5 Ways of improving handling times this Christmas
We’re now into the busiest time of year for retail, with contact centers facing huge volumes of incoming queries from consumers on the phone, email, Twitter, Facebook and chat channels. This means that even if companies deploy effective web self-service systems to provide consumers with fast, consistent answers to their most commonly asked questions, they still have to respond to an enormous number of interactions during the Peak period.
Additionally, while customers are always demanding, the time they are willing to wait for an answer is even shorter at Christmas. Fail to provide a quick response to their question, and they are likely to take their business elsewhere, with a corresponding impact on sales and revenues.
Given this pressure, retailers need to balance reducing handling times while at the same time ensuring that customers receive a helpful, informative response to their query if they are to retain their business. Based on my experience working with contact centers, I can recommend these five areas to help improve handling times:
1. Automatically provide the best templates to agents
Asking agents to draft individual responses, from scratch, to every question they receive, will dramatically add to workloads and response times. Moreover, it is likely to impact consistency and accuracy. Instead you can empower agents by analyzing incoming emails and provide the best template from your knowledge base to answer the particular query. It can then be personalized and sent by the agent, saving time and ensuring consistency. And to make sure you are providing the best answer, give agents the chance to provide feedback on the template and suggest improvements if it needs changing. This will save even more time moving forward.
2. Deliver the same answer to multiple customers at once
Often, many consumers will have asked the same question and therefore require the same answer. Look at setting up ways of selecting all of those identical interactions and automatically providing them with the same response, personalized to their name and channel. Again, this saves time without impacting the service provided.
3. Assign incoming queries automatically to agents
Faced with a list of tasks, it is human nature to start with the easy ones, and contact center agents are no different to the rest of us in this respect. So at busy times remove the choice and automatically assign the oldest interactions to the next available agent, ensuring that any potential backlogs are avoided. If you use linguistic-based customer service software you can take this a step further and automatically assign particular interactions to staff with the skills and knowledge to best answer them.
4. Remove duplication by showing the whole contact history
As we’ve said, customers want a fast response, and if they don’t receive an answer quickly then they may well make contact again, either on the same or another channel. Research carried out by Eptica found that over half (58%) of U.S. consumers expect a response to their email within 2 hours, and 51% want an answer on Twitter in just 30 minutes. No wonder that 10% of pending interactions can be ‘chaser’ emails or social media messages. Therefore, ensure you can view all open requests from the same customer, and can close them all when you respond, to avoid answering multiple times. This should have a dramatic effect on your queue, helping to reduce it significantly while improving service levels.
5. Involve experts from beyond the contact center
Even with a comprehensive knowledge base you can get questions that the contact center cannot immediately answer. In this case you need to involve subject experts from the wider organization, and use their skills and experience to provide a comprehensive response. Make sure your system allows you to both forward on such interactions to these experts, but that it also tracks their responses and ensures they reply in a timely manner. Inform the customer of your course of action as you forward the question on, keeping them in the loop and demonstrating that you value their query and it hasn’t just been ignored.
I’m sure many contact center managers and agents have equally useful tips and tricks – why not share them below in the comments section to help us all improve customer service this Christmas?