Scaling contact centre services to reduce the length of call waiting times – Nikhil Bhatia – Head of Growth UK & Ireland for Artificial Solutions discusses.
More than half of the respondents to a recent UK study into ‘wastes of time’ said being left on hold was the biggest culprit. And now some authorities are taking steps to address this. The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority has confirmed plans to bring a new Consumer Duty, that will require firms to not make consumers wait so long for an answer to a call that they give up. The Spanish government is going further and has drafted a bill requiring companies to speak to customers within three minutes or face a fine.
Even three minutes might be excessive for some. Research found that three in five consumers consider being on hold for one minute to be too long. It’s crucial, therefore, that businesses adapt and scale their contact centre to meet customer expectations, using competitive differentiators, such as Conversational AI technology, to cut down the time their customers spend waiting to speak to a representative and, in doing so, increase overall satisfaction.
Call Waiting Times and Customer Experience
Long hold times are now commonplace for consumers. The average hold time for a call centre has been calculated at just under five minutes, although almost one third can be as long as 10 minutes, and 16 percent will exceed even that.
There are a number of reasons for the increasing hold times. Nearly two-thirds of contact centres reported downsizing their contact centre operations in response to the pandemic, with much of the industry now struggling to scale back up as “normal service” resumes. And the current cost of living crisis has sparked an increase in the number of calls, too. Energy companies in particular are receiving an abnormally high number as a result of the rise in gas and electricity prices.
As far as the contact centre agents are concerned, a caller’s experience of a call will typically relate to the outcome of the call itself. For the caller, though, the impact can affect their experience and perception of the business. The result of leaving people on hold for extended periods of time can result in businesses losing customers and, ultimately, revenue.
Long wait times needn’t be an inevitability of calling a contact centre. Businesses must take steps to reduce those wait times as much as possible.
Efficiently resolving customer requests
One approach to managing the length of hold times is the application of Conversational AI to support call centres both on the phone and in live chat. Conversational AI agents can resolve simple enquiries and complete many of the most common contact centre requests. This improves the speed of resolution, while opening up human contact centre agents to focus on more complex calls or those that require greater sensitivity.
In 2020, for example, Swisscom, one of the world’s most innovative telecommunications organisations, received over 10 million customer requests. Such a high volume of calls placed its contact centre under a significant amount of stress and required major resources to manage and maintain customer satisfaction.
Swisscom adopted an AI-based SaaS platform with the functionality, scalability, and multiple language capabilities it needed to deliver 24/7 conversational solutions for Switzerland’s multilingual environment. Over the past two years, the company has expanded and scaled its AI solution to develop services that guarantee natural conversation which go beyond just straightforward Q&As and efficiently resolve simple customer requests through easy self-service options.
The combination of machine and human support provides Swisscom’s customers with an outstanding level of engagement over the phone or online. And, not only does it allow the contact centre to work more efficiently, it significantly improves the customer experience at a time when call volumes are rising and hold times growing increasingly longer.
A new normal for customer service
The application of Conversational AI in the contact centre means long hold times don’t have to be the norm. And for the sake of their customers – and their own bottom line – it’s vital that businesses adapt.
Nikhil Bhatia is Head of Growth UK & Ireland at Artificial Solutions.
For additional information on Artificial Solutions visit their Website