Reduce Payroll While Improving the Self Service Experience

Don’t Let Your User Self Service Experience Backfire

With the mad shift to pushing customers to self-service channels, many companies are hurting their overall customer satisfaction and reducing customer retention by creating a poor user experience.

How One Company Reduced Non-Revenue Calls & Reduced Payroll

Due to increased call volume, one of our eCommerce clients was just about to add more customer service reps (CSRs) and payroll to their current staffing schedule. However, when we broke down the reasons for their calls, we found that a significant number were not calling to place orders (revenue generating calls) but rather calling to complain about service defects that they couldn’t resolve online.

The first issue was that when customers purchased a product, the order would default to a monthly subscription, and it was not obvious to the customer. They wouldn’t be informed of it until another order showed up the following month, and their credit card was billed. This resulted in the second issue: customers could not cancel their subscriptions online. The third major reason customers were calling was the company’s “next day air” option failed to explain that if a customer ordered a product after 4 pm, it wouldn’t arrive the next day.

All these service defects were easy fixes on their website, reducing over 25% of their call volume (all non-revenue), eliminating the need to add more CSR staff and increasing payroll. Even better, there was a dramatic decrease in customer complaints, resulting in higher employee morale.

Why Customers Call

Understanding why customers call is crucial for improving customer service, enhancing product offerings, and increasing overall satisfaction. It can also make your customer service reps (CSR) more revenue-efficient and keep your contact center’s payroll under control. A vital report to commonly review is a breakdown of why customers call.  For example:

  • Ordering product – Customers call to make purchases and get clarity on product offerings.
  • Product Issues – Customers call about incorrect quantity received to defective products.
  • Billing and Payments – Customers call regarding issues with incorrect billing, overcharges, or unclear billing statements.
  • Order and Shipping – Customers often call to check the status of their orders or delivery timelines.
  • Account Management – Customers experience difficulties setting up accounts or accessing existing ones and password reset.
  • Technical Support – Customers need assistance with technical problems related to software or hardware.
  • General Inquiries – Customers inquire about product specifications, availability, and compatibility. As well as seeking sought information about services offered, pricing, and policies.

At the end of the day, all calls can be placed into two primary categories: 1) Revenue calls and 2) non-revenue calls. The key is reducing non-revenue calls by eliminating service defects on your website and making it simple and quick for customers to get their questions answered without having to call your organization.

Recommendations

  1. Run & review a weekly report on why customers call.
  2. Learn what frustrates your customers
  3. Build strategies that properly address the non-revenue calls. For example:
    • Enhance Quality Control – Implement stricter quality checks to reduce the number of defective products reaching customers.
    • Improve Customer Support Resources – Develop comprehensive guides, video tutorials, and FAQs to help customers with installation, setup, and technical issues.
    • Ensure customer service representatives are well-trained to handle common inquiries efficiently and empathetically.
    • Revise Billing Processes – Simplify billing statements and ensure transparency in charges to minimize billing-related calls. Introduce automated systems to detect and rectify billing errors promptly.
    • Optimize Order Tracking – Improve the order tracking system to provide real-time updates and notifications to customers. Partner with reliable shipping services to ensure timely and accurate deliveries.
    • Expand Self-Service Capabilities – Enhance the website and mobile app to support more self-service options for account management and troubleshooting.
    • Regular Feedback Collection – Implement mechanisms for regular feedback collection to continuously identify and address customer pain points.
  4. Automate low-hanging fruit
  5. Always maintain a human touch option

Addressing the primary reasons for customer calls requires a multi-faceted approach involving quality control, customer education, clear communication, and enhanced self-service options. By implementing the recommended strategies, the company can reduce call volume, improve customer satisfaction, and foster loyalty.

One of the best resources for customer feedback is not surveys

Communicating with a customer service rep (CSR) over the phone is the place where customers share the most. AsLeader Storytelling, The DiJulius Group leaders, we need to do more than just encourage our CSRs to share feedback when they hear it; we need to set up 30-minute, intimate focus groups regularly (i.e., monthly) to allow them to share what they hear. For example, our CSRs will know what part of the buying process frustrates customers the most. Employees want to share and feel heard. They want to feel like an important part of the organization, even if they are “front-line.” They are customer-facing, which means what they hear is gold. What they tell you can be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to the organization. All you need to do is ask them, and listen.

How AI is Revolutionizing Customer Experience 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are not only here, but if it’s not already a major part of your business strategy moving forward, you may be in danger of becoming the next Kodak. According to an article in Craving Tech, organizations that have integrated AI into their operations saw a 25% boost in customer satisfaction in 2023. AI is transforming customer service by taking over tasks traditionally done by humans, such as speech recognition, empathy, and decision-making.

AI is not the end of Call Centers, it is Making them Better

AI is not set to eliminate contact centers but will lead to the emergence of Collaborative AI. Today more contact centers are marrying the agent experiences that leverage Collaborative AI. This approach merges the capabilities of both human and machine intelligence to improve problem-solving, decision-making, and overall effectiveness. It is already prevalent in sectors such as healthcare, manufacturing, research, finance, and contact centers.

Customer Service Reps Rank as one of the Lowest in Job Satisfaction

This shouldn’t surprise many, according to CareerExplorer, Customer Service Reps (CSRs) are one of the least happiest in their careers in the US. CareerExplorer conducted a survey with millions of people and asked them how satisfied they are with their careers. CSRs rated their career in the bottom 2% of all careers in happiness with an average score of 2.3 (out of 5).

The Impact Empathy has on Customer Loyalty

Empathy is fundamental in customer service for fostering trust and forming emotional bonds with customers. Research from Harvard Business Review indicates that emotionally connected customers are 52% more valuable than merely satisfied ones. A PwC study revealed that 73% of consumers would leave a brand lacking personal engagement, while Qualtrics found that 86% of customers are willing to pay more for empathetic customer service.

AI Coaching Customer-Facing Employees on Empathy

The article cites how companies such as the telecommunications leader Cox Communications and the telemarketing giant Teleperformance are utilizing AI to assess the empathy exhibited by call center agents, incorporating these evaluations into performance assessments. “The benefits of the new technology could be transformative. In customer service, bots trained to provide thoughtful suggestions could elevate consumer interactions instantly, boosting sales and customer satisfaction,” the WSJ article said.

It is like Having a CX Coach on Zoom

The Wall Street Journal article also shared how Uniphore, a Palo Alto, California-based company specializing in enterprise AI, offers an AI-powered virtual meeting assistant designed to monitor the emotional reactions of participants during a call. This tool aids the meeting host by providing immediate insights into who is engaged or disengaged, and which parts of the presentation are having an impact. It evaluates emotional indicators such as anger, happiness, and confusion by examining facial expressions, tone of voice, and spoken words. A dashboard visible on the host’s screen displays the sentiment and engagement levels of each participant and offers suggestions for the presenter to adjust their pace, demonstrate greater empathy, or implement other modifications.

By Improving the Customer Experience, Employee Satisfaction Increases

While artificial intelligence is already improving the customer experience, at the same time it can dramatically improve the employee satisfaction over the next decade. Tedious tasks that once took agents hours upon hours to complete—be it boring data entry or replying to repetitive questions—will be relegated to computers. There are numerous ways in which AI will impact the employee experience and boost employee satisfaction, in turn helping them create a best-in-class customer experience. AI will make the role of customer service agent far more rewarding and enjoyable.

Some of the biggest factors that make an employee frustrated and unhappy includes tasks filled with monotonous repetition and too much time spent info-searching across numerous systems. Harald Henn, CEO of Marketing Resultant, points out that “AI can support employees by eliminating tedious search tasks. AI-based “internal search systems” will find relevant information in a fraction of the time.” AI chatbots will handle those simple, monotonous tasks in real-time, freeing the employee from the tedium of repetition and creating a more positive employee experience.

How AI can help with Demanding, even Angry Customers

Another example of how AI can help reduce employee stress is when customers get angry or become very demanding. Employees feel pressure from the customer to find the necessary information as fast as possible. And during peak days or seasonal rushes, answering the same question hundreds of times a day doesn’t make any employee happy. AI will eliminate most if not all these transactions, such as delivery status questions, freeing up customer service representatives to focus on the more complex, rewarding tasks that require human attention and a deep understanding of customer needs.

In her blog, How AI Will Improve the Employee Experience This Decade, Kaila Krayewski shares, “The capabilities of AI can go far beyond automating simple, repetitive tasks if we consider how AI can work together with humans to create a team of what are essentially super employees.”

“Improving the employee experience can boost your business in a big way. It’s clear that AI can make employees happier. By taking away repetitive tasks, AI can work together with humans to augment their work, making them faster and more effective at every task,” said Krayewski.

AI will boost employee engagement. It will allow team members to bring their best traits to the workplace, with less focus on routine tasks leading to more time for solving customer issues and genuinely being there for them on an emotional level. Employees will bring the best of their humanity to each customer interaction. In theory, at least, this scenario will work well for everyone, particularly frontline employees.

Related article: CUSTOMER COMPLAINTS: THE SOUND OF SILENCE IN CORPORATE COMMUNICATION

Doing More with Less

Artificial Intelligence can help front line employees be more efficient and productive, which potentially means less staff will be needed. For example, bots functioning as therapists could mitigate the critical shortage of mental health professionals and provide support to individuals who otherwise lack access to care.

Agent assistance benefits from AI by helping agents understand customer needs in today’s multi-channel contact centers. AI sifts through knowledge bases during calls to find relevant information, which is then displayed on the agent’s screen. This not only saves time but also reduces costs by streamlining interactions and decreasing average handling times.

Chatbots are not only beneficial for customers but also for businesses, reducing the resolution time for simple queries and cutting costs by up to 30%. A PWC study found that 34% of business leaders report a decreased workload thanks to chatbots.

Let’s say you are calling a health care system, who have hundreds of different physicians, therapists, and service providers. AI can recognize the patient by caller ID, pull up their history for the agent, display the service provider the patient typically sees, and immediately show dates and times available to book an appointment.

Morgan Stanley, a prominent financial institution in the U.S., has implemented an AI-driven chatbot for internal use to enable employees to quickly access corporate knowledge. This tool aggregates information from multiple sources, offering workers a centralized location to find the necessary data.

AI can also listen in on a customer’s call and act as a search engine to a company’s database, website, and their product/service offerings, immediately populating potential answers to clients’ questions that the agent can pull from.

The impact of automation cannot be denied. There is no arguing that machines and AI are faster, cheaper, and more efficient. And they make fewer mistakes than humans. When a bank started using chatbots to handle more than 1.5 million claim requests each year, it found that the work of 85 bots was equal to the output of 200 full-time human employees…at only 30 percent of the cost.

Shockingly More and More Customers are Willing to Deal with AI

A great percentage of customers are becoming more accepting of dealing with AI and chatbots, especially as the younger generations (Millenials & Gen Z) represent more of businesses’ customer base and the older generations (boomers and silent), who many have been technology resistant, become less. Today only 42% of consumers still prefer human customer service representatives to AI alternatives, Servion survey reported. While a Capgemini survey found that over 70% of customers favor voice assistants that mimic human interactions, emphasizing the demand for emotional engagement through technology.

Self-service options powered by AI allow customers to resolve their issues at their convenience without the need for a live agent. AI’s ability to enable self-service is growing, offering users autonomy in addressing their concerns.

Chatbots offer convenience for users who prefer digital communication over traditional phone calls, providing services directly on their mobile devices. AI excels in automating routine inquiries, freeing up human employees for more complex issues.

The integration of AI across customer service channels is set to increase as clients become more accustomed to AI interactions, helping businesses improve efficiency and service quality. Juniper Research predicts that bots could save various industries about $11 billion in costs.

The rise of AI in customer service signifies a shift in how businesses engage with their customers. However, it’s essential to remember that AI is not here to replace human agents but to enhance the customer service journey. By combining AI with human expertise, businesses can offer exceptional experiences that foster loyalty.

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Employee eXperience Executive Academy Launches this September leadership academy

Starting this fall will be our first Employee eXperience Executive Academy (EXEA) Class.  Guided by the renowned DiJulius Group, this comprehensive program empowers leaders, HR teams, and emerging managers to create a workplace where inspiration thrives, teams are fulfilled, and growth is inevitable. Through our years of experience, we have seen many companies miss opportunities for leadership development, resulting in “accidental” managers who struggle to lead effectively.  Through no fault of their own, these leaders add to the complexity of attracting and retaining top talent, impacting business growth and success.

Episode 162 of The Customer Service Revolution Podcast: The Achieving Customer Amazement Study

Video of the Week: How well do you train new employees on customer service

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11 July:       Building & Developing Great Leaders

25 July:      Leaving a Leadership Legacy

12 September:  Training Your Employees on the Critical Soft Skills Needed Today

26 September:  Selling as an Experience

10 October:  Turning your Contact Center into a Relationship Center

24 October:  Creating Your Signature Experience

14 November:  Forget Customer Surveys; Learn Real CX KPI’s

6 December:  Service Recover Never and Always

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About The Author

John DiJulius

John R. DiJulius is a best-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker and President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on Customer experience trends and best practices.