By John Busby, SVP of the Marchex Institute
Last week, best-selling author and blogger Seth Godin wrote about the importance to brands of getting the call center experience right, and provided a handful of suggestions. The Marchex Institute has analyzed more than 10 million phone calls to businesses. Naturally, I couldn’t help but ask: Is there data to support Godin’s ideas? Let’s take a look.
Spend a lot more money. Hire more agents. Train them better. Treat them with respect and they’ll do the same to those they interact with. Have a bright red light flash on the CEO’s desk whenever anyone, anywhere, is on hold for more than 5 minutes.
Data To Support This? Yes!
For sales calls, every second a consumer stays on hold is a second they can choose to hang up. I have personally seen lower hold times translate into a 10% lift in conversion rates.
Similarly, a complex IVR (e.g., press 1, press 2, etc.) can contribute to frustrated consumers and higher abandonment rates. I compared the conversion rates of two competing home services companies. One had a multi-step IVR asking consumers to provide their zip code, customer history and problem prior to speaking with an agent. The second company had a single-step IVR. The first company had such a high abandonment rate, it converted about 20% FEWER inbound calls than the second company.
80% of your inbound calls are about the same ten things. First, eliminate those problems in future products, packaging and policies. The best way to handle these calls is to eliminate them. Second, put clear, fun and complete answers to these questions online where they are easy to find. And third, hire talented voice actors to record engaging answers to each, and offer them as a first resort as a result of #1, above.
Data to Support This? No.
I disagree that 80% of inbound calls are about the same ten things. When I call an auto insurance company, the call is about me and my personal situation. When you call an auto insurance company, the call is about you and your personal situation. In this way, every call is unique.
Our research overwhelmingly shows that we make phone calls to businesses because we’d like an answer urgently, because the product or service is important to us or we’d like some advice or counsel from a person before making a decision. Put another way, we’d like a human connection.
Change your on hold music to Bill Cosby and Woody Allen records.
Data To Support This? No, But I Wish!
I like Seth Godin’s taste, but this wouldn’t be my first recommendation to a call center that wished to get more out of its hold time. The top suggestion I have would be to understand the features or deals that differentiate your product from the competition, and use the first few moments of hold time to tell the consumer what that is.
I’ve worked with several companies that were a little more expensive than the competition, but had good reasons to be more expensive. Their products had a warranty, were made with better materials or had 24-hour service. Many consumers were not aware of these features, but were simply price-shopping. In the few seconds or minutes a consumer may be on hold, tell them to “ask an agent about our 5-year quality guarantee”. This may be the only way to turn hold time into a positive.
Godin makes a few other suggestions in the article, such as motivating call center employees and informing consumers of your hours of operation, which I agree with for obvious reasons.
Finally, I very much agree with Godin’s closing comment that even famous companies get all of these wrong. I’d recommend that every CEO spend as much time understanding their call experience as they do their company’s home page… a phone call is the most personal time a customer or prospect may spend with your brand!