heat map approach is also advocated. In their approach, they suggest using a heat map based on the agent actions (instead of the call stages as defined above). For example, finding where a lot of Cut & Paste actions are occurring, or where an Agent is going to Excel to do a calculation. For each of these actions, the benefits of RPA can be analyzed. In the same report, they also advocate for analyzing calls for both their similarities and differences. Where calls have similarities of actions and processes, those are strong candidates for automation.

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.

Armed with this information, surgically go in and solve a specific problem. This is often a judgement call when you look at the intersection of complexity to implement vs value gained. While the above example is purposely a little simplistic, the key point here is that you don’t have to implement everything in one go. In fact, we recommend that you don’t! Your agent assistance vendor should have a sound methodology and strong professional services to guide you through a proper analysis phase. If they don’t, just run away.

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