In a survey on customer service carried out by the CCA Research Institute, respondents said their greatest challenges were improving quality and reducing cost to serve. You don’t have to be Einstein to work out that those two goals appear to be contradictory, but in fact they’re not.

The same survey asked: How do you think your business model will adapt to meet changing customer demands? The top responses were:

  • Increased use of self-service and automation
  • More skilled, knowledgeable workers
  • Clear, single view of the customer

What do we mean by quality?

Research shows that customers’ most important concerns are:

  • The person who answers the phone handles the whole call
  • They are treated as a valued customer
  • They answer the phone quickly
  • They are familiar with any previous dealings with them

What do we mean by reducing cost to serve?

The major cost of providing customer service is still human resources. We can therefore look at reducing:

  • Total staff numbers
  • Agent training time
  • Average Handling Time (AHT)
  • Call volumes

Meeting quality and cost objectives

If we reduce AHT we also improve quality, because customers want their queries handled quickly, without being passed around. But reducing AHT doesn’t go far enough.

We’re interested in reducing Total Traffic Time (TTT) which means reducing AHT and call volumes. If this is done correctly, it can align with customer expectations, enabling us to meet our quality and cost-cutting goals.

The tools you need:

  • Skilled and knowledgeable agents. Agents can handle a wider range of queries, which means you improve First Call Resolution (FCR); the agent is more likely to treat the customer better and the phone is likely to be answered quicker because you haven’t split your agents into call groups.
  • A single customer view. To improve FCR and shorten calls, it’s vital that your agents can view the whole customer journey.
  • You need to perform root cause analysis to discover where your service issues are, then fix them or move them to self-service to strip out huge volumes of calls.

You may be thinking that this will have the knock-on effect of increasing costs: agents will take longer to train and expensive new IT investments will be needed. They won’t, if you provide your agents with the right tools.

Make all your agents skilled and knowledgeable

Much of the work an agent performs involves following processes, which may require the use of several IT systems. Simplifying this and providing guidance by using workflows allows all agents to perform to the same level as your best ones, even with vastly reduced training.

In the Infinity Workflow, workflows prompt agents through calls and pull together in one simple User Interface everything an agent needs, such as customer information and data entry fields from multiple back-end systems.

The results are:

  • The customer’s query is resolved faster because the agent doesn’t need to remember processes or open and interact with multiple applications.
  • The customer feels better treated because the agent can focus more on listening and building rapport.
  • It’s easier for agents to handle multiple call types, so there is less need to transfer customers between departments.

Pull data from different silos and systems into one view

A problem for over 50% of contact centres is that customer information is kept in different data silos or on different systems, which can make it time consuming for agents to deal with different types of queries. Calls can also be unnecessarily lengthened when customers must repeat information the company already knows. The Unified Agent Desktop allows whatever information you want to display from those systems to be presented to agents in a simple workflow.

Cut down calls

As agents are only interacting with one application, you can have a single view of performance broken down by outcome codes and whatever information is collected during calls and wrap. It also gives you a clear overview of customer interactions via self-service. While obviously useful from a QA perspective, it also allows you to easily spot issues that repeatedly crop up so that you can correct them or move them to self-service.

Result: cost and quality goals met

What seemed like contradictory problems have the same solutions. The key is to reduce Total Traffic Time (TTT) in a way that aligns with customers’ changing demands. Applications such as the Infinity Desktop enable you to use your existing IT infrastructure to do this cost-effectively.