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Technology

The call centres are on fire

15th April 2020

In a climate where call centres are overwhelmed, operating on a distributed model or turned off altogether, ensuring your business is doing everything it can to support customers effectively, through digital channels, is key.

It may seem like a daunting time to tackle this issue, especially if it’s been a long-neglected part of your business. That said, the process of improving customer Help & Support experiences doesn’t have to be hard if you follow a few simple principles.

Treat this as an exciting and rewarding opportunity to leverage technology and serve your customers better than ever before. And remember, the work you do now and the practices you put in place will save you money in the future too.

Getting started with Help & Support experiences

Let’s start with the essentials – well designed online Help & Support experiences. This includes Help and Support pages, chatbots and live chat. They are all often an afterthought or seen as a “should-have” but not given the care and attention they deserve.

These functions aren’t as glamorous as your beautiful product pages, but they aren’t any less important. The satisfaction they can offer your customers, and the potential efficiencies they can generate for your business and your staff, cannot be underestimated.

In a previous article, we outlined some key principles and considerations taking into account what we’ve learnt from our work over the years:

Design principles for Help & Support experiences:

  • Don’t remove the option to speak to a human. Forcing people down a rigidly predetermined journey may seem like it’ll create the behaviour change you want, but this can backfire and cause further frustration, or worse, cause customers to look elsewhere because they don’t feel supported in the right way. It’s especially important to speak to a human if the subject matter they need help with is sensitive /stressful/upsetting or uncommon.
  • Don’t make people work hard for information when they’re already frustrated or worried - “self-serve” shouldn’t be synonymous with “as long as they can get it done eventually, that’s fine”. This will only increase the risk of negative customer satisfaction and impact brand equity.
  • Treat Help & Support like a product – that means keeping it up to date with the latest information. Just as companies’ products/services and the issues customers face are ever-changing, your support pages should evolve with them!

 Some wider considerations about Help and Support experiences

  • A strong foundation in your content strategy, information hierarchy and searchability will play a central role in your long-term ability to keep these sections up to date and to meet customer needs consistently. 
  • Structure the information and content in a way that is digestible and understandable with clear actions, next steps and helpful alternative recommendations to point customers in the right direction. Too often people get stuck in frustrating loops without the right information. This can increase call centre volume.
  • Design to have the most frequent or highest order (given the current climate) customer queries front and centre, but don’t use those as a default for anyone with more nuanced questions. Consider a robust findability or searchability schema.
  • Remember, this is a product like any other and a perpetual work in progress – companies that listen to their customers and respond as edge-cases become frequent queries by updating their Help & Support experiences regularly will be more likely to maintain customer confidence and satisfaction. This customer confidence can turn into brand equity.

Beyond a robust set of Help and Support pages, there are additional friendly tools and technologies you can use to augment and improve Help and Support experiences:

Chatbots

Yes, we know, that old chestnut – but when executed well by following the chatbot experience design principles we’ve outlined they can prove very effective:

  1. Don’t do it yourself - building from scratch is often expensive and unsuccessful. There are many existing and proven platforms out there you can use and experts who can consult on this.
  2. Make it clear you are talking to a bot. If you want to create a successful bot, manage expectations upfront and introduce it as a bot.
  3. Make it clear what the bot is for and what it can’t do - if it’s a bot dedicated to delivering in depth weather reports about London, then state this. This clearly defines the user’s field of expectation for the bot.
  4. Keep on topic - conversational aligners are a language tool which help bring the user back to focus on the narrow field of knowledge that the bot has. Asking questions like, ‘Do you have a question about your current account?’ helps to steer the conversation and provide better outcomes, with greater expediency for the user.
  5. Let the user hit ‘Esc’ - adding a ‘fall back to human’ feature to the conversational UI after a series of failed attempts provides a safety net for your customers.
  6. If the user hits escape, make it smooth - users won’t want to wait around, they’re probably already frustrated that the bot couldn’t help. Allow the human to read the prior chat with the bot. This will mean the user does not have to repeat too much information.
  7. Intercept traditional forms of interaction - don’t make customers come to you with their queries, be where they are when they’re browsing. This kind of personalisation has been proven to help increase sales according to Forbes.
  8. Build the bot into the experience - consider the placement and presentation of your bot. How does this nest on, or next to, the digital experience the person is engaging with?
  9. Get someone experienced like a UX writer to write and edit your dialogue - in conversational UI the words become the design. Copy is crucial; users will be more likely to engage with an interface with personality.
Live chat

A good live chat experience can be a firm middle ground between call centres and chatbots and when executed correctly can prove effective. Through our research we’ve found that many users prefer speaking to someone on chat rather than calling. There are some clear benefits:

  • Convenience for customers - no time constraints (if 24/7 support provided), short waiting times (usually) and the ability to multi-task and focus on other things while still getting your query resolved are all positives.
  • Efficiencies for businesses - the ability for agents to handle multiple queries simultaneously creates efficiencies compared to call centres, whilst having a low impact on customer experience when done well.

With these clear benefits, here’s what companies can focus on when improving the experience of a live chat function:

Reducing the waiting time between responses to customers.

  • Chats are quick to start up, but the time between responses can be lacklustre and this can be frustrating in the case of urgent requests. Consider updating users about why they’re waiting and what you’re doing to answer their query.

The language used when interacting with customers. 

  • Stilted dialog is frequently ill-received by customers. Giving operatives more agency to use their own language within certain parameters helps create a sense of connection between the user and the brand, business or body. 

However, many companies aren’t comfortable taking this amount of risk. Here, UX writing can help to create scripts across different scenarios that feel much more personable - Monzo do this well.

Expand your range
  • Broadening the amount of scenarios you are able to service through live chat can relieve pressure from call centres, and still lead to positive business outcomes. For example, giving customers the ability to freeze or cancel accounts is still widely unavailable to people, except over the phone.
Make it easy to store and share information
  • Allow users to capture and save their chats so they can refer to it in future if needed.
  • Making it easy for users to describe and explain their problems by allowing them to attach media.
Summing up

It’s important that Help and Support channels are easily accessible with multiple entry points. Display key Help & Support channels upfront and explain the purpose of each and the key differences between them to help users make an informed decision around which channel to go to for help. Always do research to understand what your users need from Help and Support tools. Combined, the trinity of well-designed Help & Support pages, chatbots and live chat can take the heat off of the phones; saving your business money and keeping your customers happy.


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