“It’s simply like a mathematical equation. If you want your customers to wait zero time, you have to have a lot of people sitting there doing nothing. If you want employees working all the time, customers will wait a long time.”
Customer service is the most crucial component of any business. This concept has fuelled a whole new customer care industry.
But of late customer service has been far from perfect. It has become tardy both for the customers and companies. The customer feels dissatisfied with the endless tangles of calls and more calls. Even after waiting ages for a customer care representative, they are not guaranteed a satisfying answer to their question.
The time factor is even more crucial in call centres. They have to utilize the real-time available to accomplish as much customer servicing as possible. And the current processes are far from cost effective.
Take the case of DeDSL. Each day customer service representatives at DelDSL Internet and Network Services field roughly 5,000 telephone calls. These calls average 14 minutes and may go as long as an hour. So the company management were hard put to make the process cost effective and efficient..
In this context, cutting talk time seems like a valid solution to address the most unproductive part of the call: customer wait time, or putting customers on hold until the next agent becomes available. But as Call Centre guru Art Rosenberg writes, “If you want your customers to wait zero time, you have to have a lot of people sitting there doing nothing. If you want employees working all the time, customers will wait a long time”. Trying to balance the two can become an overwhelming task.
Nonetheless, when the call centre is fully operational, the company expects to see the average time-to-answer stay below 40 seconds. Hence the need to adopt advanced technological models that help DelDSL Internet track what percentage of the time the agents actually work during the shirt. Now, after breaks and lunches are factored in, compliance levels remain at 95 percent. “Before”, Konkona says in an interview that forms a part of a research whether tech-follies help in improving the proficiency of agents in a call centre. , “I used to wonder Hey, am I the only one taking calls while the others are goofing off?”
Dealing with Spikes
“In a traditional call centre it’s very hard to deal with spikes, because a finite number of agents have a finite amount of time to deal with spikes. Any time spikes exceed [maximum capabilities] you’re going to deliver poor service. That’s just a fact,” says Alamgir, who has been working as a call agent with a reputed contact centre in India for two years now, “So when complemented by expert call centre advisors, self-service can deal with repetitive questions and knock the tops off the spikes”, he claims further.
Web self-help tools aren’t just for customers. Rather, they’re an important tool for the centre agents as well. They can help them resolve customer support issues more efficiently. But when the agents can’t find what they need in a knowledge management system, the extra work involved in obtaining the answer usually includes such disruptive tasks as an email blast, instant message, or asking a colleague.
Not surprising then, American consumers lose more than $40 billion a year due to such customer care inefficiencies. And many of them are irritated because of constantly being referred to other phone numbers, or because of their calls being terminated abruptly. All this is due to the ineffectual tactics the agents are employing. While agents are getting innovative in their tricks, such as call waiting, and swapping the answer and hang-up keys, the callers are left infuriated and grumbling.
Shamail (18), working with one of the top call centres in Bangalore, when asked why he hung up on callers, promptly responded, “Most of the time, it’s the irksome, unsatisfied caller who has not been cared for, as well as to create cushion time for ongoing training and communication”. Add to it, the constant reminders for maintaining the Average Handling Time (AHT) and the outcome you get is ‘unsatisfied customers’.
It is for the sake of the statistics, that most call centres would rather have a customer to make four short calls for four different issues, rather than getting them resolved in the first call.
Such inefficiencies can creep in anytime during the customer care process. Eighty percent of the time you can use the low-cost automated solution. It’s the 20 percent of the time that you have to use the expertise-management solution to effectively use 80 percent of the resources. A unified knowledge management platform culls content from multiple, disparate knowledge sources, including legacy knowledge bases, virus information libraries, case notes, product documentation and manuals, and FAQs. But a disinterested call executive is likely to manoeuvre tools in such a way so as to cause more customer dissatisfaction than a return on investment.
The Solution – opt in Support?
Companies have discovered that support doesn’t necessarily have to be reactive. Opt-in solutions enable companies to become proactive with customer support by reaching out to customers to provide the relevant product and service information. This helps turn support into a two-way interaction that offers customers the information they need when they need it.
Manichand Bhutani, a customer service director at a local Indian call centre in Ahmedabad, admits that his company’s productivity was poor prior to the opt-in solution and other tech-tricks. The four service reps handling emails were simply not prepared for the sudden surge in emails that came as a result of the company making its 275 medical journals available for free online. Within seven months the email volume soared from 1,500 to 6,500 emails per month. The added volume translated into a significant drop in response time: service reps took nine days, on an average, to answer emails.
Providing quality customer service is not child’s play. It is virtually impossible to define fixed parameters to judge the level of service provided, but a consensus should be reached nevertheless. In today’s customer-driven market, we all expect the services to get better, quicker, and more effective. And it is for the call centres to reach customer expectations, but not at the cost of their employees.
Call centre management has to realise that their organisation cannot make customers happy as long as their employees remain unhappy. And the sooner management wakes up to the importance of this symbiotic relationship, the better it is; those who won’t, are surely heading for the scrap heap as they would be losing out on their business and profits in a matter of time. This may be due to the insufficiency of the knowledge management system at their disposal. The wastage can be avoided by using expertise-management solutions.
By Shusmul, Staff Writer in Bangalore