CUSTOMER magazine recently spoke with Mark Miller, contact center practice leader for J.D. Power, a leading market research company. We asked Mark to offer guidance to executives who are challenged to deliver both high customer satisfaction and high containment rates.
How do executives deliver cost reduction through higher self-service containment while also delivering improved customer satisfaction?
We agree with the basic business principle: deliver the best possible service at the least possible cost. While organizations may begin this journey with the best intentions, unfortunately many lose sight of their customer’s satisfaction and cannot resist the temptation to artificially drive
up containment for the short-term cost savings. However, there is a price to be paid for ramping up containment. J.D. Power research finds that organizations employing strategies that achieve high containment in short periods of time typically suffer from lower customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy. Indeed, it is very difficult to ramp up IVR containment quickly by limiting choices and forcing clients to go through longer menus, and simultaneously increase customer satisfaction.
What are some keys to maximizing self-service usage without sacrificing satisfaction?
One key is to take the long view by carefully considering the impact of artificially high containment rates on long- term profitability and competitiveness. Artificially high containment rates are the result of strategies that actively limit customer choice and intentionally delay the ability of customers, who may want and actually need to communicate with a human being to get their needs met, to reach a representative for help.
The better approach is to put a multi-year strategic plan in place to inspire customers to willingly migrate from assisted channels to self-service channels. The premise behind this approach is that it is better to work with loyal customers who may take more time than others to move to self-service channels of their own volition than it is to save some support costs but risk reducing customer satisfaction, which can directly contribute to either the loss?of share of wallet, or worse yet, the loss?of customers. It is far more expensive to replace customers than it is to service them on their terms and maximize inspired self-service usage over time.
There are many approaches that center around the systemic education of customers regarding alternative self- service channels to entice customers to migrate over to those channels on their own, and we support this. Additionally, there are ways to significantly reduce the number of calls from the outset as well as improve the experience of the self-service channel. We are excited to offer such solutions and can help clients take these fundamental steps toward delivering both higher customer satisfaction and lower costs. These steps are integral parts of the multi-year strategy to which we have been referring.
What can help eliminate assisted contacts?
1) Automation can help immediately. When you automate communications to customers, you first get their permission, and then proactively send specific types of information using the customer’s preferred channel(s). The idea is that when customers receive information—such as their balance—before or right when they need it, they are less likely to contact the company for that information.
However, many organizations lack a systematic approach for identifying what information can and should be automated as well as how to execute automation.
2) Analyzing all contact initiation. Conducting root cause analysis to determine what is driving contacts into your organization is necessary in order to maximize potential savings?by reducing contacts. Eliminating the need for contact can also substantially improve customer satisfaction. J.D. Power works with clients to ultimately reduce the number of contacts needed on a customer-by-customer basis.
3) One-click transactions. Services like Amazon Prime allow clients to see items of interest and simply click?on the purchase button to utilize previously stored information to complete a transaction. The same concept can be applied to the service industry for customers to perform such tasks as paying bills, making inquiries, and requesting resolution to specific issues.
4) Improve self-service. As previously mentioned, knowing what customers want and expect, and delivering upon that can help keep more customers engaged and encourage them to turn to your website first for solutions. We help clients identify what is most important to customers in the self-service channels. We also help clients take the specific steps needed to address their gaps and encourage more self-service usage.
J.D. Power can help your company decrease its total assisted contacts, which can improve customer satisfaction, reduce costs, and improve revenue.
To learn about J.D. Power’s suite of solutions for the contact center industry, visit jdpower.com/contactcenter.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi