A guide to improving customer service efficiency through communication automation

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Kay Vink

This post is part of a series on improving service operations efficiency. For specifics see these how-tos:

The customer service problem

This morning, I had to call my bank to resolve a minor issue. After waiting in a queue for 45 minutes, listening to elevator music interspersed with a robot operator letting me know my place in line, they ended up unable to solve the problem. I hung up, frustrated with both myself and the obviously harried customer service representative.

But it did make me think, aside from the terrible experience on my end, how do situations like these impact my bank’s internal operations? What are the costs incurred by doing this at scale? Spoiler alert, the cost of customers switching providers due to poor customer service is a whopping $1.6T (source). Here’s why:

Customers at risk of leaving are the ones reaching out to you

Unfortunately, the customers ringing the customer service aren’t often calling to say how much they love you. They tend to have a problem that needs resolving, and they’re likely annoyed that they need to take it into their own hands to chase this up. A recent survey showed that as much as 52% of consumers switched providers in the previous year due to poor customer service (source). 

Mistakes with these customers can impact your brand drastically. Americans tell an average of 15 people about a poor service experience, versus the 11 people, they’ll tell about a good experience (American Express service barometer 2017). Case in point, I had a negative interaction with my bank, and immediately decided to write a complete guide inspired by it.

Most people don’t want to talk on the phone

Humans are hard-wired to want immediate payoffs, meaning that our expectations with business interactions err towards instant gratification. People value so highly that 60% of people surveyed across 23 markets would pay extra for a more convenient service (source). 73% of customers want the ability to solve product/service issues on their own (source). Phone calls are no longer the easiest, most convenient way to contact a business, with over 61% of people who prefer messaging over anything else (source). So what’s the actual cost impact felt by a company who hasn’t moved away from phone calls as their primary support function?

The cost of calling

I recently worked with executives from a Fortune 500 company in the delivery and logistics space. They explained that the 10% of tickets that came from calls account for almost 90% of their overall support interactions costs. A support agent can only focus on one call at a time, whereas in messaging, agents can manage three to five conversations concurrently depending on the complexity of their domain. In addition, companies are paying a few cents per minute per call.

A proactive approach worked well with UK med-tech startup, DrDoctor. They saw that the NHS was losing roughly £1B each year in appointment no-shows. So they deployed a solution that enabled patients to view, change and schedule outpatient appointments themselves, either online, in-app or via text. As a result, each NHS hospital in partnership with DrDoctor has saved £1–3 million per year and seen a 50% decrease in phone calls, plus a 40% reduction in no-shows—not only improving patient experiences but also slashing costs. Providing alternative channels for your customers to contact your business sounds like a no brainer, so why do companies struggle to adapt?

Siloed data

87% of executives are not highly confident that they are leveraging all available customer data, according to Forbes Insights/Treasure Data Survey (source). Depending on the way your business is set up, you likely work with a variety of different data sources, your CRM contains all contacts, your service tooling keeps track of tickets, and yet another system keeps track of purchases and product usage.

To provide a complete experience, one would have to combine data across all systems, but unfortunately, they are generally not well integrated out of the box. To top it off, customers expect companies to be available on an increasing number of channels. It can be a challenge to collate the siloed customer data effectively across a variety of channels.

Lack of engineering resources

At first glance, the costs associated with the initial configuration and maintenance of a multichannel customer service approach appear daunting. What if your company has outsourced its engineering resources and wants to make changes? Shouldn’t the engineering team be focused on delivering a great product or keeping the business running instead of building internal processes for customer support? Luckily, there is a solution. 

A communication automation solution

A communication automation platform is designed to tackle these exact challenges. Companies can use these platforms to combine data sources, drive messaging across multiple channels, and improve the systems they already have. Further to that, they can enable cross-functional collaboration, reducing dependence on engineers. Read the how-to’s to learn the different ways that your company can quickly execute on this strategy.

Deflect inquiries to lower-cost channels

Calls are expensive. And often, your customers don’t want to be on a call in the first place. Because they are using other channels, such as WhatsApp, it makes sense to use a communications platform to embed these other channels into your existing CRM. 

Find out how to deflect these inquiries in an enjoyable and cost-effective way by reading this how-to.

Prioritize your most important customers

Pull up transactions and route based on spend. Not all customers are equal. Some are higher risk and others can be identified as highly valuable. You are likely already tracking indicators of these categories based on spend or number of purchases. So the next step is to connect this internal data to a communications platform to prioritise effectively. 

Find out how you can prioritize your most valuable customers by reading this how-to.

Automate resolving quick fixes on the spot

Over 60% of customers would prefer a self-service model. They would rather not wait and talk to a human if there is a simple fix to be had. If you find your business is bombarded with repetitive problems that require easy changes or information, it’s logical to see if you can automate it. The right communications platform can automate interactions for use cases such as appointment rescheduling, order changes, information requests, and so much more. 

Discover how you can automate these quick fixes and provide immediate value to your business and your customers in this how-to.

Create a better waiting experience

Don’t make your customers spend 45 minutes on the phone. You can create a much better waiting experience for your customers by giving them the option to be called back. Automatically registering their details and call them when the next agent becomes available. 

Learn how to provide your customers with the waiting experience that they deserve in this how-to.