In this article Paul Weald, Customer Service Innovator, outlines several techniques to avoid getting repeat calls.
When considering what improvements to prioritize, it’s popular for a contact centre manager to focus on self-serve, the latest innovations in AI and/or giving agents the right tools to resolve as many calls as possible first time.
These are all laudable aims; however, the risk is that you could become blind-spotted to how much true value-adding demand is actually being generated.
Do customers really want to contact you to find out why a delivery hasn’t arrived, or a refund hasn’t been received or the bins haven’t been collected on refuse-collection day?
Probably not, with the point being that these are all examples of failure demand, which have arisen because of organizational mistakes or poor communications. The common factor across all these scenarios is that the contact could have been avoided.
And for you as contact centre managers, it is important to remember not to treat all demand as a given.
The smart approach is to identify the root causes that generate repeat contact and then work across the organization to continuously improve those processes, so that they don’t happen again in the future.
The Relative Importance of Next-Issue Avoidance
If you look at the way that you treat contact as being steps in a funnel, then the first thing to do is actually try to eradicate demand at the ‘point of failure’.
This could be through eliminating those organizational mistakes that are the catalyst for contact, as well as proactively managing ongoing workflow cases to reduce the probability of a follow-up progress-chasing enquiry.
Neither of these scenarios is value adding, and they are both candidates for improvement. If you are effective in achieving next-issue avoidance, then you should expect overall demand to reduce, leaving you with a core of enquiries that either add value to customer or add value to the organization.
This is where the downstream activities of self-serve make sense for processes that are high value for the customer (but low value to the organization) as well as all those assisted service scenarios which are handled by agents (regardless of whether those resources are insourced, outsourced or crowd-sourced through customers helping customers).
How Do You Tackle Next-Issue Avoidance?
As a consultant, I often say to clients that if these issues were easy to solve then you wouldn’t need our help. And this is very true for understanding those factors that cause failure demand and repeat calls, as well as then having robust procedures in place to act upon this insight to actually eliminate the root causes of unwanted demand.
So to illustrate the steps required, I’ll take you through the elements of a recent client project.
Understanding the Root Cause
So far so good, and not really something the client needed consulting help with. But the clever part was to set up a ‘close the loop’ squad – involving stakeholders across the organization – to understand the frequency of issues that were causing repeat contact to the frontline.
The squad used insight from the Quality and CX teams – using speech analytics – to classify not only the specific intent but also to discuss and agree on the failure scenario that was the catalyst for contact.
One example they found was that existing customers who were looking to upgrade their mobile handset were calling back multiple times when the phone that they wanted was out of stock.
The current online process just returned stock availability results at that moment in time, with no ability for the user to request a notification when the item that they were interested in became available.
The unintended consequence was that customers looked for alternative sources of information, and that was to call the contact centre.
It was a legitimate reason for the enquiry – given that the customer wanted to renew their contract – but was not something the contact centre agent could resolve, as the information they had on stock levels was exactly the same as the user was seeing online. It ticked that CX box of being a ‘digital-first’ strategy, but was the root cause of avoidable contact.
What the ‘close the loop’ squad determined was that the long-term solution for this particular issue was to set up a notification process – available through the app – to alert the customer when the phone they want to buy is going to be in stock.
What this will do is manage user expectations around lead times – which is the classic ‘use case’ for eliminating progress-chasing calls.
What the team did next was to extrapolate the frequency of frontline contact arising from the ‘out of stock’ scenario in order to determine the priority for making this digital change.
It ranked highly from a continuous improvement perspective to not only reduce operational cost (by eliminating demand) but also by having positive commercial outcomes (by increasing customer spend).
For the best ways to establish the root cause of a problem, read our article: Contact Centre Problem-Solving: 7 Steps to Improve Root-Cause Analysis
Re-imagining the Continuous Improvement (CI) Process
So how could you create the equivalent of a resolution squad in your organization, in order to identify the root causes of avoidable contact? To do this requires a combination of the right talent plus the right tools, across the following three steps:
As contact centre managers, if you put all these items together then you will have a self-sustaining approach to consciously scan the drivers of demand and categorize them not only in terms of value but also in terms of identifying and managing next-issue avoidance.
It’s not easy to achieve, but it will make your organization more effortless and effective for customers when you succeed. Best of luck.
Thanks to Paul Weald, Contact Centre Innovator, for this insightful article.
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