Social CRM triggered the whole new level of discussions around automated/self-service support options. People are demanding real-time interactions with the “live” person. Everywhere they go. Why? Because they [for some unexplainable reasons] still think [despite all the realities] that the best customer service can only come from “live” interaction with the agent.
OK – let’s look at a “back end” of almost any customer interaction center.
Behind this huge cloud of customer interaction center reside few levels of support. Your initial call [or interaction of any nature] goes to well known Level 1 [L1] support desk. Based on the results of your conversation with L1 agent your call will be marked either as complete or will be escalated to Level 2 [L2] agent. You follow me here.
For the purpose of our discussions, let’s focus on level 1 desk. In most of the cases Level 1 support agents are trained well to walk you through a pre-defined script so they can route your call in a right direction. They can also help some folks to resolve very basic problems, like – is the power on, etc…
We just mentioned one of the key terms that you as a customer need to understand well – script. What is the script? It’s a decision tree with questions, answers and branches of those. Why service/support people need it? Because they are NOT experts – not level 1 folks. The experts are the ones who documented their know-how in some type of back-end knowledge base, developed those scripts that were handed out to L1 people to follow.
That’s why many of you get frustrated talking to L1 agents – “Why are you asking me for a color of my eyes? I’m telling you what my problem is – just fix it! “ Well – they have to go through the whole script. That’s how they have been trained. And they really want to solve your problem fast, or let me correct myself – they want to finish up a call with you fast! Why? Because one of the metrics [that doesn’t make much sense] but is still used to evaluate L1 agents performance is the duration of the call. That’s why today during my on-going discussions with AT&T regarding the quality of internet service, the agent I was talking to was quick enough to tell me – ok maaam, transferring your call to our wireless support team. “PLEASE WAIT” – I screamed, “I just told you the problem is with wired computers as well. Could you please test all the lines” I pleaded .. please… – yes, that’s what you need to do sometimes to wake those people up, help them to switch from a “script” mode to a “thinking” one and hopefully help you.
What automation/self-service does that is different from what L1 “live” agent does? HUGE difference [smile]! Instead of live person reading you questions from a script, those questions pop-up on your screen or those answers come to you via email.. Really?? The quality of our initial support depends on a quality of the design of those back-end knowledge management systems and the quality of information contained in them! The quality of customer support depends on quality of those scripts support agents use – make them more intelligent, instead of static decision-based trees, build those scripts using advanced AI tools and technologies… WOW! But it is cheaper and faster for the companies just to add one more cheap agent somewhere is a middle of no-where to their outsourced Level 1 contact center instead of investing $$$ in upgrading the whole system.
At this point many of you will demand – get experts, the real ones to talk to me at my very first interaction point. Will be nice, right? Not doable though… Average salaries for those real experts are in mid-100s USD. And many of those initial calls do not require those high skilled professionals anyway…
I hope we are slowly getting on the same page of understanding now where the major difference between L1 “live” and automated support is. It is NOT that HUGE ! Instead of asking for more of those in most of the cases useless L1 agents that tend to frustrate us more than help, I would ask companies to spend more time and money on their back end systems. Make sure that they have up to date knowledge that covers most of the common issues. Make sure that that knowledge is accessible. So we can find relevant solutions fast. Make sure that all the service/support processes are designed with the customer in mind.
What matters to me the most – getting the right answer fast. The only measure I use to rate my experience as a customer.