This post was originally published on lessonly.com.
Technology is rapidly changing the customer support industry. Long gone are the days where call centers are solely defined by phone interactions. The modern call center has evolved to include intelligent call routing, queuing, live chat. And while these automation technologies are enhancing customer satisfaction, call centers shouldn’t replace call center agents with robots.
To stay relevant to digitally savvy consumers, call centers have adopted new technology at an astonishing pace.
Gartner lists automation and AI as the leading technology trend for this year, and predicts that by 2020, 85% of all customer interactions will be managed by machines—not humans.
While there are many benefits to using automation, customers aren’t quite ready to make a complete shift to new technologies. As call center managers look for ideas to improve customer experience, they should avoid implementing a system that blindly automates everything and removes agents from customer interactions completely. Instead of replacing agents with technology, call centers should consider how to enhance customer experience. Leveraging automated processes to help agents empowers them to continue to provide the human touch that customers still want and need. Here’s why call center agents are irreplaceable to call centers:
Automation can’t solve the hard stuff
Every technology has limitations, and call center automation is no exception. When customers interact with automated systems, it’s easy for the conversation to become personal or complex. A majority of customers recall at least one circumstance where menu prompts didn’t solve their specific problem. Sometimes you just need—and want—to talk to a real person. In fact, 83% of U.S. consumers prefer talking to a human to solve customer service issues, and 67% of callers hang up when they have to deal with automated services.
Complex problems provide companies with valuable opportunities to build relationships with customers, solve their problems, and cultivate an exceptional experience. The best call center improvement strategies use automation for basic, routine, and mundane tasks—freeing up trained agents for more difficult, high-stakes interactions. Let your agents use their customer service training and knowledge to foster a positive experience and find flexible solutions that leave customers feeling valued. It’s a massive competitive advantage over interactions that rely solely on bots.
Automation intensifies frustration
Automated systems only interact with humans to a certain extent. Bots don’t yet have the ability to pick up the subtle cues of human emotion—and because customers rely on call centers when they have a problem, it’s likely that they’re already frustrated. It’s crucial that customers receive attention—quickly. The average hold time (a major contact center KPI) is 1 minute and 51 seconds when on the phone with an automated system. However, customers calling into live agents only experience a hold time of 51 seconds. The one-minute time difference may seem insignificant, but it could be the difference between a satisfied customer and one who stops doing business with your company.
In a competitive landscape where customers could easily do business with another company, it’s crucial for call centers to focus on strategies to increase customer satisfaction. Bots can’t fully assess customer issues, relate and respond, or diffuse a situation when needed. Unlike automation, agents can differentiate between a happy, sad, or angry customer—and shape their responses accordingly. Agents equipped with knowledge and procedures for escalated situations and upset customers are the best way to deliver personalized and well-crafted customer service.
Automation is impersonal
On the whole, many customers are still not pleased with automated services for customer service. One major reason for this disengagement is the lack of emotional connection. Customers don’t receive any personal attention from automated systems, while a conversation with an agent allows for interpersonal connection.
Agents provide a differentiating service that makes customers feel valued, instead of just a number. Unlike bots, agents are an extension of a company’s brand—they’re trained to interact with customers in a way that reinforces the company’s value proposition and culture. While automation sometimes offers expediency, an impersonal and unengaging experience impacts the customer’s desire to contact the call center again. They’re more likely to leave with a positive impression after a friendly and helpful discussion with an agent.
It’s important for companies to keep every customer in mind as they look how to improve quality in the call center. Customers who feel valued and enjoy call center interactions are more likely to stick around—and be advocates for your brand.
Customer service call center best practices should include a place for both well-trained agents and automated systems—not one or the other. While many argue that contact center automation will replace agents, the reality is that this technology helps agents more effectively provide exceptional customer service. By championing empathy, making customers feel important, and building relationships, companies provide something special for customers. And no bot can achieve that…yet.
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