Despite the rise and popularity of consumer self-service for businesses, for many customers contact centres still play a fundamental role in their experience and are the final port of call for help. It is often the contact centre agent who has final influence over the customer’s experience and journey with a brand, helping to resolve any issues and improve satisfaction levels.
Due to this, organisations invest significant amounts into their contact centre processes and people, providing in-house or outsourced services. In fact, a report by ContactBable on the state of the industry found that roughly 4% of the UK’s working population are employed in some capacity by contact and call centres, demonstrating their importance to modern consumer society.
Delivering this level of service to customers is not always a simple task and contact centres are faced with a wide variety of challenges. These have been compounded by the pandemic of 2020 and have changed working practices and consumer habits.
Additionally, the recent economic crisis is driving individuals to seek roles with more opportunities, flexibility and better pay. The below explores 3 of the more common challenges faced by contact centres today and how technology can be used to help businesses to overcome them.
1. Agent Attrition
Agent turnover has always been a challenge for contact centres. This is because of the knowledge and training required to ensure that agents can provide the correct levels of service and information to customers – with training ranging from weeks to months depending on the complexity. A recent survey by the Call Centre Management Association (CCMA), found that staff turnover in contact centres is around annually 26%, no small number.
The continual cycle of recruiting, onboarding, and training agents is not only expensive and resource-heavy but can also hurt customer experiences if the agent is unsure of the correct process or answer during a call.
2. Too many tools / lack of access to information
A report by industry analysts McKinsey found that on average employees spend 1.8 hours every day searching and gathering information, however recent further investigation into this stat found it is now 2+ hours for agents. Agents are often required to navigate multiple systems, apps, and sources of information to find the process or answer that the customer needs- all of which take time and can add to AHT, and call queue wait times.
Additionally, when the information can’t be found by the agent, they may need to pass the customer to another call handler. Again increasing the time needed to resolve the customer’s query and adds frustration for them, as well as the agent.
3. High stress environments
When a customer ends up in the contact centre, it is not always for a positive reason and emotions can be heightened, with the customer using the agent to vent their frustration or anger. This can take its toll day after day despite those working within contact centres being some of the most resilient people, with 87% of participants interviewed by Cornell University reporting them to be high or very high workplace tension.
This daily strain, plus the challenges, can have a huge impact on the mental health of the agent, leading to not only low morale and motivation but also health issues. The same Cornell study found that call centre workers are absent for an average of 8.2 days a year due to sickness, compared to an average of 7 days for other industries, this will have a huge impact on a business.
There is no silver bullet for solving these challenges and will require organisations to deploy a combination of strategies, however, technology and more specifically Conversational AI could help. Many people will be familiar with the deployment of Conversational Assistants and chatbots for customers, used to provide FAQs and self-service.
Similar to how Conversational Assistants are used to support customers, they can also be used by contact centre agents, providing on-demand information and actionability.
Agent Assistants can be deployed via internal communication channels such as Slack, CRM, or Sales systems and standalone applications, meaning they are easily accessible to agents on calls. Solutions, such as Humley’s, can automatically ingest training guides and FAQs to create knowledgebases and provides the ability to easily add responses related to top call log requests, reducing the need for agents to navigate multiple systems. As well as helping to speed up time to competency for new starters.
Additionally, utilising the flow functionality, Assistants can guide the agent on a call through questions to provide accurate and tailored information for the customer they are speaking to, helping to improve experiences. Crucially, Agent Assistants can also deliver actionability via securely integrating with internal systems to perform tasks such as validating customers, retrieving account information, and even claims submission or onboarding. This capability significantly reduces the time needed on a call (average 50% reduction in AHT) and improves first-time resolution, improving customer satisfaction with services. Additionally, delivering efficiencies to other teams through automatically handling the common tasks associated with customer services.
Conversational AI Assistants can also provide agents with the ability to notify their manager if they are struggling or have had a particularly challenging call, something that might go unnoticed. Enabling the managers to check in on the agent, providing the relevant support needed both from a practical sense and also for their wellbeing, helping to reduce stress and anxiety for agents.
The technology can also help with shift scheduling providing agents with the freedom and flexibility to manage their time, freeing up managers and empowering agents, and improving engagement with their roles.
Feedback loops within the Conversational Assistant platform enable agents to contribute to processes, providing their real experiences and even more efficient ways of doing things, helping to gain their buy-in to companies by directly influencing their future strategies.
Whilst technology can’t solve the challenges faced by contact and call centres on its own, it can go some ways to helping to make environments more engaging and efficient for agents, as well as delivering success now and in the future for organisations.
If you would like to find out more about how Conversational Assistants can transform your agent and contact centre processes, get in touch today.