4 Signs that a Contact Center is Failing (And How to Fix It)

Immediate and long-term solutions

Oct 08, 2020 | 0 comment

There are few things in life we cannot predict. 

Earthquakes. Which team will win the Super Bowl. What else the year 2020 has in stock. (The last one is truly scary.)

Other things, however, we can foresee. Such as a failing contact center. 

There are signs a customer service organization is not functioning properly. They might not be immediately obvious. But with the right discovery strategy and a solid plan to address early symptoms, a manager can nip a problem in the bud. Doing so can prevent long-term dysfunction and the demise of a contact center.  

Hence, below we present the guide to detecting the signs that a contact center is failing. And, of course, the ways to fix these problems – both immediate and long-term. 

Sign #1: The gossip is no good. 

The saying goes that bad publicity is still publicity. And while this might work for the Kardashians, we should bust this myth in the business world. 

Today, not only do companies have to worry about the reviews customers leave online, but they also have to keep an eye on social media customer service and the general perception of their brands online. In a fast-paced, constantly connected environment, companies cannot afford for the public to have a negative view of them.

Customers are using social media, and the odds are high that they will look to reach out to companies with a question or concern. According to Sprout Social, 90% of people surveyed have used social media in some way to communicate directly with a brand. Additionally, customers talk about the brand, mention the brand in conversations online, and, of course, leave reviews. 

So if the talk online is not in the company’s favor, there is definitely a cause for concern. This could be a major sign that a contact center is failing. After all, unsatisfied customers signify problems with customer service. Which points to, you guessed it, to the contact center. 

A surge in customer complaints on your business’s social media is a clear warning sign that your contact center is not handling customer inquiries satisfactorily. Customers expect contact center staff to take their calls promptly, acknowledge their issues and offer a satisfactory solution. If this isn’t the case, they will often vent their frustrations on social media. (Gilad Rom, Founder of Huan.)

Immediate remedy: perk up those social ears. 

Social listening serves as an important marketing tool when brands try to research the market and feel their audiences. 

It is also a useful way to discover any potential issues customers might have with a company. Respond to reviews and inquiries on social media.  Participate in community conversations about the brand. And overall stay present in online forums. This can help remedy any issues with customer service that occurred due to malfunctioning contact center operations. 

Additionally, interacting with customers on social media can bring the much-craved personalization to customer experience. According to a Researchscape International study, the top benefits of personalization include improved customer experience (55%), improved brand perception (39%), and increased lead generation and customer acquisition (46%).

Long-term solution: create omnichannel experience. 

Whichever social channels a contact center uses, implementing an omnichannel strategy will do wonders for customer satisfaction. The Omnichannel system maintains a consistent and effortless experience from one channel to another. In other words, no matter what channel a customer uses to communicate, all channels work as one consistent stream of communication. 

Omnichannel promotes proactive customer engagement, creates customer loyalty, and overall improves customer experience. Strategizing in an omnichannel environment is a great long-term solution if social media communications show signs that a contact center is failing. 

Sign #2: Irish goodbyes are a thing

It’s inevitable. Sometimes customers stop doing business with a company and leave. However, if it happens frequently there is a cause for concern. 

“If you notice your customers are leaving you without any apparent reason, that’s a sign your contact center is failing. It would be ideal if your customers who decided to stop buying from you gave you an explanation. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. If your previously satisfied customers start quitting, the most likely explanation is poor customer service. To address this, start by tracking your call center’s customer service processes to identify possible failures and devise solutions. (Matt Bertram, CEO, EWR Digital)

The number one reason for customer exodus is bad customer service. In fact, after one negative experience, 51% of customers will never do business with that company again. (HelpScout) And a company rarely even gets the chance to learn what went wrong, exactly. 

Shauna Geraghty, a clinical psychologist and head of talent at the global customer support innovator TalkDesk revealed on the company’s blog that over 90 percent of customers who are dissatisfied with your customer service experience will –rather than telling you that something is wrong and how you can improve it – just not come back. (Katie Lundin, Entrepreneur)

Immediate remedy: grab feedback while it’s hot. 

An average person can become distracted in just 8 seconds. (Outcry) According to CustomerThink research average feedback frequency ranges between two and 10% among customers. Moreover, feedback collected at or close to the point of service delivery is 40% more accurate than feedback that is collected just a mere 24 hours later.

In other words, if customers don’t provide feedback at the time of service chances are they never will. It’s now or never. Therefore, to get accurate and timely feedback it’s essential to ask customers for it immediately after their experience with a call center. 

Gathering feedback “in real-time at the right point of the customer journey can elicit up to around 20% response rates” CustomerThink research suggests.

Long-term solution: care. Care a lot. 

68 percent of customers leave you because they perceive companies are indifferent to them. (SmallBizTrends) No one likes to feel like a number. That is why it’s so important for organizations to have a customer-focused attitude on every level. 

Strategies to establish such a mindset throughout the organization include personalization, employee engagement, and clear vision of the mission at hand. We discuss in detail specific steps to create custumer -obsessed culture in our recap of an interview with customer experience expert Jeff Toister. 

Sign #3: The line is out the door. 

Customers lined up out the door is a good thing. Unless we’re talking about contact centers. The absolute last thing customers want to do when they make a service inquiry is wait. 

Long queues are a clear indication that a contact center’s current practices are inefficient. It is best to serve customers in the fastest time possible because a longer waiting time translates to subpar service sense. (Yaniv Masjedi, CMO of Nextiva)

In fact, one of the most important Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that show whether or not a contact center is failing is the average speed of answer to customer calls (ASA). The faster the speed, obviously, the more efficiently a contact center is performing. And if there is a long queue there is a risk of customer dissatisfaction, abandonment, followed by an Irish goodbye and bad gossip on social media. 

Immediate remedy: measure, evaluate, analyze. 

Step one in fixing this problem is realizing there is one in the first place. And then figuring out how bad it is. To calculate ASA use the following formula 

ASA = Total Wait Time for Answered Calls/Total # of Answered Calls.

In addition to figuring out the ASA, it’s also important to keep in mind the customer abandonment. 

Average speed of answer in isolation doesn’t give any information about the impact of the time frame necessary for a response. To make up for this blind spot, be sure to look at customer abandonment rates as well. Even if the average speed of answer seems reasonable, it will need to be improved if there are still high customer abandonment rates.(CallMiner)

Once a contact center knows these KPIs, it can set goals to boost each metric. Then it can start to improve immediately.

Long-term solution: add more people and maybe some robots. 

Contact centers facing a long queue should hire additional agents, mostly if many customers leave because the wait is too long. The more agents there are, the faster the line would progress. However, do not compromise service quality by deploying untrained or half-baked agents to the field. Always make sure that all agents that come in contact with customers have the right training and skills.  (Yaniv Masjedi, CMO of Nextiva)

Another solution is to invest in automation. Chatbots will never replace real live agents. However, tactics like pre-chat surveys, FAQs, and an occasional automated responder (as long as it’s smart) could speed up the answering time.  

Sign #4: Agents pass customers like hot potatoes. 

In a successful customer service organization only one agent is necessary to answer a customer’s inquiry. That is why a low  First Contact Resolution rate is a clear indicator that a contact center is failing. FCR goals vary from company to company, but the less transferring takes place the higher the customer satisfaction rates are. 

If an agent resolves the problem on the first customer contact both the company and the customers are saving time and money. Also, one of the major customer frustrations has to do with having to talk to multiple agents, often repeating oneself. That lowers customer satisfaction. And if an agent does not know how to solve a problem, but works behind the scenes with a member of the team who does, the initial agent learns something new. That increases the agent’s knowledge, improves his or her skills, and facilitates engagement on his or her part. It allows for growth and improvement. And that, in turn, helps further motivate contact center agents. If another agent takes the call or live chat, the answering agent learns nothing. 

Immediate remedy: questions, answers, and tools.  

Even well-trained agents can do little if they don’t have good customer service tools and resources at their disposal. A 2016 Salesforce study found that service agents’ top frustration with their current tools is that the tools are not fast enough (45%) and that they are unable to access all of the information they need (38%).

For higher FCR rates:

  • Invest in an efficient live chat software that has intelligent features like real-time visitor monitoring and pre-chat surveys.
  • Implement CRM software which will allow your staff to better organize, track and access customer data.
  • Ensure that your FAQs and knowledge base are regularly updated.

Long-term solution: everyone aboard the training train!

The solution to low FRC rates is to ensure all agents undergo intense training and are qualified to handle all fundamental customer concerns.  Training is the key to unlock every agent’s potential. When contact centers fail to invest in their people’s capabilities, the effect manifests itself as terrible customer service.  (Jerry Han, Chief Marketing Executive, PrizeRebel)

It is essential to thoroughly train your front line agents.

This may mean expanding your training budget. Yes, the overall cost of operations will rise temporarily, but it will be the best investment you’ve ever made.

According to Salesforce, 88% of high-performing service decision makers are making significant investments in agent training compared to only 57% of underperformers. Most importantly, knowledgeable front line agents are your best guarantee for high FCR rates.

Bottom Line: When there are signs a contact center is failing

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When a company sees signs that its contact center is failing, it must take immediate steps to resolve the problems. It should also work to implement a long-term strategy to improve overall functions and raise customer satisfaction levels.