(Note: This article is a
contribution from a NACC member. We appreciate and encourage
member contributions to the In Queue newsletter and are open to any and
all topic ideas. ~ Editor)
When I started my call center career, I was confident I would do
well. After all, I had been speaking to people on the phone for
most of my life. I passed the employer’s call center exam and was
considered certified. But nothing really had me prepared for that first
customer call. I froze as soon as I picked up the phone despite the
fact that I had the call script right in front of my face, my
information binder was within easy reach to my left, and the computer
screen was right where it should be. The lady on the other end of
the call said hello, and when I didn’t respond she waited a few more
seconds and repeated hello again. I finally responded to her and
then wasn’t sure what to do next.
The reason I froze up on that first call was probably because I wasn’t
sure how to use all the information I was given during training. The
training itself consisted of four weeks in a classroom, then one week
shadowing an experienced agent. I thought I was prepared, but
looking back it’s clear that I wasn’t. I asked some of the other
new agents that went through training with me if the felt they were
adequately prepared for the job and was surprised to find how many of
them felt just like me. Despite all the information they had,
like me, they didn’t feel they were ready for the job.
When we overwhelm our audience with too much of information, they can’t
tell the difference between information that’s good to know and
information they have to know in order to perform their jobs.
When I became a contact center trainer, I was dependent in large part
on on-the-job-training but I was eventually able to refine my skills to
the point of developing training materials and facilitating training
classes. What eventually worked for me was removing the lengthy
manuals and large PowerPoint slide decks and replacing them with
frequently asked questions (FAQ) references and other quick reference
I converted the lengthy materials into something much more manageable
by focusing on what brought value to the customer and the agent.
If the information wasn’t essential to doing the best job possible, it
Today I don’t take customer calls, so I depend on quality assurance,
supervisors, team leads and the agents themselves to assist me in
constantly identifying training needs and refining training
programs. The one rule that has helped me the most in creating
and constantly improving training programs is a rule that everyone can
follow. Keep it simple!
Web Self-Service Driving Up Telephone Calls
Walt Tetschner, Principal, Tern Systems and Editor, ASRNews
A Verint blog posting by Paul Stockford
discussed research data that indicated that the use of the telephone
for customer service was increasing significantly. Paul
speculated that this was being driven by the Gen Z (which prefers the
telephone) usage increase. A Nuance blog posting by Josefine Fouarge concluded that the increase in telephone callers for customer service was being driven by the poor chatbot implementations.
We published an article in the February, 2014 issue of ASRNews that
discussed this topic. We’ve updated this article with data from
2019 and provided the updated article below
Industry myth is, that as the use of web self-service grows, that calls
to the call center will decline. The belief is based on the premise
that web self-service is a 1:1 replacement of call center self-service.
Like most speech industry myths, virtually no data exists that would
substantiate this. A comprehensive study that was performed a few years
ago at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) examined the behavior of 4
million insurance customers in an actual customer service setting. This
was actual data from real callers. This is documented in a paper titled
Impact of Customer Web Portals on Call Center: An Empirical analysis. https://www.heinz.cmu.edu/~rtelang/Web-portal.pdf
What is found is that consumers will much more readily go to a website
for a customer service item than make a telephone call. They will go to
a website for customer service for something that they would never
dream of calling about. This means that with web self-service, the
number of customer service requests increases dramatically. When the
customers reach the support website, they will typically encounter much
more information than they need. This additional information can create
uncertainty leading to customers then seeking more information and
hence making more telephone calls. The net result is that the number of
telephone calls can actually increase by providing web self-service.
The amount of telephone call increase that occurs is dependent to some
extent on the quality of the web self-service site. If the information
is unambiguous and easily retrievable on the web, then the additional
telephone calls are reduced and some replacement of telephone calls
occurs. However, for ambiguous information, the telephone calls
increase substantially. Considering the quality state of most web
self-service sites, it should be apparent that telephone traffic is
likely to increase significantly during the next few years. Web
self-service is likely to replace the low-value end of the IVR calls.
Checking hours of operation, for example, is a simple function that can
be done more readily via web self-service. The telephone calls that are
the result of website confusion, are more likely to be higher-end calls
where the caller is looking for a human. To handle these calls with
self-service, a natural language (NL) interface is essential. From
Figure 1.33b, it is projected that web self-service will increase at a
CAGR of 25% during the next five years, while telephone traffic will
increase at just over 5% annually during the same time period. It
should be noted that the voice telephone mechanism will still account
for almost two-thirds (66.4%) of the total self-service transactions in
Figure 1.33b Customer Service transactions by telephone vs web 2016-2023
The fact that we have different explanations for what is causing
telephone calls to self-service to increase is not as important as
recognizing that we agree that the call volume is increasing and that
we need to focus on handling this increased call volume properly.
New Report Available To NACC Members: Four Major Contact Center Trends For 2019
Stockford, Research Director, NACC and Chief Analyst, Saddletree
NACC members now have the ability
to download a recent Saddletree Research report that covers four major
contact center industry trends for 2019. The report can be found
here and is accessible to NACC members with a valid user name and
password. The Executive Summary of the report is reproduced below.
During the third quarter of each calendar year, Saddletree Research
undertakes a research project that seeks to identify trends, issues,
and technologies that are of importance to contact center professionals
in the year ahead. This research is conducted in conjunction with
the National Association of Call Centers (NACC) at Middle Tennessee
Prior to the launch of formal survey work, Saddletree Research conducts
a series of unstructured phone interviews that typically provide
important insights relative to the direction our research project must
take. 2018 was no different. Our telephone interviews
revealed to us the relative importance of several trends and solutions
that are on the collective minds of contact center professionals.
The top four of these trends, mentioned by more research participants
than any others, are as follows:
We validated the importance of these trends in the formal survey work
that followed the more informal telephone calls. The data, and
other issues of importance revealed by survey participants are detailed
in this report.
In This Issue...
5 Contact Center Challenges
Could Use Your Help
Traffic Not Going Away
"Welcome those big, sticky, complicated problems. In them are your most powerful opportunities."
~ Ralph Marston
NACC has been burning
the midnight oil and typing until our fingers are sore to bring out
reports to our members. Each is listed below. If you are interested to
see what we are writing about, click on the links
below and download the executive summary of each. If you like
what you see, join the NACC so that you can view these reports and
others that will be coming out soon on our website. These reports will
you know the latest trends in the industry.