Streamlining the Customer Experience

Streamline is defined by Merrian-Webster Dictionary as “to make (something) simpler, more effective, or more productive”.   When customers reach out to a contact center for support, they want their issues resolved both quickly and accurately.  Streamlining the customer experience should be a goal in contact centers in order to help ensure that customers are consistently satisfied with their interactions.  This should including making the interactions with the contact center simpler and more effective, which should help lead to higher customer satisfaction and ideally, higher customer retention.

Contact centers often measure issue resolution time by total agent handling time rather than total time between when the issue was opened to the time it was closed.  In the two examples below, the actual handle time (when someone was physically working on the issue) was very short for each.  However, from the customer’s perspective, the total time to resolve was 18 days for Issue one and 10 days for issue two.  Without visibility to the total resolution time, a contact center may believe they are handling issues inefficiently, which may not show a correlation to customer dissatisfaction as relayed in surveys.

Streamlining the Customer Experience image Incident12 600x336Streamlining the Customer Experience

Below are four basic approaches that could help reduce the streamline the support process.

  1. Remote support.  Providing remote support for customers enables agents to troubleshoot and provide support in a more efficient manner in many cases.  Often times language barriers – whether it be technical terminology or linguistics – can be a barrier to providing efficient support.  With remote support, the agent simply takes control of a customer’s system and performs the necessary troubleshooting and repair steps, rather than trying to explain to the customer how to do it themselves or wait for a support agent to be dispatched to help in person.  This saves both wait times and actual support times.
  2. Collaboration.  This collaborative approach allows the Level 1 agent to work with the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in a collaborative manner when they (Level 1 agents) are not able to resolve the issues alone.  The Level 1 agent could simply ask for assistance from a SME in real time, instead of passing the issue on, which causes both delays in resolution and frustration on the customer’s part when they have to repeatedly explain the issue and wait between levels of support.
  3. Automation.  Another effective way to improve information gathering, troubleshooting, and solutions delivery steps is to automate processes, which would ensure consistency and remove non-value added steps.  Ideally support agents are all trained to troubleshoot and handle issues the same way every time, with the expectation that the customers receive the same consistent experience no matter which agent they reach.  Yet the reality is that troubleshooting and resolution steps and time can vary depending on agent experience levels and preferences.  Providing the agents with automated processes such as software installation and setup, could both streamline the process and ensure consistency.
  4. Shift support.  In the example above, the Level 1 agents are only allowed to handle the most basic issues, such as password resets.  All other issues are escalated to Level 2, which can cause backlog and delays in getting the issues resolved for the customers. Training and empowering the first level agents to be able to handle more issues should help streamline the customer support process.

The best approach to streamlining could be a combination of several or all of the approaches above, depending on channels (phone, chat, email, web based) and support type (technical support, customer support, sales).

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