Continuing this week’s theme of Enterprise Decision Management or EDM in customer service, I am going to focus on one of the most important metrics in call centers – first call resolution. I saw a nice description of what this means in Tools To Improve First Call Resolution on CRM Daily:
When you call a toll-free number to order clothing, get help with your computer, or book a plane flight, you want the call to be quick and conclusive. You want the operators or agents who handle your call to accept your order, answer your question or make your reservation before you hang up. In the contact center world, that’s known as first call resolution, and the companies that you call want it, too. If a call takes too long or leaves your issue unresolved, the company’s costs go up and it may lose you as a customer.
There are a number of ways to use EDM to deliver on this promise.
- The first, and most obvious use of EDM, is to manage approvals. Many calls are not resolved first time because the person who answers the phone is not authorized to do something – refund something or expedite it. Yet all too often the data required to make the decision is available at that point. The status of the order, the customer, pricing rules are all known. The automation of approval decisions using business rules is straightforward and allows the person who answers the phone to immediately approve anything that passes those rules. A rules-based approach also helps with complex dialogs as it can walk the call center representative through the various steps, in the right order and so deliver the right answer.
- One of the things that can make it hard for a call center representative to close a call quickly is their lack of information about risk. It might be the retention risk of a customer, the credit risk of a prospect or even the risk that a customer will buy without a discount the representative can choose to offer. Displaying information to help with this is one approach but the reality is that risk calculations can be complex and so representatives are hard-pushed to make them quickly and accurately while a customer is on the phone. Automating risk predictions, using predictive analytic models, and embedding those predictions into automated decision services can thus materially improve the ability of the customer representative to close the right “deal” on the first call.
- Customer segmentation so that the right script can be used or so that the call can be routed to the right representative can also reduce call transfers. Effective segmentation, linked to the behavior of customers and their likely needs, can be linked to rules to make sure the call center handles each call as efficiently as possible. Combined with the approval and risk automation, and with pre-targeted offers and answers, this can make first call resolution much more practical.
- Customer-focused organizations are increasingly trying to ensure that their call centers deliver the best next action – what is the treatment that will most develop, extend and improve this specific customer relationship. Automating this decision and making sure it is embedded into the call center process takes EDM and can both improve first call resolution and improve the customer relationship.
- By automating these decisions you also get the advantage that third parties acting for you can resolve calls as effectively as you can. Companies with multiple layers of partners and channels cannot assume that those resolving problems work directly for the company, they must support a complex ecosystem of responders.
- Automating these decisions using a technology like business rules that allows you to rapidly and accurately change the logic used to respond to calls also delivers increased business agility. If your call resolution rules are handled by training and policy manuals then changing them is likely to be slow and expensive. If the rules are externalized from your system in a way that allows business users to manage them then they can change as soon as the business sees the need for change.
In addition to these direct improvements, automation of the decisions using EDM can also improve the quality of interaction. After all, the person answering the phone no longer has to worry about the technicalities but can instead focus on the human interaction. This pays off in terms of customers feeling more connected to and more valued by the representatives.
The article went on to say that
The dream solution is a virtual agent — a piece of software that eavesdrops on calls, understands the dialog between callers and “real” agents, and retrieves the right information automatically.
I am not sure I would describe the dream solution quite this way – the assumptions that you must get through to an agent before the software can be useful and that simply retrieving the right information is the end game both worry me. I would say that the dream solution is a piece of software which makes sure that only those calls that need an agent get to one, that agents can act appropriately and effectively in real-time, that ensures customers don’t need to be referred upwards and does just as good a job if the customer contacts by email, sms, IM, website, twitter or facebook. You must ensure, after all, that you get good first “call” resolution not just for those calling a call center but for customers using any channel to contact you. This allows your customers to self-serve much more effectively.