When you think about a positive customer experience, you may think about contact center agents who are able to provide timely, effective assistance. Yet, automation tools can have a significant and beneficial impact on the customer experience as well.
In this article, we’ll explore how chatbots, an IVR system, virtual hold, and call deflection can create a better customer experience.
Automating the customer experience: a look at the statistics
It might come as a surprise, but customers actually have a more positive customer experience when it’s automated.
- 12% of Americans say their top frustration with customer service is a lack of speed.
- 90% of customers expect an online customer service portal.
- 37% of customers have used a chatbot on a company’s website.
- 30% of American customers say that chatbots are “very effective” in dealing with customer service issues.
Chatbots and the customer experience
Chatbots are computer programs that simulate human conversation. The most common way customers interact with chatbots is through text. Chatbots are becoming more popular in the context of customer service; they can handle simple interactions or gather information so that an interaction can be passed off to a human contact center agent.
How do chatbots improve the customer experience? We’ll illustrate with an example: Jim ordered a sweater for his wife’s birthday from her favorite online retailer. He wants to know what the order’s status is, so he goes to the retailer’s website and opens a chatbot. Jim enters the order number, and within moments, the chatbot tells him when the order should arrive.
Jim had a positive customer experience. It took him just a few minutes to find out when he could expect his order. He didn’t have to wait on hold or repeat his question to three different people. It was fast and easy, and Jim looks forward to ordering from the retailer again.
The IVR system and the customer experience
The “IVR” in “IVR system” stands for interactive voice response. It’s an automated telephony system that interacts with callers; an IVR system accepts voice or telephone keypad inputs. When you reach an IVR system, you’ll be presented with a menu of options, and you select the appropriate one for your needs.
When IVR systems were first introduced in 1962, they were heralded as a wonder of modern technology. Yet over the years, it became clear that IVR systems did not reach their ideal. Customers complain that the menu options are inadequate, it takes too long to reach an agent, or that the system doesn’t understand the voice input. Given these gripes, it isn’t surprising that J.D. Power and Associates researchers say that IVR systems offers a better customer experience than talking directly to a contact center agent just 7% of the time.
How to improve IVR systems for a better customer experience
IVR systems don’t have to offer a terrible customer experience, though. When configured properly, they can, in fact, make the customer experience better.
- The menu options should be useful and helpful.
- There should be self-service options built into the IVR system.
- Integrate business applications into the IVR system (for example, if customers want to pay their bills over the phone, you’ll need to integrate the billing software into the IVR system).
- Route calls to available agents with the expertise and skills to solve customer problems.
Virtual hold and the customer experience
The concept behind virtual hold (also known as callback) is that when a customer is on hold, that person can enter a phone number and a contact center agent will call back later on.
Customers prefer having a virtual hold option. According to research, over 63% of customers would rather receive a callback than wait on hold. Virtual hold technology offers a better customer experience because most people don’t want to wait; they have more important things to do.
Call deflection and the customer experience
Call deflection refers to a strategy of directing customers to an alternate channel. Let’s say Sandy calls her credit card company to ask about her rewards program; the IVR system has a pre-recorded messaging saying call volume is high at the moment and suggests using the company’s chatbot or knowledgebase. Those channels offer a faster response, or a faster way to get the answers she needs.
Sandy has a better customer experience as a result of call deflection. She doesn’t wait on hold – instead, she uses a chatbot to ask questions and learn more about her rewards program. Sandy saves the time by not sitting on hold.
A word about call deflection and call avoidance
It’s important to note that there’s a difference between deflecting calls to other channels and avoiding calls entirely. Call deflection, as we illustrated above, can create a positive customer experience; call avoidance, on the other hand, can aggravate customers.
Call avoidance means that agents don’t take calls. It can happen as a result of a call deflection strategy (although that certainly isn’t the aim of such a strategy), or it could be intentional. When call deflection is intentional, it irritates customers and causes a negative customer experience. We’ll illustrate with an example.
Sarah ordered something online from a retailer that also has a bricks-and-mortar presence. She decided she wants to change the pickup location, so she calls the store where the item will be delivered. The store has an outgoing message that says that no one is available to take her call, and then hangs up. Sarah is annoyed – she wasn’t given an option for another channel, and now she can’t figure out how to change her pickup location.
RingCentral: automate a superior customer experience with contact center software
RingCentral’s contact center software allows you to automate a superior customer experience through chatbots, an IVR system, virtual hold, and call deflection capabilities. These features enable your customers to get the help they need.
Originally published Jan 28, 2021, updated Dec 30, 2022