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How to deflect calls without damaging your customer experience

Key takeaways:

  • Thoughtful call deflection is worth it, for your customers and your business
  • Understand in depth what your customers are calling you about first
  • Start with deflecting information-type questions with the help of a knowledge base
  • Set up your IVR to direct customers to the most frequently asked questions via SMS or app notifications
  • Involve product teams in support to get buy-in for building self-serve tools and fixing issues quicker
  • Some questions will always remain; consider deflecting calls to cheaper channels like chat or email

Why deflect customer calls?

Faster support

81% of consumers prefer to find answers on their own and really value the speed of resolution. Talking to your support team is not always what customers want. Although deflection sounds like a bad word in customer service, in reality, it can significantly improve customer experience by reducing the wait. But only if you enable customers to actually find the answer to their questions quickly and easily.

Free up time for your team to support customers where it matters

No one wants to go through customer authentication questions if all you are looking for is how I can download my bank statement.
But some customer issues definitely require human interaction, especially when it comes to urgent, complex and sensitive problems.

If you make sure that your team is available to support customers where it truly matters, it will make a world of difference to your customer experience. Few businesses have the resources to answer every call 24/7, so careful contact prioritisation and call deflection is how you get your customers to feel well supported.

Cost savings

These days, we all operate in a challenging economic environment where efficiency is vital for business outcomes and chances of survival. Reducing customer contact and thoughtful call deflection is one of the ways to help your business do more with less without damaging customer loyalty.

Key steps to effective call deflection

Understand your call volume

Thoughtful call deflection implies a deliberate choice of what kind of questions to deflect and in which situations to put the customer straight through to your team. The first step is to ensure you understand what customers are getting in touch about and how frequently the same questions occur.

There are several ways of doing that:
  • Manual tagging of each call by your team
  • Automatic tagging based on keywords

Doing this consistently is key to understanding your customers: you can analyse trends in your call volumes and see where customers encounter the most issues. Manual tagging can take up a lot of time and requires regular revision of your tagging heuristics. Although automatic tagging is not a complete replacement, it can be very complementary and save you a lot of time.

With Cordless, you can set up automatic tagging, so your team doesn’t need to do it after every call. Once you create new trigger words, Cordless will also look at all your calls and categorise them retrospectively so you get all the data immediately.

Decide which questions to deflect

Once you have complete data on your calls, you can determine which calls could be deflected. This will depend on the business, but in general, there are several types of questions a customer can ask:

  • Information requests.
  • For example, ‘What’s the fee for using my card abroad?’
  • A request that requires an action that could be solved via self-service.
  • For example, updating an address or downloading a bank statement. Your company might not have a self-service option available now, but you can see how, with a little investment from your engineering team, some questions can be turned into a straightforward self-service flow.
  • An issue that requires your team's support.
  • These usually occur when something has gone wrong with the service or product. For example, I can’t log in, or my delivery is damaged.
It’s easy to see that some of these questions are an excellent fit for deflection.

Build a knowledge base

91% of people search first before getting in touch with customer support.
The first step to enable customers to find answers for themselves is to create a comprehensive and easily searchable knowledge base. This is where your understanding of customer questions and respective volumes is critical.

Here are a couple of tips for a great knowledge base:
  • Focus on customer information-type questions first.
  • These are the queries where customers don’t need any assistance from your team.
  • Start with the most high-frequency questions.
  • This will have the most impact for your customers and team. For example, if you have 10% of your customers asking you what’s their daily transaction limit, make sure to start with that. It’s a quick win!
  • Involve other teams.
  • Product, sales, or any other specialised teams you might have. Your product team will know the ins and outs of how the product works, so they would be best placed to help you write a comprehensive article for your customers.
  • Include screenshots, images and lots of bullets.
  • This will make it super easy to find an answer after skimming through the article.

Direct customers to the right place

Once you have the knowledge base ready, you can now set up your IVR to get customers where they need to go.

IVR is helpful to get customers to talk to the right team, of course, but it can also direct customers to your help centre for any frequently asked questions. Sending an SMS with a link to an article or a self-service flow is a great way to do that. You can do that with Cordless customer journey feature just by adding this as a step on the relevant IVR branch.
For example, if 10% of your calls are about how to set up Apple Pay and you have a comprehensive article about it, add a separate IVR branch and send your customers an SMS with a link to the right article. This is a perfect example of a call deflection done right.

Check out how Curve does it here

Communicate proactively

Some information-type questions are always there, like the fee example earlier. However, some information questions are only relevant to customers at a particular time. If you can predict when and what the customers might ask, you can deflect and provide them with timely information.

It’s easier done than it sounds! Here are a couple of examples:

1️⃣ If you know the customer is waiting for a delivery, sending proactive communication via email is a must and has become mainstream practice for a good reason.
This can also be extrapolated to calls. If your phone system is well integrated with your CRM and the customer is calling you, your IVR and routing rules should be able to flag that this customer is waiting for a delivery, which is the most likely reason for the call. Giving them an update about their delivery upfront before connecting them to an agent or reading other options would save your team a lot of time.

2️⃣ If you are having an outage, experiencing long waiting times or have a different holiday schedule, communicating this to all your calling customers could resolve many questions upfront.
With Cordless, you can easily create a new IVR / Customer journey in case these situations happen and then switch over with a click of a button instead of editing your voice menu while customers call you.

Create self-serve options

To create self-serve options, you will have to involve your product and engineering team and have a buy-in from the rest of the company. Having people across the organisation do customer service and actually talk to real customers regularly helps create a culture of customer-centricity, which ultimately leads to better customer and business outcomes.

For example, once a product team ships a new product, the whole team, including engineers, should do customer support for this new feature or at least closely monitor questions that come up. With this kind of ownership from the product team, many issues and self-service options will be prioritised much quicker.
Once you have those self-service options available, you can deflect many more calls using the techniques described previously.

Ongoing monitoring of customer feedback is super important because this is how you create winning products in the long term and, in parallel, reduce your contact rate. Everyone in the organisation should have access to customer conversations and data to shorten this feedback loop. At Cordless we do two specific things to make it easier:

  • Free access to Cordless for all members of the team who are not making calls but would benefit from the insights data (for example, product teams).
  • Ability to configure Slack notifications for specific words and tags. Imagine you just launched a new product and want to be alerted when your customers experience a bug in the new flow so you can investigate - you can now do this with Cordless.

Deflect to a more cost-effective channel

One of the reasons to deflect calls is to make your team more efficient and free up time for truly urgent customer questions that require a call. Call-to-chat deflection directs customers to a more cost-efficient channel, while still be there for them.

The mechanics of this are similar: based on the customer’s IVR selection or their CRM information, send your callers an SMS with a link that puts them into a chat with your team. This can also be a very effective way to find out more about the customer's question and then give them a call back if necessary.

To sum up…

Call deflection is worth it because it improves speed of resolution, allows your team to focus on questions where your customers really need a human touch and reduces your costs without compromising customer loyalty.

For effective call deflection you need to understand what your customers are getting in touch about and decide which questions are a good fit for deflection. Once you have your top hit list, create a comprehensive knowledge base for your customers to find answers themselves.

Some customers would have trouble finding the answers themselves, so you can help them by placing them in the right place automatically using SMS, app notifications or proactive communication. To take this one step further, you can create self-service options and deflect calls to cheaper channels.
Luba Chudnovets
Co-Founder and CEO