The ‘Effortless Transaction’ & Operational Improvements on Tap for Call Centers in 2016

Effortless Transactions for Effortless Customer Experiences
Divining future trends in the call center industry is guess-work, at best. Predictions tend to run the gamut – more automation, improved workflows, better and more accurate QA. But we’re all in agreement on the rising importance of the ‘effortless transaction.’

We live in the age of the customer experience. Consumers have been handed immediate access to information…knowledge. And knowledgeable consumers overwhelmingly want one thing above all others, even price: a good customer experience.

Many of the steps I believe call centers will take to improve the customer experience in 2016 were clearly illustrated by a customer service experience I recently had with my local cable provider.

Press ‘7’ to Delete Old Messages
When my Comcast voice mail decided to stop responding to tones, I called customer service. The call center agent suggested a fix, but I needed to hang up before testing it. He did call back as promised, but the fix didn’t seem to work.

At that point, the agent explained that he would contact a technician and research a solution to the problem. The agent called me back again later after speaking with the tech. He set up a call for me to work with the advanced team, as they had access to solutions that were not available (or known) to him.

The advanced team called at the designated time, and explained the solution which again required me to hang up. I followed the advanced team’s instructions and – voila! – the solution worked. The advanced team then called me back to confirm that the problem had been resolved.

Was it an effortless transaction?  No – it wasn’t an effortless transaction by any means. But it did resolve the problem by virtue of a commitment to follow-through.

A Few Short Years Ago…
More importantly, though, compare my experience against what would have happened a few short years ago. This would have been an extremely frustrating series of calls to customer service in which I would have been forced to speak with (and bring up to speed) a different agent each time. The focus on achieving a positive – and permanent – solution reflects a shift towards providing that effortless experience.

2016 Trends for Call Center Operational Improvements
Here are my thoughts on ways companies will strive to achieve the ‘effortless experience.’ I will say that operational efforts to improve the customer experience may require that certain obstacles be removed. Such obstacles may be technical (e.g., phone system limitations) or procedural.

  1. Wider Use of Agent Callbacks
    The value of the ‘callback’ is undeniable, as my experience demonstrated. While it is becoming more frequent (and will continue to do so in an effort to deliver better resolutions to customers), it often demands a change in policies or procedures. In some cases, it also may require technical enhancements or system modifications to remove obstacles that prevent callbacks.
  2. Taking Ownership
    Increasingly, agents are being empowered to take ownership of customer issues. I’ve referred to it as ‘going off script’ to better meet the customer’s need or address their specific challenge. Allowing agents to take ownership of customer issues offers two key benefits: it makes the customer feel as though the company cares, and it vests the agent with responsibility – making them feel less like small cogs and more like valued team members.
  3. Confirming Results
    Another step gaining popularity is confirming the results of the call to proactively avoid problems. This is more common in technical or troubleshooting call centers, where tech teams want to make sure the solution wasn’t a one-off or a fix that only works sporadically.
  4. More Training and Coaching
    It isn’t difficult predicting something we’re in the midst of experiencing, but 2016 will inevitably bring more training and coaching for call centers in an effort to enhance agent performance, improve the quality of outcomes and create more effortless customer transactions. Over the last two quarters, I’ve seen a growing number of calls from clients looking to expand their use of coaching and training.

The effortless transaction is considered the lynchpin of the customer experience, and it’s the goal of B2C companies worldwide. An effortless transaction is exactly what it sounds like: a transaction that requires very little effort or time on the part of the customer.

What do you see as major trends for call centers in 2016?