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No one likes having to call customer service. From wading through endless menu options, to shouting “rep!” into the phone repeatedly, to spend the whole afternoon on hold, there are many problems and pitfalls that frustrate customers.

With a little planning, customer interactions can be turned into a satisfying and enjoyable experience. Here are some of the most common issues with call centers and what you can do to fix them.

Data unification

When a customer calls many companies, the first thing they are usually asked to do is provide some basic information to confirm their account. There can be several different levels in this process, like saying or entering their account number, phone number, PIN, date of birth, etc.

The next step is to determine the reason for their call. This is where the endless menu options come in, taking the customer down a rabbit hole of more and more specific categories until they reach the one that best matches their problem.

Then, once they are finally connected with a customer service agent, they are forced to start over. The representative asks them all the same credentials to access their account and walks them through the problem they are having.

At this point, if they need to be transferred to another rep or department, they have to start all over again, explaining their entire problem from the beginning, often including detailing the steps the first rep has already taken them.

A common root issue causing this issue is the use of disparate software systems for the interactive voice response (IVR) solution that live reps use when dealing with customers. By integrating all the information from both channels into your overall CRM platform, you can make the process much more efficient and smooth for everyone involved.

As soon as the customer is connected to a representative, the representative automatically receives all the information of his account. They know who they are, the problem and what has already been done to help them. This, in turn, helps calls flow more smoothly and get resolved faster.

Automation issues

To reduce call center costs, companies try to automate the process as much as possible. It makes sense on the face of it, but often that’s where that rabbit hole of menu options comes from that frustrates customers. The more a customer can take care of their trip without needing a representative, the more efficient the process and the less it costs the company.

However, the reality is that even with an extensive menu of automated options, around 35-40% of calls still require human assistance. Meanwhile, companies that emphasize automation tend to make it nearly impossible to get a rep. Rather than saving money, it just leads to bad business reviews.

As artificial intelligence evolves, automated systems become more sophisticated and able to handle more customer issues. However, it’s important to note that they’re still not quite at the level your business might be hoping for.

Even if the automated system is able to help the customer, some people are just not comfortable with the AI-generated responses and don’t navigate them well. This uncomfortable customer experience ultimately leads to hitting the pound or zero digit with a lot of aggression. Therefore, customer service representatives should always be easily accessible to those who want them.

A better contact center experience

As mentioned earlier, a much better method of streamlining calls is related to importing a customer’s account information, but it goes even further. A good analytics tool can help predict what the customer might call based on their existing data. It’s not foolproof, but there are often clues in their recent activity as to what they might want:

  • Is their bill nearly due or overdue? They probably have a question about it.
  • Did he just buy a product from you? They might have trouble getting it to work properly.
  • Did they order a three month supply of something about three months ago? They might ask for a refill.

There are many other clues in a client’s account that can provide insight into what they need. A rep viewing their account for the first time may miss these clues, but a smart system leveraging existing customer data can surface relevant data to give the rep some basic insight when they take the call. This can save time and hassle, helping the rep take care of the customer faster and more efficiently, which ultimately leads to better satisfaction.

Businesses can gain insight into their mood and temperament by monitoring customer interactions with the automated system before contacting the live representative. In particular, by monitoring voice inflections and speed as they speak with an IVR system.

If the caller gets to the point where he shouts, “Rep!” repeatedly, it is clear that they are angry and frustrated. By alerting the rep to this fact, they are not surprised and better equipped to calm the customer down with a wealth of data at their fingertips.

Omnichannel contact centers bring flexibility

Another essential aspect of customer service in today’s world is flexibility. For some customers, talking on the phone is a burden. Many companies have expanded their customer service to include an online chat option. It’s a good start, but it only scratches the surface of what’s possible.

Some customers who want to connect with a business turn to social media. It is important to have representatives ready to respond to comments, inquiries and other postings and to ensure that clients receive the care they seek.

Other customers may prefer to communicate via SMS or email. No matter what they’re most comfortable with, it’s important to be prepared to offer them that option. In this way, companies go beyond the traditional call center to omnichannel contact centers, equipped to make any type of customer communication smooth and seamless.

It can also help improve efficiency. In a legacy call center, reps can only answer one call at a time. On text-based platforms, such as chat or text, a single representative can help three or four customers at a time.

Conclusion

Call centers and their technology have evolved by leaps and bounds in recent years. Familiar issues that frustrate customers and drive them away no longer have to be endured. With the right resources and planning, businesses can create a full-service contact center that resolves customer issues quickly and efficiently while saving money and increasing overall satisfaction.