You’ve reviewed your cable provider’s troubleshooting guide, called into their automated support line, and still you haven’t been able to figure out why you can’t access your favorite premium channel.
So you call back, hoping that a live technical support agent will be able to solve your problem. After being subjected to an “easy listening” instrumental tune played five times in a row while you waited on hold, you had to explain your predicament to a service representative who transferred your call to another department. While being transferred, you were “entertained” by the same on-hold music, and then you had to restate your problem to another representative. With each additional interaction, your irritation level increased tenfold.
While the original issue of not being able to access a cable channel that you’re paying for is undoubtedly a problem, you didn’t begin to ponder the possibility of switching cable providers until you were subjected to a never-ending loop of bad music and asked to repeat your problem several times.
Repetition is an incredibly common, yet potentially damaging problem in call centers, that is often overlooked. While companies record calls for customer service purposes and closely monitor the length of each call, they rarely consider the negative effect of making customers repeat their problems and listen to the same on-hold music track over and over.
“But I Already Gave You My Account Number”
Basic speech recognition technology was first incorporated into IVR systems more than 20 years ago. Since then, the technology has been integrated into web applications. This means that system prompts that gather customer information such as account numbers, names, and reason for calling can and should be provided to phone representatives.
However, we have all experienced the perplexing issue of having to repeat this information after having just provided it via system prompts. What exactly is the purpose of punching in your account number if the representative doesn’t receive the information?
This seemingly small problem can irritate time-strapped customers who simply wants their issue addressed as efficiently as possible. When it’s added to lengthy hold times and repeated transfers, you have a recipe for getting customers downright angry.
Tackling the Problem of Repetitiveness
Because call centers are a company’s front line, repetitiveness should be considered a serious problem that should be proactively corrected. This means carefully reviewing phone systems and processes from the customer’s perspective.
Limit the Call Prompts
It is surprisingly easy to frustrate and lose customers in a confusing phone system tree. Auto-attendant greetings should be short and to the point with a limited amount of options. If there are more than two layers of prompts that require a customer to provide information, it’s likely that a customer will hang up before they ever reach a representative. This ultimately means lost business.
In this age of mobile technology, it’s interesting that some companies still require customers to enter in an account number as part of the process to get transferred to a live representative. When you consider that many customers might not have convenient access to their account number (i.e. driving, on public transportation), you can see how this could set up a call for failure. Asking for easy-to-provide information such as a name or a birthdate may be beneficial but only if the representative receives and utilizes this information at the time that the call is taken.
Asking for information before the customer actually speaks to a representative requires the customer to listen to multiple prompts, confirm the data that was entered, and wait for the next step. By setting up your call center phone system with data collection prompts, you are risking losing customers who just don’t want to or can’t deal with this level of automation.
Use the Information Provided
If you have to collect data before a customer can speak to a representative, it’s essential to demonstrate to the customer that their efforts were worthwhile. When the customer is asked again for the same information, it establishes a negative rapport with the representative. Customers may even argue the fact that they’ve already provided their details and don’t want to do it again.
With today’s advanced phone systems that are integrated with CRM applications, this repetitive scenario doesn’t have to happen. Representatives should also be thoroughly trained to use the caller information provided from the moment that they take the call. It’s OK to confirm information, but it’s not acceptable to have to ask a customer to repeat their details again and again.
Replace Bad On-Hold Music and Messages
What do your customers hear when they are waiting to speak with a representative? Are you using this time effectively to share information about your products or services? Or are your customers being tortured by a mindless, poor-quality melody and an automated voice asking them to remain on hold?
The time your customers are on hold can be used most effectively when you align music and messaging with your brand. Give them something entertaining, amusing, or informative, and they’re much more likely to be accepting of time spent on hold.
Today’s phone systems enable you to set up on-hold messages that target specific customer types, and these can be rotated so that customers aren’t having to hear the same single message over and over. Likewise, high quality music can be added to keep customers engaged while they are waiting to speak to the next available representative.
Take Advantage of New Technologies
There are a growing number of new technologies that can greatly reduce repetition in a call center. For example, VHT Digital integrates web pages and mobile apps with phone systems to enable customers to get a callback when they need help instead of having to initiate the call themselves. This eliminates the need to wait on hold, navigate through call prompts, and repeatedly explain their need for help.
Companies that are truly focused on optimizing their customer experience are wise to watch out for repetition within their call centers. Asking callers to repeat themselves or listen to the same on-hold message 20 times communicates a profound service failure. Some will complain, but many will simply move on to other companies that offer better call center service.