Organisations are keen to promote self-service and it’s easy to see why. According to ContactBabel research conducted in 2014, the average cost of a telephony IVR self-service session is 65p, compared to £3.87 for a live agent call, £3.70 for an agent-handled email and £3.00 for a web chat session.
The cost of answering a customer query using a web site agent avatar or automated Q&A is clearly even less. If service tasks can be easily performed by the web or resolved by self-service, then the sensible option is to implement these options. Consumers will more readily accept self-service as:
Web site technology gets better at recognising customers, tracking their activity and providing personalisation and self-help to improve experiences, and
Advances in speech technology make speech recognition-driven IVR services more ‘natural’.
While machines are getting better at processing and responding to natural language, they are not good at showing empathy, solving complex problems or creativity. That’s why there will always be a place for live agent services at the centre of customer operations. What the contact centre model can’t afford to be, though, is a place where the lowest paid, youngest and least empowered people work anymore. Contact centre agents will need to be knowledgeable, able to take on complex problems on the customer’s behalf and be able to co-ordinate with other departments to resolve these problems.