4 Steps to Transforming Customer Support Calls Into a Better Customer Experience

COVID-19 is a catalyst for support centers to accelerate customer-first innovation.

Businessman pressing smiley face emoticon on virtual touch screen.

by Michael Grier

posted on 07-28-2020

As COVID-19 related shutdowns continue, one thing is clear: We’re home and we’re online. Internet use has skyrocketed up 70% and data usage is up 47%. Ecommerce sales are projected to hit $175 billion — up 5% year over year. Perhaps most telling, the number of Netflix profiles has increased 72% since shelter-in-place orders began. And with more subscribers, users, and content demands comes a greater need for customer support.

Call centers have been seeing this since the earliest days of the coronavirus outbreak. While the pandemic has been a catalyst for digital adoption, it has also come with a surge in support calls. Since March, many call centers have been pushed to their max with some reporting up to a 600% increase in call volume.

The blend of explosive consumer demand and reduced capacity across contact centers that provide post-sales support has placed customer experience in the spotlight. The convergence of circumstances presents an opportunity for companies to build on and blend their call center technology into a larger part of their customer experience.

“The technology to automate call centers and capture experience data has been available — COVID-19 is just accelerating the need to do all of the things call centers have been talking about for years,” says Michael Goldstein, digital strategy principal at Adobe.

“Historically, a relatively small percentage of marketing budgets went to post-sales,” adds Jill Steinhour, director of high-tech strategy and B2B at Adobe. “But even in advance of COVID-19, high-tech organizations started focusing more of their budgets on post-sales experiences as they recognize the returns of investing in customer success.”

Transitioning your organization’s call center into an efficient, high-value experience hub will likely take some technology investment and a mindset shift — no longer are call centers “just” support lines.

Here are the steps you need to build a post-sales customer experience that builds trust, fast resolution, and satisfaction.

1. Give customers options

The first step in creating better call center experiences — and pulling higher value insights and data from call center engagements — is to let your customers decide how they want to receive support.

Some companies try to deflect expensive calls by making it hard to find contact information. But this strategy ultimately fails as customers are simply frustrated from the start. Instead, make a variety of support options easy to find and activate.

“There are three levels of escalation within a support experience: proactive communication, automated tools, and then the final option — actually connecting to a human in the call center,” says Michael. “Self-service support should be presented first to help customers quickly find answers without having to wait for human interaction. Most customers actually prefer this, so companies need to make it easy and intuitive to find on their site.”

Once COVID-19 hit the breaks for professional sports, a multinational telco quickly directed their sports package subscribers to tailored self-service web content such as how to pause their subscriptions. The move helped the company divert 5,000 calls within 12 hours.

2. Anticipate customer support needs with artificial intelligence

By investing in and integrating automation and AI technology, you can be more proactive in delivering what customers need. AI, for example, can be used to anticipate customers’ questions and preferences, then direct them to the best contact or channel. Likewise, automated responses can be developed to handle the most common questions and concerns so human agents can focus on the less anticipated or less frequent hurdles.

“For example, if someone needs help assembling a table, that’s much less complex than a PC that won’t boot up,” says Jill. “More complex products provide access to expertise in a tiered fashion.” Level one is the first level of support to address more common issues. And levels two and three can be reserved for more complicated issues requiring deeper expertise.

“Human intervention is expensive and even more so for complex problems, so it is imperative to provide these support teams with intuitive access to knowledge bases and AI assistance to help drive down the cost to serve,” says Jill.

That tiered method, Michael notes, can be a framework for very positive and proactive customer experiences.

“You take into account the context for that person — where they’re coming from,” he notes. “You use AI to figure out where they might be trying to go, and then you make an informed decision — do I continue to let this person look for a resolution because they’ll probably find it quickly? Can I guide them there? Or do I tell them to pick up the phone or contact a chat agent? It’s a strong experience for any customer.”

A U.S.-based airline used their AI chatbot to pull in top customer concern data to predict and provide tailored responses, possible actions to take via self-service, and other COVID-19 specific information and guidance.

3. Focus on the experience

Using real-time customer profiles to understand and meet customer needs is more and more common in marketing, but being able to access that same customer information for post-sales support delivers the same benefits.

The potential for support experiences to build and encourage customer loyalty is too often overlooked. Unfortunately, customers frequently reach that moment when they get through a support experience and think, “that was so painful that I may need to change providers,” says Tammy Pienknagura, head of digital strategy for media, entertainment, and communications at Adobe.

Instead, customer experience management technology could help deliver real-time customer profiles to better detail individual customer journeys and how automated or human support can best jump in.

“The support call experience can be made much more efficient and effective by using data and intelligence from all customer touchpoints. You can use IVR to route callers to the right support teams or to authenticate callers before reps pick up the phone,” adds Tammy. “When reps have a complete view of the caller’s profile and likely concerns, and suggested scripts before the call starts, they can serve, surprise, and delight customers, which is always good news for the bottom line.”

With real-time customer profiles in place, call centers can also deliver relevant experiences, personalize live engagements and help customers get resolution in less time and with fewer resources. This saves time for both customers and support teams, and improves time to resolution.

For example, a financial services firm used website browsing behavior data to streamline agent call scripts and IVR interactions so that they could minimize wait times and duration of support calls. Customers were connected to the right department, served quicker, and spared the frustrating information-sharing loop.

4. Provide organization-wide value

With each of these self-service or live touchpoints, call centers collect valuable customer data and insights — intel that all departments can benefit from to create better end-to-end customer experience.

This presents a powerful opportunity to bring value to the rest of the organization by sharing and disseminating customer feedback, data, and insights with the extended experience team. From data about customer location and how they access support to understanding pervasive pain points and collecting enhancement requests — support centers are an excellent source of valuable customer data.

Close the data loop by ensuring you can capture insights, add them to customer profiles, and continue to deliver connected experiences. For example, customers who are reviewing content or downloading specific knowledge-base articles via a support portal may be prompted to opt in for related support newsletters. This creates an added touchpoint and an added opportunity to engage and activate that customer with a regular cadence.

Where we’re heading: The future of post-pandemic call centers

Looking ahead into a post-pandemic marketplace, it’s clear the efficiency and improved service are here to stay, and that lessons learned and call center technology adopted will continue to inform and expand end-to-end customer experiences.

The future is pointed to a more efficient future for call centers — and better customer experiences all around. “We want people to overwhelmingly have that positive experience — because the more they have it with call centers and support touchpoints, the better experiences enterprises can deliver across all platforms and channels, to every customer,” says Michael.

This article was made possible through collaboration between the Adobe Industry Strategy & Marketing, and Adobe Digital Strategy & Solutions teams, with special thanks to Digital Strategy Associates Jasmine Perillo and Manasi Soni.

Discover more use cases for customer experience management and Adobe Experience Platform.

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Topics: Digital Transformation, COVID-19

Products: Experience Platform