Companies need to make the right “call” when transforming contact center operations

In the first installment of a series of articles on thought leadership, Tvrtko Stosic, a consultant with Avaya’s International Specialists Group, outlines the practices and steps companies need to take in an effort to effectively transform the operations of their contact centers in the experience economy.

What could be worse than spending tens of minutes or even over an hour waiting for companies to pick up the phone? Finally, reaching a contact center employee to be put on hold multiple times as the agent frantically works to resolve the request.

It’s a surefire way to lose customers and face reputational damage once disrespected consumers take their complaints to social media.

That’s why average handle time (AHT) — the time agents spend handling a customer interaction — has always been both a top priority and a challenge for contact centers. It’s one that demands the right balance between quickly resolving interactions and ensuring the outcome is the best-case scenario for all parties.

In terms of customer experience (CX), a high AHT most often reflects a need for callers to make an increased effort to resolve their issues, leading to frustrations and broken relationships with a brand.

It also hurts the employee experience (EX), as workers are driven to exhaustion to get through what could be simple interactions. As a result, contact centers inevitably find it harder to meet their service level (SL) goals.

From an operational perspective, AHT is a critical cost driver for contact centers, and just a few seconds gained or lost on each call can have a major impact on the bottom line over a period of weeks, months or years. .

Many factors contribute to high AHTs. But while issues like inexperience and insufficient training exist in pockets, in the majority of cases, agents are limited — and often even inhibited — by the tools they use to serve customers.

This represents an opportunity for organizations to leverage their digitization efforts over the past few years and empower agents with tools such as automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI) to serve as digital colleagues. when engaging customers.

For example, by building a very basic contextual tool into their customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, contact centers can instantly provide customer information to the agent handling the call. This means workers don’t have to wade through various interfaces to find relevant information, saving up to a minute per call. For a business handling over 30,000 calls per day, this simple feature has a huge impact on productivity.

Going one step further, contact centers can add robotic process automation to the mix, saving agents from dealing with dozens of different applications. Instead, they can resolve even complex queries through a single interface, with routine and administrative tasks performed automatically in the background. This can be further enhanced with contextual knowledge management that offers personalized insights to enable employees to deliver a personalized experience to each caller, and AI-powered assistants that process communication in real time to guide agents through tricky situations.

A large European telecommunications company, Avaya customer, dramatically reduced AHT by transforming user experience (UX) design; it has integrated dozens of apps into a central agent desktop to ensure workers have instant access to all relevant customer data as soon as customer contact is made. Rather than traversing multiple interfaces, agents receive the right details in real time, by automating the communication of information between these applications. It also exposed troubleshooting apps to agents; employees were then prepared to deal with much more complex requests without seeking help from their colleagues, which resulted in the added benefit of increased First Contact Resolution (FCR).

It is important to note that not all increases in AHT are negative. In fact, most companies are willing to accept higher AHTs if it improves first contact resolution (FCR) rates or drives new sales service opportunities. Added perks may take a little longer initially, but will lead to long-term improvements as customers won’t be required to re-engage, freeing up agents to focus on new inquiries.

Technological advances – and in particular advances in automation, machine learning, and AI – create an opportunity for contact centers to control and reduce AHT. It goes beyond an “optimized” experience, but instead takes advantage of next-level technology that helps you adapt quickly to whatever comes next.