Are your contact centre agents getting swamped with repetitive low-value questions — preventing callers with bigger issues from getting through? If so, it's time to take action.
Over the coming weeks, we're publishing a series of blogs linked to our guide on the Top 12 Customer Service Challenges facing contact centres. And we're kicking off with a top issue that's draining the life out of productivity — agents getting flooded with basic calls.
Let's imagine a company with several contact centres. Even though they have hundreds of agents, callers often struggle to get through — waiting 5-20 minutes sometimes or giving up.
Many lines are clogged up with other customers wanting to know about delivery, prices, gift vouchers or more information around various offers and options they've just seen. In truth, these callers may be able to find these details on the website somewhere. But they don't have the time or patience to go looking. Instead, they want the convenience of getting answers fast — so they call you.
The real cost
In financial terms, these calls are usually low in value to the company. They aren't about generating extra sales or saving a customer from switching to a competitor. But hiding the company's phone number or failing to answer these callers with the right answers quick enough could increase frustration and erode customer loyalty. For the company, it's a case of 'grin and bear it' — so they take the calls.
However, there are serious consequences:
- Other valuable customers with major issues can't get through which is not a great experience. They could lash out on social media afterwards or suffer in silence.
- The company realises its IVR cannot continually be saying 'all our agents are busy at the moment'. So, it must think of how to effectively cope with the calls.
- Having to answer the same questions again, every day, is sapping the morale of agents when their real talents — and what gives them true job satisfaction — is about being a champion for the customer and solving their complex issues heroically.
What's the answer? For a minority of callers, only speaking to a human agent will do — so that option should always remain open to them. But most callers will be happy with a different approach if it's quick and smart enough to provide the answers they need. There are two ways to do this.
#1: Knowledge base: Supplying answers fast
Here, customers can look up their own answers 24x7x365. Alternatively, agents could be using a web chat service to simply send the customer a link to the right answer from a growing knowledge base that covers all the basics.
Such a move increases agent productivity, speeds up resolution, improves service and creates happier customers. In fact, Aberdeen Group found that 100% of top performing businesses provide agents with a centralised knowledge base via the agent desktop. 
The business case for launching a central repository of details about company products, services and processes is compelling. Companies may be able to reduce calls by 30% by making the knowledge base available to customers.
#2: Chatbots: An instant response 24x7x365
In one study, researchers found that 80% of customers said their chatbot experience was positive  and 69% of people use a chatbot because they receive an instant answer.  While yesterday's chatbots had their limitations, today's superior models can have the same appeal as Amazon's Alexa, Apple's Siri and other voice assistants. People have got comfortable with artificial intelligence and its responsive convenience.
Simple, easy, repetitive tasks are ideal for chatbots — and they can feed off the knowledge base created already. It's important to allow customers to speak to an agent in the rare instances they get stuck. When this happens, the interaction should be transferred as a single conversation, with agents able to see a full transcript of the chatbot conversation along with the reason for the escalation, so there's no need to ask customers to repeat everything.
Over time, the company could enhance its chatbot's capabilities — allowing it to handle specific tasks such as updating addresses, validating customer details, balance inquiries, payments or updating personal data. This will further lighten the load on the contact centre.
The outcome of it all? Customers realise that there's a faster, more convenient way to get the answers they need — so they stop calling up every time. Now agents can focus on those higher-value conversations from callers who get through quickly. Everyone wins.
Got another contact centre challenge?
There are 12 in our series - so watch out for another hot topic coming along soon. In the meantime, get your copy of our Top 12 Customer Service Challenges. This guide looks at practical business issues that are holding back performance at the heart of contact centres — and how to solve them.
 'Agent Desktop Optimization' - Aberdeen Group, October 2015
 '80% of Consumers Report Chatbot Experiences as Positive' - Uberall
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