Following Which?’s recent naming and shaming of energy companies who keep their customers waiting too long on the phone, Aspect Software, global provider of fully-integrated consumer engagement, workforce optimisation and self-service solutions, has called for better self-service platforms to improve the customer experience.
A third of energy companies left Which? waiting for over 20 minutes, but calls to new sales were answered in much less time. According to Aspect, to avoid long waiting times for existing energy customers, contact centres could develop a robust self-service platform that employs effective technology such as chatbots. In order to deliver an effective omni-channel experience and ensure that customers have their queries answered in a timely fashion, Aspect believes it is crucial that companies leverage context and natural language understanding, and make an informed handoff to a live human agent easier and quicker for more complex queries.
Stephen Ball, Senior VP Europe & Africa at Aspect, stated: “The ability to self-serve is becoming increasingly expected as standard by consumers of all groups. It not only enables a more accessible platform for a digital generation, but also reduces inbound call volumes by pushing more common queries to self-service, and reduces hold times for those who need to actually speak to an advisor.”
At the basic level, self-service platforms can be as authentic as the real thing, without the 30-minute call waits. They can be provisioned with an interactive text response (ITR) tool, but traditionally these platforms have a robotic feel to them, with limited capabilities requiring users to enter specific phrases. Stephen suggests that more flexible tools can be easily integrated into channels such as outbound SMS, webchat or Twitter.
He continued: “For example, a customer can respond directly to an automated text reminder and the ITR system will be able to use natural language processing to interpret it and act accordingly, giving an instant response without human intervention, enabling those who have more complex issues easy access to a human advisor via a call back option.
“Even with effective and capable self-service solutions, organisations must also consider the human interaction element. The transition from self-service channels to a human interaction should be as seamless as possible, to ensure a consistent experience. It should be easy for an agent to step in and continue the conversation exactly where the technology leaves off, in the same window. Or, if it’s preferable to take the interaction to a phone call, there should be no need for the user to repeat information, wait for a long time for the call to be answered, or go through additional verification steps,” Stephen said.
He concluded: “By taking these key points into consideration when cutting down call waiting times, implementing a self-service option ensures that customers are receiving the right amount of support with their query before it’s escalated to a phone call. Making this process as smooth and efficient as possible is vital to maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction.”