Employee attrition is a common phenomenon across many industries and sectors. It negatively affects the company since when employees leave, companies have to spend time and money to hire replacements. Apart from the cost of re-hiring, companies with high employee attrition also incur high training costs.
Call centers are notorious for high employee turnover, and managers have become resigned to the fact that employees come and go. In fact, the employee turnover rate for the customer support industry is three times the U.S. national average, standing at 30 – 45% while the national average is 15.1%.
Call centers spend about $4000 on hiring a new person and the same amount on training. These numbers, however, only represent hard costs and not the potential revenue loss and deterioration of customer service from the loss of experienced agents. High employee turnover negatively affects the quality of customer service. At the same time, poor customer service through poorly designed tools - IVRs and chatbots - also put a strain on the call center and reduce productivity.
Faults in Badly Designed IVRs and Chatbots
An Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system is used to answer calls whereby the customer is guided through a list of options and picks an option from the keypad. Users follow the automated voice to get the department they want to consult with. IVRs are popular in call centers and are used to direct customers on simple transactions like checking the account balance, paying bills or reaching a customer service agent.
Despite their widespread use, IVRs are unpopular among customers because of their lousy decision trees. IVRs can be cumbersome and time-consuming and can make for a terrible customer experience when the issue doesn’t get resolved in the end. They also can be tricky to use since someone can make a mistake when typing in a long number and the IVR process needs to be restarted due to the error. When the customer finally gets through to a live call center agent, the conversation is usually filled with complaints and contempt for the terrible ordeal.
Chatbots, on the other hand, are AI systems that answer queries in a conversational format instead of directing customers with hyperlinks. They are commonly used in messaging apps on phones or computer web browsers. Chatbots are being widely adopted with more than 100,000 chatbots on Facebook Messenger alone; multinational companies like Uber and Pizza Express are also using chatbots to take bookings, queries, etc.
Chatbots are more beneficial than IVRs since they are easier to use and the time taken to solve an issue is quite short. They have been heralded as the future of customer service because the AI backed chatbots have an ever-growing repository of information and can answer queries with increasing accuracy. However, chatbots still cut off people from getting human assistance where there is some empathy from the agent’s side. A poorly designed chatbot that doesn’t offer appropriate information can be a detriment to the customer experience. Not to mention the blowback that call center agents receive from the frustrated customer. Customers also argue that having a live call center agent helping them out is more efficient and time-saving.
Employee Turnover in Customer Service
Call center employee turnover is high because it is a hard job. Agents have to deal with emotional customers on a daily basis and deal with high call volumes. They also cannot get a break when the call lines are busy, which is almost all the time. Call center agents are also in the lower tier when it comes to salaries, and most feel like the work they do isn’t worth the meagre pay.
As IVRs and chatbots are being introduced to the customer care sector, agents expect that the tools will help ease the burden on the call center. When these customer care tools are subpar at best or terrible at worst, customers tend to vent to the customer care agents who are already working in a stressful environment. It is worse if the agent knows the solution is simple, but since the IVR and chatbots fail to guide the customer effectively, they have to deal with the customer’s frustration and still guide them themselves. When agents finally decide to leave, customer experience suffers due to the loss of experienced and empathetic agents to help solve queries.
The importance of Testing IVRs and chatbots
Since IVRs are the link between the customer and the company, they should be thoroughly tested before deployment and also routinely when in service. First, the CX manager should have a clear idea of what they hope to achieve from the IVR installation. For instance, if you want to incorporate account checking functionalities, e.g. checking balance, expiry/ renewal, depositing, etc. then you will know what options to give the user.
Companies should then know the peak hours and ensure the IVRs are working before the influx of calls starts pouring in. Updating the system can also cause problems and should be tested to maintain functionality. More importantly, the IVR is a significant part of the customer journey and creates an impression about your brand; one that you wouldn’t want to be tainted by some technical hitches.