Very few contact centres have managed to reduce their volume of customer interactions over the last decade. In fact, quite the reverse has happened.
Thinking of this from the customer’s perspective, it is indeed strange. I cannot recall a single person ever telling me that they welcomed spending their free time on the phone with a contact centre. Of course, getting a problem fixed is always appreciated. But an underlying frustration remains. Was it all avoidable in the first place?
Within the contact centre, call volumes have been accepted as inevitable and most contact centre budgets are based on that assumption. Thus, the industry has tried all sorts of tactical manoeuvres focussed on cost reduction as opposed to volume reduction:
• Outsourcing the volume to less expensive resources
• Converting it into lower cost self- service
• Optimising resource plans
• Obsessing over Average Handle Time
Unsurprisingly, cost reduction can only go so far if volumes keep rising. Not even improved First Contact Resolution seems to have made a significant dent. Year over year, the numbers continue to increase. It is now estimated that servicing call volume in the US requires between 4 million to 5 million advisors. We are somewhere north of one million here in the UK.
So if working harder is not working what does working smarter look like?
Eliminating Root Causes Goes By Many Names
Just because the industry struggles to contain increasing call volume does not mean we are still at first base. The sheer amount of passionate debate about which approach is ‘best’ suggests a vanguard of inventive folk are up for challenging core assumptions.
There are a few I’d like to mention who have caught my eye over the last few years.
On this very site, Nexidia is hosting an excellent presentation made by Warren Buckley who runs Customer Service at BT Retail. At CCExpo 2012, he showed how he operationalised Customer Effort, one of the up and coming metrics in contact centres.
As you watch it, the evidence Warren offers during his presentation suggests that he is leading his service organisation in the right direction. Warren shows that with the right leadership, Customer Effort is definitely an effective lens through which to focus on ‘service waste’. This of course is a win win . The organisation reduces call volumes by removing the need for customer to make contact unnecessarily. In turn the customer life is made easier either by removing the need to make a call or by making each service experience as simple as possible.
Of course there are other ways of tackling the same issue: finding and eliminating root causes of call drivers.
For instance, the way that Amazon works is a source of inspiration for many. In the UK at least, Bill Price of Driva Solutions and Peter Massey of Budd are well known for popularising the Amazon philosophy in their book ‘The Best Service is No Service”. The title gives a strong clue as to their approach. Or as Peter is fond of saying “Stop Doing Dumb Things To Customers”.
A similar approach can be seen in the transformational case study that Aviva, the insurance business, has extensively shared on the conference circuit here in the UK over the last twelve months.
Rob Brown, Systems Thinking Director at Aviva, says that they found if they took an internal, process led view of opportunities to improve then customers invariably called back. However, taking a customer led view meant that they have been able to reduce complaints and repeat calls and thereby improve satisfaction.
In this case, the lens that they focus their transformation through is to improve the ‘system’. Since 2008 it has saved Aviva tens of millions of pounds by reducing service waste.
Aviva’s success in reducing customer interaction volume is based on an approach called Systems Thinking developed by John Seddon. He popularised the term ‘Failure Demand’. A concept that neatly identifies the focus for improvement in much the same way that Customer Effort does.
John explains the idea as ‘demand caused by a failure to do something or do something right for the customer’. By his calculations, ‘Failure Demand’ historically accounts for up to 20 to 50% of all customer interactions in Financial Services. Given that, I can easily believe Aviva’s success.
What Interaction Analytics Brings To The Party
John Seddon’s insight into how the call centre industry typically thinks is instructive.
“Managers use call volume data to plan resources, but this is to ignore why their customers call from the customers’ point of view. This simple and fundamental mistake can and does add alarmingly to costs.”
In the days before Interaction Analytics, the mainstay of customer data was ACD reports. This is to say managers knew what volumes they were experiencing but not the causes. And as every version of continuous improvement from Deming (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Edwards_Deming) onwards insists, you cannot eliminate waste unless you address its root causes. Unfortunately, the industry’s rising headcount is the clearest evidence that we have been stuck in old, ineffective habits for too long.
Now things are changing. A new vanguard is emerging. Contact centre managers still hunt for ‘service waste’. But they use better tracking technology to find it.
They know that when their Interaction Analytics solution is scalable, delivers quantitative evidence that is empirical in nature rather than narrative and anecdotal and they listen across all customer channels, they have the best method for uncovering the root causes behind what’s truly driving calls – and thus, the best shot at being able to fix the problems and dial down the volume. A win for the entire organisation.
Take Away Insight
Huge benefits can be realised using root cause analysis. Interaction Analytics gives everyone a faster, smarter way of uncovering what’s driving interactions, so companies can stop them before they start and eliminate service waste.