Call deflection: how to keep your customers and keep your contact centre agents sane in peak periods
Cathal McGloin, CEO of ServisBOT describes how good call deflection is helping contact centres to respond to the surge in customer calls amidst the Coronavirus pandemic.
NHS 111 call volumes increased by a third in the first week of March with NHS England reporting that 389,779 people called its hotline in seven days. To ease the burden on existing call responders, while still serving concerned members of the public, NHS 111 rapidly trained 500 additional members of staff. In addition, to deflect the number of calls coming in, NHS England set up a new online service dedicated to providing COVID-19 advice. Within its first week, a million people had used the online service.
It’s not just healthcare call handlers feeling the strain. Understandably, the travel and work disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a major surge in inbound calls to contact centres at travel, finance and insurance companies as customers call to gain the latest information and allay their concerns. Hold times of over four hours have been reported by worried consumers trying to change or cancel bookings and check the status of their insurance cover.
Using other channels
While NHS England has the resource to add more staff to handle the surge, for other organisations which are already feeling the pinch from lost bookings this may not be feasible.
Some companies are enlisting the help of their own customers to help manage the peaks in call volumes. To prioritise customers with immediate needs, many airlines have sent mass emails to customers requesting that they avoid calling their customer service lines unless they are due to fly within the next 72 hours.
Deflecting customers from a voice to a text-based channel, such as a dedicated information page on your website, a web app or chatbot can help to ease the burden on frazzled contact centre staff, while still allowing customers to access the help and information that they desperately need.
This does not have to be a complex, costly, or time-intensive solution. However, it can be extremely effective in managing additional call volumes and taking better care of your contact-centre staff while also looking after your customers.
Using digital channels
An extremely efficient route to helping customers to help themselves is to set up a chatbot which they can engage with on their mobile phone, or netbook. This offers the advantage of providing multiple customers with consistent responses to routine enquiries, round the clock, while still being able to handover to a contact centre agent if a customer really needs to speak to someone. This has proved to be an extremely effective method for triaging customer enquiries and keeping contact centre agents free to handle calls from customers who are desperate for immediate assistance and information which can’t be provided through any other channel.
Whether your current IVR is a modern cloud-based solution, or based on older technology, it is still possible to rapidly deflect customers from voice to chatbot messaging channels. We know because this is precisely what we have done for an insurance organisation that believed this was impossible to achieve with their legacy on-premise IVR system. Spinning up a basic chatbot took just 2 days and allowed the organisation to successfully automate routine responses and deflect calls, while still providing customers with a path to live webchat.
Creating and deploying a simple chatbot that can help with call deflection doesn’t have to be as complex, expensive, or time-consuming as you may think. The bot can be as simple as directing customers to your COVID-19 FAQ page, or it can be an extension of an existing customer service bot that is undertaking multiple tasks. Either way provides a highly effective way to deflect the flood of inbound calls, while still helping your customers effectively and efficiently.
Training on the job
Working with your existing customer service technology such as the IVR and Live Chat, a simple AI-powered bot can be designed and implemented. It doesn’t have to be complex to be highly effective. A very simple bot can be trained over the course of around ten days to begin automating your customer service.
On day one, your virtual assistant may just quickly respond to customers before handing over to a customer service agent, however, the bot will be trained by phrases used by your customers during their chats, making it progressively smarter. Your organisation can then add capabilities so that after a week the bot can start automating responses to routine queries, become more self-sufficient and take more of the burden from your live agents, allowing them to handle more complex customer issues.
When your contact centre is faced with a rapid increase in call volumes and your organisation cannot bring more hands on deck, using a chatbot or virtual agent for call deflection eases the pressure on overburdened contact centre agents. Chatbots can be integrated with live chat systems so that they work in parallel with contact centre staff and also introduce a path to automation that can help customers out of hours.
Once customers engage with your organisation’s intelligent virtual agent, the bot can be used to handle simple requests; signpost customers to the right pages on your website to find information relevant to their query; or help them to complete transactions via self-service. All of this can take place without customers having to engage with your customer service agents, unless a customer specifically requests this within the chat, or if the bot itself escalates the query to an agent.
By training your customers to use text-based channels, which provide consistent, reliable responses to their queries, while still reassuring them that they can get through to a contact centre agent if they need further information, your organisation will be more geared up to use automation to provide out of hours assistance in future.
Setting up a chatbot now will also provide organisations with another element of future-proofing for other crises: keeping your contact centre staff sane, while keeping your customers happy
Cathal McGloin is CEO of ServisBOT
Chatbot and conversational interfaces represent one of the most significant shifts towards using natural language as a means of engagement where customers and employees can search for information, transact, resolve issues, and interact more conveniently and with less friction.
Chatbot solutions can help you transform customer and employee engagement across multiple digital channels, taking user experience to new levels while lowering operational costs. To achieve this, ServisBOT provide a chatbot platform that gives your business the tools to easily build and manage chatbots no matter what your industry or use case may be.
For additional information on ServisBOT visit their Website