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Call Handling Tips from Sun Tzu

By Mark Bedard October 15, 2015

6 Lessons from "The Art of War" That Can Help You Improve the Caller Experience

Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" has become the most influential and well-known book of strategy ever written since it was first compiled two thousand years ago. Considering how applicable the lessons put forth in the book are in nearly any era to any topic, it’s not really a big surprise that it continues to be relevant. Long beloved by politicians, scholars, and military officers, the book has also more recently became required reading for business managers and executives looking for a competitive edge. Several lessons put forth by Sun Tzu can even help customer experience managers understand call handling best practices.

Here we examine 6 Lessons from "The Art of War" that can help you deliver a better caller experience to your customers:

1."He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight."

To rephrase this using call handling terminology, "The Caller Experience will be excellent if you know where to use automation, and where not to." While the benefits of automation are many (reduced hold times, greater call capacity, lower costs, etc.), many companies choose to force automation on callers even when it is incapable of meeting the situational needs of callers. Companies offering a pleasant caller experience know that automation is suitable in some situations, while live agents and operators are suitable for others. Mapping out the caller experience and strategically allocating automation in select key areas (instead of everywhere) is a good first step. A great next step would be to employ an automation solution that is able to discern when a caller needs the help of an agent or operator and can immediately connect them without having to jump through hoops.

2."Ponder and deliberate before you make a move."

This goes hand in hand with the above lesson. Businesses that don’t take the time to carefully understand their callers' needs, the roles of agents and operators, and the roadblocks to a great caller experience stand little chance of effectively pleasing callers, improving customer satisfaction, and elevating their brand. Those businesses that understand their callers and caller behavior, the role of agents/operators (and the challenges they face), and the full scope of their enterprise voice network are much more well positioned to gain the benefits of high-quality call handling.

3."One may know how to conquer without being able to do it."

Although experienced and knowledgeable contact center or switchboard managers may know everything that's required to implement and manage an effective and caller-friendly call handling solution, many are unprepared for just exactly how time consuming day-to-day management and maintenance of these solutions can be. Many call handling solutions are provided as "off-the-shelf" unmanaged solutions, and without constant vigilance performance can quickly erode leading to a poor caller experience. Directory updates, pronunciation modifications, routing table changes, greeting/dialog updates -- these complex and numerous solution components can quickly overwhelm responsible staff despite their knowledge and skill. Look for a solution that's provided as a managed service to prevent overwhelming management needs from undermining performance.


4."A kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life."

Replace "Kingdom" and "Dead" in that phrase with "Brand." More than 3 out of 4 customer interactions happen over the phone. First impressions are crucial. Customers have instant access to alternative products or services. Social media makes sharing an unpleasant caller experience with thousands of people fast and effortless. All of these facts reinforce one key concept -- the caller experience is as important to your brand as any other aspect of your business, perhaps even the most important. Make sure callers to your company are treated well right from the start -- no hold times, no long instructions and option menus, no buttons to push, and agents and operators available when needed.

5."In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity."

As can be seen in Parlance's latest Caller Experience White Paper, the majority of large businesses in the U.S. are still using 1980's era push button DTMF auto attendants to connect 2015 callers. In the midst of this caller experience chaos there is opportunity to distinguish your brand from the competition via the latest technology, such as virtual agents using speech recognition with natural language capabilities. Giving callers the fast, simple, and intuitive experience they crave and expect says that your company values the customer, and they can expect to be valued in other areas of the business as well.

6."Never venture, never win!"

Oftentimes, an attitude of "It's good enough" pervades caller experience owners in the enterprise. This could be due to any number of reasons -- cost, workload, priorities, etc. Change is difficult, especially when it comes to utilizing new technology such as the latest call handling solutions. But what if no one ever decided to be the first one to try out this new "transistor" thingy in their electronic product? What if no one ever said "Let's build computers people can use at home"? What if no one ever thought how great it would be to walk around with a phone that didn’t have any cords and didn’t need to connect to anything? More often than not, change can be the catalyst for remarkable transformations. Change the way you think about the caller experience and where it lines up on the priorities chart and you could be setting yourself up for a big win.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

Director of Marketing, Parlance Corp.

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