month 08
day 19
year 2016

Reducing the cost of exceptional customer service

While reading “How Contact Centres Are Delivering Exceptional Customer Service” (Call Centre Helper), I learned that the average cost per call equates to £3.64. My first thought was that this seemed high, compounded when I read that for 3% of businesses, this figure rises to over £10!

Average call cost contact centre

While there’ll always be calls that will be lengthy due to the topic being discussed, in an era where so much technology is available to enable customers to help themselves, it’s actually jaw-dropping to see costs this high.

It’s time to embrace the age of self-service

I’ve written before that “the days of waiting on hold for 20 minutes to be connected are coming to an end” because customer now prefer to determine themselves how they interact with a company. Back in 2013, we learned that:

40% of global consumers said they prefer self-service to human contact; 70% expect a company website to include a self-service application (source).

A more recent study conducted by Desk.com discovered that “Millennials ardently avoid calling customer service… 32% would rather go shopping on Christmas Eve.” (Source).

Whether it’s via website FAQs, or proactive outbound communications via SMS, email and social media, there are many ways companies can reduce the need for a customer call.

On top of this, companies can, and should, be providing multiple communication channels across all devices. Some examples we’ve seen recently are:

  • Allowing customers to text MYBILL to get their latest utility bill
  • Use Interactive Voice Response to book an appointment
  • Interaction via a chatbot to register for an event
  • Using an app or similar (i.e. Mobile Journeys) to validate credentials and so access information that previously they were having to dial the business and speak with an agent to get.

45% of companies offering web or mobile self-service reported an increase in site traffic and reduced phone enquiries (source: CRM Magazine).

Putting the customer at the heart of your contact centre strategy

Many of Esendex’s customers with contact centres have posed similar challenges to us: how can I reduce the cost of calls, while maintaining excellent customer service and keeping my customers happy?

The first step is always to understand why people are calling in, and of these calls, which ones need to stay with the agents. For the remainder, can we provide a solution that can move this expensive call away from the agents’ phones without compromising on their experience?

The solution itself can be anything and everything, from building payment channels via an IVR, to a Mobile Journey that enables customers to enter meter readings, to an SMS Automation that enables customers to text into a shortcode and upon validation be sent back account specific details for which they’d have previously needed to call.

These are just a few of the examples that have helped companies provide excellent customer service while reducing the amount inbound calls they take, thus significantly reducing the cost to serve these queries down from the £3.64 figure I mentioned above.

Plus this does not even take into account the opportunities created by enabling staff to work on other tasks!

A final thought:

“By 2017, 89% of businesses will compete mainly on customer experience.” (Gartner)

month 04
day 28
year 2016

3 lessons utility companies can learn from Scottish Power

Use an intelligent voice response to transform your contact strategy

Earlier this week it was announced that a hefty fine of £18m would be dished out to Scottish Power, by Ofgem, after more than one million complaints were received against the energy supplier over a two year period.

“Unacceptably” lengthy call waiting times, complaint resolution, as well as late final bills were all at the crux of the investigation by Ofgem, which highlighted their failures to provide even the basic level of service required during and after the supplier’s implementation of new IT systems.

The fine, which is the third largest to be dished out by Ofgem, in addition to consumer research from the likes of Which, all highlight the need for sufficient contingency plans and the need to better position consumers at the heart of service quality every time. Either that or pay the price.

Almost 80% of contact centres feel that their current customer service infrastructure doesn’t support the anticipated, future needs of their consumers (Parature). Are you among them?

Incorporate the right amount of pre-planning and the right systems and you can ensure a smooth handover in the adoption of a new digital communication strategy.

1. Minimise call waiting

25% of customers switch providers because they are tired of being kept on hold (New Voice). It’s only natural to get frustrated when you can’t get the answers that you need, at the time you need them. Implementing a Voice Callback solution enables customers to request a call from your company at a time that suits them.

Reduce the time your customers spend on the path to a live agent by decreasing the number of options they’re given on their call path. Adopt an Interactive Voice System that automates, communicates and better understands customer requests.

2. Avoid delayed billing

Reliance on direct mail to communicate with your customers can often leave a sour taste; wasted paper, lengthy delivery times, lost post, a heavy reliance on staff to send them, in addition to the possibilities of them being going unread. More than 300,000 customers received late final bills from Scottish Power which meant some customers were left out of pocket.

Consider sending automated emails or text messages for instant delivery of critical information about balances or methods of payment. Where you want to direct customers to make payments, adopt a Mobile Payment Journey to provide one complete and engaging solution.

3. Proactively seek to resolve complaints

It is estimated that 35,309 complaints were received by the Energy Ombudsman concerning customer service and communication between January and June 2015, a huge increase of 55% on 2014 statistics. (USwitch) If you’re not making moves to resolve your customer’s issues then it’s likely they’ll no longer invest in you.

Consider sending a quarterly SMS Survey out to your customers to see how you’re doing before it’s too late to make a change.  Only 24% of customers stick around to see if the company will resolve their issues within a reasonable amount of time (Zendesk); make sure yours stick with you by making informed improvements.

82% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company because of bad customer service (Zendesk), but Ofgem’s investigation showcases that customer service isn’t just about investing in the right people, but the right technology.

To find out more about how Esendex’s product suite can help build your multichannel customer experience contact us on 0345 356 5758.                      

month 02
day 18
year 2016

5 common mistakes to avoid with Interactive Voice Response (IVR)

Call centre and IVR systemsCall centres are conquering more territory than ever in various verticals, having grown from customer care gateway to being implemented in feedback, payment processing and even promotion.

With the main task of serving the customer, through sales, support or market research departments, it is essential that good contact centres are able to handle large, simultaneous call volumes allowing them to be responsive to the customer’s needs, while being adaptable to changing budgets and in turn lowering costs.

By intelligently automating the way that your business greets, communicates and supports its customers, you can better understand what your callers need all before they reach a live agent.

But what mistakes should you avoid when implementing your Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system?

1. Too much information

As the starting point for your customers, your IVR should provide your caller with the information or solution they require, quickly. The human memory can often run out of the capacity to listen after more than 5 options (Customer Think) which is why providing unnecessary ones will only confuse the caller and leave them frustrated.

Your customers are looking for an immediate response and will likely abandon their call if they don’t get one. Is your IVR customer-centric and user-friendly?

2. Limited hours

IVRs are designed to assist operational efficiency and service. The everyday consumer now expects to access information via the internet 24/7 and they are gradually expecting the same of businesses too (Customer Think). Not providing an out-of-hours service misses this opportunity. Fill the void that is missing outside of the typical 9-5 by providing a basic self-serve option for more routine queries with the option for a call back.

3. No self-service option

In the case of payments, collections or balance enquiries the absence of personalised systems can often lead to frustrations in the way a customer’s call is handled. Is it time to upgrade your existing IVR system? Can your current system pull through personalised information to enable them to be redirected to a more applicable set of options?

Automating and implementing a self-service Interactive Voice solution should enable the customer to get the information and response they require in an effortless manner without the need for agent contact.  

4. Avoiding dynamic menus

Ensure that your menus are designed with the customer’s time in mind. Providing every caller with identical menu sets that ignores the previous engagements of the customer is frustrating. Improve your caller experiences by delivering more personal options based on previous interactions, routing the call appropriately.

5. No call-back option

The most important aspect of an IVR is to never waste a customer’s time. While an IVR cannot resolve every customer query it can offer a solution to get them solved quicker. This is when placing them in a virtual queue is not the solution. Always provide the option to request a call-back or speak with an agent. Where this is not an option for your business, consider our Voice Callback solution.

For further IVR or Voice service guidance, or to discuss your business communication needs contact our team on 0345 356 5758.

month 02
day 4
year 2016

Transform communication with an inbound IVR

Use and intelligent voice response to transform your contact strategy

Maximising the satisfaction of your customers by ensuring that they are sent in the right direction when they call for information or to make a request is key. Not only that but it can ensure that potential time wasted by contact centre staff on redundant matters or less specific queries is better spent on values which benefit your business.

Introducing an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system into your contact strategy could significantly reduce the time your customers spend in call queues, providing a number of self-serve options without the need for human interaction, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

IVR’s are typically applied to businesses who require streamlined payment processing but are becoming increasingly more popular in other use cases:

Balance enquiries

From credit cards, financial agreements and banking through to utility bill enquiries, give your customers flexible access to manage their finances at times of day which suit them through the simple addition of an IVR. Then provide an additional option for customers to be transferred where staff contact is required.

Satisfaction surveys & feedback

Give service users a simple way of providing feedback and maximise the opportunity to collect it. Service users are more likely to provide honest answers when they don’t have to speak with a dedicated operative. Provide numbered, tiered choices and always a further option to speak with an advisor during office hours.

Event promotions and invites

Allow fans, patrons and customers to share their interest in events or find out show times with the option to speak with an advisor where questions need answering or a secure payment portal where purchases are prompted.

Appointments

Send a text reminder of a booked appointment and include your IVR number should you wish to offer an option to modify, cancel or book a follow-up.

Renewals

Send an automated text message to notify members or customers that gym memberships, insurance contracts or rental agreements are up for renewal and make it easier for them to continue their agreement with an IVR. Simple, reliable and seamless without the need for contact centre agents.

Technical support & help desk enquiries

Help to direct call and user traffic with a series of options, beneficial where technical support is required. Filter the priority enquiries from those which aren’t.

Automate and prompt the above actions through the use of simple SMS or publicise your dedicated IVR number on your website or existing communication materials to see inbound contact from your customers transform.

To discuss how an inbound IVR solution could benefit your business and improve your communication or marketing strategy call us on 0345 356 5758 or contact us.

month 01
day 20
year 2016

Automate customer contact with Esendex Voice

Blog image for voice blog

While many consumers are looking to save money at the start of a new year, so too are businesses, and in the midst of the financial year, big savings are always welcomed. Whether your customers are looking to save money by switching utility providers, renew membership packages or repaying debts accrued over Christmas, before interest hits – communication with them is key.

Introducing an automated Voice solution to your business could be a potential fix to your existing contact strategy. Cutting the amount of time your contact center staff spend on the phone and in turn the amount of money your business spends on wasted minutes, all while improving processes.

Integrating our Voice Broadcasting platform to your existing system is simple using pre-recorded message options from a real person rather than a computer processed voice. With the option to include several numbers in each of your customer’s records, you can prioritise the time of day certain numbers are attempted for maximum effect. Use to increase your customer’s satisfaction, by serving gentle reminders about renewals, offers or even payments which are overdue, all without the embarrassment of having to speak to contact centre staff about private information or unnecessary lengths in conversations.

Where contract or membership renewals are due offer a gentle, well-timed reminder in the form of a voice callback, sent by SMS, with a dedicated call handler on the other end or through an interactive voice messaging solution. This provides the customer with various options including contact where an agent’s assistance is required. Perfect for handling large call volumes and collecting more payments or processing more renewals at a time of year when they often decrease.

Voice can also be used to reward frequent customers by promoting various loyalty scheme events or offers through simple automation.  Consider integrating Voice Broadcasts or Interactive Voice with SMS, email and even web to create multi-channel campaigns.

Customers can receive a text message detailing their account and prompting a response, to which they can schedule calls for times convenient to them, avoiding queues and premium rates which all encourage them to keep their account or custom with you.

For more information on the various Voice services or other products that we offer to help automate your contact strategy this year, please contact the team on 0345 356 5758.

month 12
day 10
year 2015

Ease New Year debt collection issues with Interactive Voice

Business IVR
The first few months of the New Year see consumers worrying more about the pounds on their scales than the pounds in their bank accounts. British shoppers are estimated to have racked up around £5 billion in debt over the 2014 Christmas season and it seems that the start of 2016 will be a busy time for debt collection.

The high costs associated with attempting to collect payments from your customers can often outweigh the results. Staff wages, call costs and time are just some of the expenses associated, which is why understanding the needs of your customers and their activities will help to improve your collection operations and make them more personal and targeted.

90% of UK shoppers are willing to pay more for better service, and that service extends to the finance sector, even if it is self-serve. So how can you play to your customer’s needs to improve your collection rates?

Interactive self-service

Debt is a very touchy subject, not many people like to openly admit that they have debts, let alone discuss them with strangers. The thought of openly discussing debts and repayments with a stranger on the telephone can seem very alien to some customer’s. This is where 24hr Interactive Payment Solutions (IVR) can be effective when dealing with early stage repayments or even later stage collections.

55% of customers prefer automated self-service and are more likely to interact with an automated message than with a person, mainly because it seems less intrusive. The person paying their debts can find out their balances, choose to pay a specified amount or be choose to be transferred to a call centre agent.

This also opens up the opportunity to operate in extended opening hours without the need to extend your staffing budget, improving collection rates and efficiency and is one performed at a significantly lower cost than it would to employ an agent.

Automated alerts

During the early stages of debt, customers often forget or are unaware of the debt the organisation is contacting them about. Customers may go overdrawn over Christmas, miss one payment and not know. This is where a simple automated SMS or an ‘Interactive Voice Solution” can give them instructions on how the problem can be best resolved. In addition, our SMS-Chat platform can open additional lines for communication and allow agents to hold multiple conversations maximising the agents time.

Did you know call centre agents account for 70% of the expenditure on call centres? Using automation frees up the most expensive cost of debt collection, leaving staff to deal with the more complex cases making collection rates higher.

If you are looking for solutions to improve your debt collection rates over the toughest months following Christmas, call our team on 0345 356 5758 who will be happy to discuss our range of products and services for the finance sector.

month 11
day 17
year 2015

Enhance your click + collect service with Voice and SMS

click and collect voice and SMS communicationsBuying online may be popular at all times of year, but waiting at home for deliveries is not always convenient. 45% of online consumers in the UK used click-and-collect for Christmas shopping in 2014 which has made it the third most popular purchasing service in the UK.

A retailer’s job is to ensure their products as well as the customers’ experience is as smooth and efficient as possible in order to promote repeat visits and purchases, but are you optimising your click and collect service to encourage that?

Not only convenient for the customers, but free of charge too, click and collect means more people in store and more opportunities to benefit from impulse buying. A great win win scenario.

Complement your service

Reach your customers with the most convenient form of contact through interactive voice broadcasting. Sending a pre-recorded voice message eliminates the need for your staff members to spend time calling endless lists of telephone numbers and making manual calls, saving both their time and the company’s money. Proven to gain three times the response rate of traditional sales calls or email confirmations it is one of the most efficient services to exchange information over.

More personalised with specific, detailed information that the customer wants including where they can collect their delivery right through to stock updates when a desired item has reached their chosen branch, voice broadcasting makes for a well informed customer and an even better type of service to accompany it.

Showcase Your Services

Using a combination of both voice and SMS can enhance a customer’s experience of your brand, making their transaction one that is personalised and rich in customer value.

Consider using a two-tier process. Send an SMS once their order is confirmed by integrating with our API, or if you use Magento via our SMS plugin, then broadcast an automated voice message when it arrives in store. Keeping your customer up to date with a fresh and varied approach and one which puts to rest their shopping worries during holiday season.
For more information on utilising the power of Voice broadcasting and bulk SMS to aid click and collect please contact the team on 0345 356 5758 or sign up here for a free trial.

month 08
day 28
year 2015

Debt collection with an impact!

Using SMS for collecting debtNew figures show that local authorities are more and more reliant on bailiffs to collect debt – in fact it’s up 16% in the last two years (Money Advice Trust MAT). Innovating and thinking of new ways to encourage people to pay off any outstanding council tax or parking fines could save a considerable amount of time and also has a positive social impact.

A report by the Children’s Society has identified that most families who have been visited by the bailiffs say their children were at home at the time – the majority saying it left their children feeling frightened or worried. It’s thought up to 1.6 million children have been affected.

We’ve put together a few ways you can use digital technologies to increase repayments and reduce a reliance on bailiffs.

SMS
91% of adults keep their phone within arms reach (Morgan Stanley) so it’s almost impossible to miss a message through your device. Once a payment has been missed you can send an SMS reminder direct to their mobile. Including a link to an online payment portal is then a great way to encourage more people to settle their debt.

SMS chat
If people are struggling financially and aren’t able to settle their debts right away, giving them a friendly and less threatening way to get in touch is a simple but effective way of coming to an arrangement that works for both sides.

Offering an SMS chat service gives them the ability to talk through their issues with an agent and it seems much less daunting than having to speak on the phone. Having these conversations is a great starting point to getting debts settled.

IVR
Implementing an interactive voice response system provides another way to pay. Citizens can call up and pay over the phone. Automating the payment process helps to reduce your call volumes and give your agents more time to spend encouraging repayments.

 

month 08
day 26
year 2015

How to break the cycle of inefficiency

Business IVR Is your business inundated with calls day in, day out? The overwhelming volume inevitably leads to your agents being swamped and frustrated customers facing long waiting times. An interactive voice response (IVR) system could be the answer.

62% of best-in-class companies use IVR platforms to deliver great customer service (Aberdeen Group). Here’s 5 ways a business IVR can work for you:

1. Quick and easy
82% of customers say fast service is the number one factor to a great customer experience (LivePerson). When customers engage with your IVR they can either solve their own issues or connect to an agent making the process much simpler. Also by connecting with the right department the first time around it reduces call times, freeing up your agents to have quality conversations with more customers.

2. In your customers’ hands
In the last five years the number of consumers that prefer automated self service has doubled to 55% (Convergys). With this in mind giving your customers an option to self serve is crucial to keeping them happy. An IVR gives the best of both worlds – they have the freedom to solve their own problems, but have the reassurance that they can connect with an agent.

3. Reduce costs, improve efficiency
An effective IVR platform will help you to automate certain engagements so your customers don’t need to be on the phone with an agent to make a payment, receive balance updates or make a request. This ultimately means less calls into your contact centre helping to ease queues and save costs.

4. Never turn off
You don’t need to have someone constantly manning the phone to make sure you never miss a call. An IVR is 24/7 so customers will have options to self serve or can even leave a voice message out of business hours.

5. It’s the future
Get ahead of the game – by 2020 customers will manage 85% of their relationship with organisations without interacting with a human (Gartner). An interactive voice response service feels personal but doesn’t require interaction with an agent, unless they choose to.

To break the cycle of inefficiency once and for all implement an IVR to see your costs reduced, more efficient processes and most importantly happier customers!

month 07
day 31
year 2015

Financial services are banking on SMS

Sending SMS in the financial sectorThe sensitive nature of information in the financial services makes finding secure and reliable communication platforms a high priority.

A new study has shown that 88% of organisations in the financial sector believe sending texts to customers has a considerable impact on customer service (IDC InfoBrief). On top of this, 73% consider SMS to be effective for mission critical employee-focused transactions.

To engage effectively with their customers, organisations need to use a suite of channels to interact at every stage of the customer journey – it’s by going above and beyond that attracts and retains their customers.

With communication channels readily available at our fingertips we expect no less when it comes to customer service – it has to be instant and straightforward. To engage effectively, financial organisations need to adapt to the changing communication preferences of their customers.

Other powerful business communication channels

Whether customers want to make a payment or speak to an advisor they can text your shortcode or reply to a text message to receive an instant or scheduled voice callback. This makes the whole experience simple and hassle-free for the customer.

The number of consumers that prefer self-service has doubled in the last five years – it’s now at 55% (Convergys). Financial organisations can use an interactive voice response (IVR) system to allow their clients to self-serve by interacting with their voice system. Whether they want to make a payment, access their account or request a cheque book or quote all they have to do is dial a number and simply navigate through the options.

An online payment portal gives the freedom to accept payments 24/7 online – here at Esendex our payment portal is highly secure and PCI DSS compliant.

Are you communicating effectively? If you would like some more inspiration just get in touch today – call us on 0345 356 5758.