Time to talk? Automating Customer Conversations Could Be a Big Mistake

In the increasingly digitized consumer and business world, personal communications count for a lot.

Customer Service Representative

If a business has a choice of digitizing one of their services to save human resource, they’ll often go for it. They think it’s quicker, more efficient, and safer than using people, avoiding all the risks of human error that entails.

But this could be a big mistake for when it comes to handling the phones; we know that nothing beats the human voice.

This was the message we received when we asked research gurus Deloitte to survey our small business customers to find out how they thought their experiences of call centres could be improved.

Responses made it clear to us that in the main, people do not like IVRs. Why? They’re often time-consuming, unhelpful and inflexible.

If you have a problem that doesn’t fit in exactly with the categories the IVR is set up to deal with, you won’t be able to discover the information you need. Which means you’ll end up spending precious time on a phone call during which you are presented with irrelevant options. What business can afford to waste time like that?

People who phone a business asking for help want to have a real conversation with a person that understands their needs. But how can call centre companies afford to deliver this service? The answer is simple: you need to be well organised and prepare a good training programme for your employees.

As you would expect, this is easier said than done. Too many companies give employees a brief training session to introduce them to handling the phones before throwing them into the deep end. However, this misses an important learning opportunity.

If staff are advising disappointed customers, it’s key that they know what they are talking about. This is why training programmes must include detailed advice not only on the products the business provides but also about the values it embodies. Your employees are your ambassadors and need to understand who they represent in order to achieve key business goals, the golden goal in particular, being customer satisfaction.

Humanising call centres can lead to developing better relationships with customers. Having informed, helpful and well-mannered employees will help but relationships take time to develop and quality contact and communication will help establish this.

Employers should ensure that here are processes in place that enable customers to get to know your employees. Some large call centres employ people specifically to answer specific questions from a specific client base – but usually only large corporations have ability to do this. Small to medium sized businesses should glean learning from this dedicated team approach, for they are least able to afford to waste time on IVRs that aren’t working. When a smaller scale business is dealing with a customer issue it should know who can confidently and best handle that phone call.

A misguided focus on cutting costs above everything else can lead to inadequate customer service. In the increasingly digitzed consumer and business world, personal communications count for a lot and can really help a company shine and stand apart from automated, faceless corporations.

About the Author

Saeed Sheikh is Account Management Director of XLN. XLN is a fast growing UK company having already supplied phone lines, broadband, mobile, card processing and energy to over 250,000 small businesses. Founded by Christian Nellemann as XLN Telecom in 2002, XLN set out to change the stranglehold that expensive consumer giants had on small businesses and their expenditure on essential services.

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