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Is Your Website is a Call Center Tool?

By: Colin Taylor

Recent research by Forrester has shown that 72% of customers prefer to visit your web site and serve themselves when they have a customer service issue. This is a large percentage and is disconnected from the perceptions of most organizations related to the activity in their contact center. This figure clearly points to the importance of ensuring that your website is friendly and easy to navigate. This point is further underscored by a study conducted by the Customer Council in 2009 which found the 40% of your customers who phone your contact center will be on you website at the time of the call.
Now I know that at this minute you are a little concerned and are mentally reviewing your website in your head…is it easy to use? Can a customer find the FAQ’s? Will the FAQ’s actually answer customer questions? Well let me raise the heat just a little more. In answer to this question posed by Forrester Research in 2009 “I will stop my online purchase if I do not immediately find an answer to my question” a frighteningly large percentage, 57% of all respondents answered: Yes!
So what does all this mean to the call center operator? Of course it is this last statistic that drives the use of proactive chat to reach out to a customer on the website who may be struggling to find an answer, before they abandon the shopping cart. But these three statistics when viewed together paints an unmistakeably integrated view of the call center and the website. In fact your website maybe the best and most efficient call center tool you have. Your customers want to use your website: almost 3/4 will attempt to ‘self serve’ their problem before they call you. 40% will still be on the website when they do call you. We also know that customers can be fickle, with more than half ending planned purchase transactions for want of an easy to find answer. Logic would suggest that if we could make sure our website is customer friendly for support, technical and purchase transactions we can not only sell more products and services, but can also resolve more issues faster and at a lower cost. The most efficient way to service a customer inquiry is to provide the information the customers seek and avoid a live call center interaction. And what could be even more important this is increasingly how customers want to interact with organizations.
But how can we achieve this? First we need to ask some questions. We have already identified some of the questions we need to ask earlier in this article;
* Is the website customer friendly?
* Is the website easy to navigate?
* Can a customer easily find our FAQ’s or Knowledgebase?
* Are the FAQ’s meaningful, helpful (not just easy to post) and useful?
* Do the FAQ’s actually answer the query completely?
* What other support options can the customer access while on the web? This could include chat, web-forms etc.
We need to ensure that we have the right information available and that it is easy to find. For most organizations this will require linking the knowledgebase or the FAQ,s to the website. The queries and searches that customer may employ can use different terms than we might internally, so you need to ensure you Knowledgebase is labelled and written in plain language, without acronyms or slang that the customer is unlikely to understand or comprehend. You will also need to review the knowledge base usage history within your center and link related or follow on knowledge points. Giving a customer half an answer is of little use to and may actually frustrate the caller. Make sure that you employ pictures and or videos if the solution is complicated or can easily be misunderstood. The objective in optimizing your website for customer success is not just about orders, but also about answering customer questions which will impact on their satisfaction and likelihood to purchase.
The use of chat can be a huge benefit to customers and call center agents alike. It allows the customer to interact while not requiring them to place a call. With chat you can push pages or with consent take over their screen to show them the answers they are seeking. It should be noted that in technical environments, call centers often receive more chat requests than calls. Proactive chat has been proven to improve sales – with organizations reporting a 3 – 5 % increase in web sales directly attributable to proactive chat and answering the question that if left unresolved would have resulted in an abandoned order.
Web-forms are a standard element on almost every website, where you need to complete a form to request information, open a ticket or ask for support. By its nature web-forms are not real time transactions. They are more like email, in fact they are emails with web-forms being sent to an email address or queue. So why not just offer an email link for customer use? A web-form allows you to categorize topics or the nature of the inquiry. Customer can come up with lots of subject lines and content, but you can significantly simplify the processing if there are a finite number of web-form topics and ideally the subject lines can control the routing to ensure that responses can be prioritized and/or distributed to the subject matter experts best equipped to handle the inquiry.
In addition to being able to stream subjects and topics into pre-defined categories, web-forms can require customer information. This includes name and contact details, but can also include customer or account number, if the form is related to a purchase or an existing ticket. This can add context and detail that can help the call center answer inquiry.
So as you look at your call or contact center and complete your budgets and strategic planning, don’t lose site of the role the company website can play in supporting customers, eliminating problems and calls into the center.

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