Call Deflection during COVID-19

As you adapt and respond to COVID-19, you’re likely experiencing a high volume of customer calls due to the crisis. Your agents are suddenly remote and overwhelmed by the changing work environment and new customer questions. Long wait times and lack of access to answers could negatively impact your customers’ experience at a time when they are likely to remember who helped and who frustrated them.

While you can’t reinvent your customer experience overnight, you can deploy intelligent solutions quickly. Customers can understand the unique situation we’re all in because we’re all in it together. But they won’t tolerate “business as usual” without any effort by brands to adapt to the situation.

Because your agents are overwhelmed and may have limited access to systems if working remotely, you need to focus on automation. You also need to be prepared for some of your workforce being sidelined due to illness or shutdowns.

The goal is to be to focus agents on only the issues which absolutely require a human for a successful resolution. In this crisis, call deflection becomes an essential way to connect customers with the answers they need without overwhelming your agents.

Call deflection is increasingly important during the pandemic as a tool to save money, improve customer experience, and empower your agents.

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What is Call Deflection?

Call deflection is reducing the number of calls that come into your contact center, help desk, or other areas of your business by diverting calls to alternate means of answering customer questions, such as self-service or digital channels.

Call deflection is also valuable to customers who would rather receive service without having to speak to another human. As a result, call deflection is the new king of the castle.

But how do you reap the benefits of call deflection quickly during the current crisis?

In this article, we will cover seven ways to automate call deflection in a hurry:

  1. Learn what people are calling about
  2. Add bots to automate human conversation
  3. Create space for your customer community to support each other
  4. Preempt the call
  5. Eliminate waiting on hold
  6. Take advantage of digital channels
  7. Optimize your knowledge base
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1. Learn what people are calling about

One insight into how to automate call deflection quickly comes from speech analytics. It’s likely you’re experiencing an increased call volume around topics you haven’t had to handle before. Analyzing the calls you’re receiving provides valuable information on what sorts of calls are coming in.

Another valuable source of information comes from understanding the top intents behind certain call types. For example, customers are calling in with questions about billing, they may automatically be directed to speak with an agent. But what if they’re looking to switch to paperless billing? If this inquiry can be executed via self-service options, knowing their intent can enable you to deflect the call to an online portal where they can switch to online billing.

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2. Add bots to automate human conversation

Implement intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs) and chatbots, which have been proven to deflect 40-80% of calls. Some IVAs, like Verint’s, have production-ready packages that are already trained on your industry, allowing you to get up and running quickly to meet customer demand.

When customers can interact with an IVA using conversations instead of menus and forms, they can get to the answers they seek without having to place a call. Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) can predict what a customer wants, personalize the interaction, and determine the best next action to deliver a successful outcome – significantly reducing the need for customer calls.

Amtrak uses an IVA on its website, Amtrak’s IVA “Julie” which directs customers with Coronavirus-related questions to that page in a personalized manner, but sticks around on the screen to field any additional questions.

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3. Create a space for your customer community to support each other

Your customer wants solutions, and they often want to be a champion for your brand. One way to simultaneously deflect calls and gain brand loyalty is to provide a space where they can get peer-to-peer support.

Online customer communities allow your customers to share real-time information with one another. Not only do these communities let your customers communicate with one another, but they can also be a useful tool for customers to get anecdotal answers from one another, eliminating the need to reach out to your agents.

For example, Sage created a single online community for customers which helped to reduce costs, improve customer engagement, and elevate its brand, image, and customer support.

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4. Preempt the call

A great way to deflect calls in a hurry is to give customers the information they need before they ever pick up the phone. There are several ways to direct customers to self-service options before they have a problem. For example, you could use automated emails, SMS messaging, and website notifications to inform customers to use self-service channels due to the current crisis.

Additionally, get in touch with customers ahead of their calls with messaging addressing how difficult making a phone call will be.

For example, the first thing customers might do is visit your website for your phone number. If you include a prominent banner on the website saying something like “Our phone lines are experiencing extremely long wait times; please consider our self-service options” and direct them to where they can find their answer, you can reduce call volumes. You can also use the banner as an opportunity to let customers know which scenarios DO require them to call. Let the people who need to get in touch know they can.

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5. Eliminate waiting on hold

With the surge in call volume comes an increase in people waiting on hold. Call deflection can help you reduce the number of callers experiencing hold times in a few ways.

The first approach is to leverage call scheduling and automated callbacks. With this approach, while your customers may still have to wait to get in touch, they can still go about their day and won’t experience as much frustration.

Further, when you communicate the callback time, point the customer to the self-service resources on your website. Many customers may find their answers while they are waiting and not need to speak with an agent.

A second approach is to answer common questions within your IVR. If your speech analytics research uncovers common call types that do not need agent assistance, you can address those questions and answers via IVR when the customer calls in. For example, Amtrak offers virus-specific experiences using a virtual assistant in the voice channel to help customers get the information they need when calling.

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6. Digital channels

Digital channels provide a great opportunity to deflect calls. Promote your digital channels, such as chat, email, and surveys. You can also use an IVA in front of these channels to answer common questions.

Digital channels still involve your agents, since customer questions are routed there, but these channels are likely less overwhelmed than your phone channels and often cost less. It’s a good in-between mechanism that should be promoted prominently on your website so customers are aware they can use these digital channels and know how to access them.

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7. Optimize your knowledge base

In the first step, you analyzed your calls to see what was driving the most inquiries. This data, combined with data mined from search terms on your website, can give you a picture of what information your customers are looking for. Once you’ve identified the most pressing areas, you can then push the corresponding self-service content to the foreground for easy access.

It’s important to note the information customers seek today may not be the same information they needed yesterday. If you stay current with the information customers need now, you may avoid additional calls.

As information changes, make sure you add it to the knowledge base. Ideally, your knowledge base should be centralized across all channels, both for self-service and agent-assisted channels. That way, you only need to update content once and it’ll update across all of your users and channels. This will let your agents know immediately what answers to give.

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In the past, call deflection has always been thought of as a cost-control measure. Today, companies are seeing firsthand that call deflection is about creating the optimal customer experience when conditions are suboptimal.

Call deflection is now about protecting and empowering your agents who have an unprecedented task in front of them. By leveraging call deflection, you can ensure that your human agents get what they need in terms of support, while your customers get what they want out of your business.

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Featured Call Deflection Resources