Is real-time communication what call centers need?
Contact centers have come a long way over the decades – but one premise still remains – is there a better alternative for real-time communication?
We’ve evolved from an era of bustling call centers with ringing phones to a customer-obsessed landscape characterized by countless different forms of communication. Throughout this evolution, the design and technology of the contact center have changed, but companies have continued to pursue the same goal: faster, more efficient, and more effective communication.
At a time when customers are demanding faster, real-time interactions, tools have emerged to help companies route interactions to the best agent in the shortest amount of time. We’ve innovated and evolved to focus on reducing wait times to near zero.
After all, 60% of customers say waiting on hold is the most frustrating part of contacting a company.
However, creating a landscape for true real-time communications hasn’t been easy. In fact, over the past 30 years, contact centers have been constantly searching for the best way to route interactions and minimize queues. In that time, we’ve discovered several flaws with the concept of “real-time communication”.
Let’s take a closer look at the problems with real-time communication from the perspective of the agent, the company, and the customer.
Real-Time Communications: The Agent Perspective
Immediately routing calls and interactions with agents seems like a good way to increase productivity. However, this can present several issues. For example, when a call is routed to an agent using a traditional “next-in-queue” process, the agent takes the call without any prior context.
You can use IVRs and virtual agents to determine which agent is best suited for which customer, but if you don’t also pass that information on to the agent, they’ll go in blind. For most agents, this lack of knowledge can be a cause of significant stress. It’s no wonder that 83% of contact center employees suffer from burnout on a regular basis.
And because the system and agents don’t know what the customer needs, there’s a good chance they don’t have the resources to help them. This creates another issue as the agent must either transfer the call to another agent or keep the customer on hold while they investigate the issue.
It’s also worth noting that the issues agents are handling in the contact center are becoming more complex. About 67% of contact centers now handle more difficult customer inquiries, as most consumers prefer to solve the issue themselves first. By the time a customer contacts an agent, they’re already frustrated, stressed, and tired of investing time in their problem. They want results quickly, and when they don’t get them, the agent is the one who suffers.
We could argue that this “stressful” experience is simply the status quo for every contact center agent – but it shouldn’t be. It’s one of the reasons why there are many stressed-out, burned-out agents in contact centers who can’t wait to leave their jobs for something more relaxing.
Perpetuating this stressful experience only contributes to rapid turnover in the contact center landscape and costs companies more in hiring and onboarding.
Real-Time Communications: The Organizational Perspective
For most companies, fast, real-time communication seems like a great idea. After all, companies want to provide great experiences for their customers. To do so, they must meet consumers’ growing need for convenience and speed. The promise of fast, real-time communication could be a great differentiator for a brand if there weren’t so many issues.
Providing real-time communication requires someone to be available, engaged, and ready to answer calls at a moment’s notice. In an age where customers expect 24/7 service, that would mean hiring employees who’re available 24/7 to handle an ever-increasing volume of calls. For most companies, that’s simply not a feasible option
It’s also worth noting that not just any agent will do when it comes to responding to customer concerns in real-time. 31% of customers say that a knowledgeable agent is one of the most important factors in a good customer service experience.
At the same time, these customers want their agents to be trained specifically for their needs. They don’t want to be redirected or repeat themselves. This enhances the issue companies face in delivering real-time communications. You don’t just always need an agent who’s available and accessible – you need the right agent who’s available.
Real-Time Communications: The Customer’s Perspective
The issues of real-time communication may be obvious from the point of view of agents and companies. But surely fast conversations are only beneficial to the customer, right?
Well, not necessarily. Sometimes customers want to contact a company and get an immediate response. Unfortunately, in these cases, it’s common for a customer to call a company and sit on hold waiting for someone to be available.
In other cases, they simply want to fit customer service into their schedule. One of the reasons consumers love online chat services is that they can send off a question and get on with their lives while they wait for a response.
Most customers don’t have the time to sit around during a company’s business hours to get a problem resolved. They want to be able to alert a company to the issue and have it resolved when it’s available. Customers want asynchronous solutions based on their availability and specific needs.
The solution – is asynchronous communication
Real-time communication can present problems for anyone involved in a customer service transaction. However, there is a way to solve these issues. Instead of focusing solely on real-time communications, companies should look for ways to enable asynchronous conversations.
When you enable asynchronous conversations via messaging, callbacks, and similar tools, both the agent and the customer can communicate sequentially. It’s a lot like sending an email, only with a higher level of engagement and context.
Asynchronous communication also gives consumers the freedom to get quick responses without having to constantly stare at a screen or wait for a phone line. According to HubSpot, 82% of customers want an immediate response, but they define “immediate” as up to 10 minutes, depending on the type of communication they use. With asynchronous communication, agents have more time to respond to a message without sacrificing customer service excellence.
How does this help with three types of pain?
For agents, asynchronous communication reduces the risk of having to deal with frustrated customers while ensuring they’ve access to more context. They can gather information about the actual issue before responding and can prepare the right answer or call on the assistance of another professional if needed, without having to redirect anyone.
For businesses, asynchronous communication provides an opportunity to set expectations. They can inform their customers that agents will take over and handle the issue as soon as they’re available. Some messaging tools can even provide real-time information about how long a customer will have to wait. This helps maintain a good customer experience.
At the same time, the system can provide agents with the information they need to answer a question quickly. This eliminates the need for companies to hire countless experts and constantly train them with new information and knowledge.
Finally, asynchronous communication means customers can engage with companies on their own time and schedule, without worrying about being repetitive. Conversations can happen naturally as consumers go about their daily duties. They don’t sit in line waiting for a response. They keep up their productivity.
Alleviate the Pains of Real-Time Communications
The Cempresso product line enables companies to take advantage of asynchronous communication without getting a headache.
At the heart of the Cempresso portfolio is a BPMN workflow engine. This enables users to create complex, automated workflows, simply by dragging and dropping. A powerful integration layer ensures that context is maintained, and information is communicated across the system, so agents can provide the best service on every channel.
Cempresso even has a form designer that allows users to create forms via workflows and display them in any interface to present to users, agents, and customers. Cempresso fits into your existing infrastructure so you can leverage your existing information and tools without breaking or replacing anything.
Contact Bulb Tech today to learn more about how you can leverage asynchronous communications to improve your customers’ and employees’ experiences while increasing your company’s efficiency.