Exceeding Customer Expectations UK – Telephony still critical – [FULL INTERVIEW]

In this conversation with Steve Morrell we discuss the findings of a customer survey on contact center trends, focusing on the preference for phone support and the significance of human connection. He highlights the value of empathy and listening skills in contact center agents, emphasizing the role of these qualities in providing effective customer service. The conversation delves into the shift in customer channel preferences during the pandemic, the rise of AI-assisted agents, and the complex dynamics of channel choices.

Find out more about ContactBabel -> Here.

Key Points

  • The survey analyzes customer preferences and channel choices in contact centers over several years.
  • High emotion scenarios often drive customers to seek immediate assistance through channels like email or phone.
  • The pandemic prompted an increase in phone usage for complex issues, possibly due to reassurance-seeking behavior.
  • The importance of the phone channel persists despite the growth of digital interactions.
  • AI is leveraged to support and enhance agent capabilities, including chatbots and AI-enabled agents.
  • Real-time analytics help agents refine communication skills during customer interactions.
  • Monitoring voice tone and pace aids in detecting stress and facilitating empathetic responses.
  • AI enables more effective coaching and training by analyzing successful interactions for new agents.
  • Omni-channel strategies face challenges due to isolated data silos and technology limitations.
  • Webchat and email costs decrease with higher levels of automation and intelligence.
  • Human connection remains a key driver in customer satisfaction, especially for sensitive issues.
  • Empathy and listening skills are crucial for agents to create positive customer experiences.

Key Statistics

  • Over the years, the phone channel’s importance remained high despite digital advancements.
  • AI-enabled agents and chatbots contribute to enhancing customer experiences and agent efficiency.
  • Webchat automation has led to cost reduction, while maintaining quality in interactions.
  • AI’s role in analyzing voice tone and patterns supports improved agent communication.

Key Takeaways

  • Customers continue to prioritize human connection in contact center interactions, valuing empathy and understanding.
  • The phone channel remains significant, especially for high-emotion and complex scenarios.
  • AI plays a pivotal role in improving agent efficiency, offering real-time guidance, and analyzing successful interactions for training.
  • Webchat automation has led to decreased costs and more efficient interactions.
  • Omni-channel strategies require overcoming data silos and technology limitations for effective implementation.

Full survey is available here: https://www.contactbabel.com/exceeding-uk-customer-expectationshttps://www.contactbabel.com/exceeding-uk-customer-expectations

Interview Transcript

So hi, everyone. I’m here with Steve Morel today, who is the managing director of contact Babel. And Steve, we just wanted to go through it, you just released a new survey are out exceeding customer expectations. And I know there’s some really interesting data in it. And so I know that we wanted to chat a little bit, just run through some of that date, and what that kind of means for the contractor industry. But then also, from my point of view for the collections industry as well, because I think there’s some dynamite stuff in there.

Yeah, excellent. Thank you very much for inviting me. Yeah, we’ve just completed and launched exceeding UK customer expectations, 23 to 24, which is a survey of 1000 UK customers looking at what they want from businesses, what they’re actually getting, and what they do about it.

So now, I know you’ve got some some information you wanted to share, and we’re gonna put some slides up, I would emphasise that, you know what, we’ll put a link in the post as well, just if people want to download the, the whole of the survey and see that and I think you’ve got a new one coming out as well. So people are welcome to take part in that too, as well. So we’ll put the links down below. Steve, do you want to just put that

up? So this is on your report, as you’ll see sponsored by can text to 360 and chose interactive Irish clarity, nice. And Savio? So looking, firstly, at kind of customer issues, what people what problems people most often said that they have when they contacted the business, I think you can see that fairly, obviously, not unexpectedly, that the large majority of people fairly often or very often say that the queue time is too long. Having said that, it’s probably worth looking at, it’s not just a matter of get your queue times down, and then everything’s fine. As you can see that the majority of people report these things happening more often than they’d want to, in many cases, and even things like I can’t hear clearly enough to repeat myself and things like that. It’s not necessarily something you think, is a particular bugbear. In fact, it is and as you might imagine, particularly amongst the kind of older population, so it’s not the case, we’ve just got to solve one issue here and everything else falls into place.

Yeah, I thought it’s quite interesting, the queue times still seem to be dominant from a consumer issue point of view. And I’m interested in like, I’m only calling as I couldn’t solve my issue online, and whether you’ve seen that sort of change over time, really, or what the kind of trends are already around

that. Yeah. As we’ll see later, the queue time trends are very much going upwards, they went up drastically during the pandemic, as you might have expected, but they haven’t come back down. In fact, they’ve levelled off at best. So it’s still the case that people are kind of contracts and they’re still suffering and customers are suffering with them. This kind of the online issue, yet we dug into that a bit more. And it’s not necessarily the case that the functionality wasn’t there on the website was just that people either couldn’t find it or weren’t confident about it, or the functionality was there but didn’t work properly. It’s again, it’s not the case of oh, we’ll just pop everything on the website, and everything’s fine. People still have issues. And there is still again, amongst the kind of older population in particular, the feeling that if you want something done properly, you need to talk to somebody not going away.

So it sounds like there’s a lot more to do from a digital point of view. So probably, yes, it’s improved, because now at least you can actually find stuff online. But now, you didn’t need to do more, because there’s still a bit of frustration around like the it was like the release valve is to then call in. And then then the normal dynamics apply.

Yeah, absolutely. We’ve looked at, we asked contact centre managers, what proportion of calls come from people who have already tried to solve the issue online, and it is a large minority. That’s thing 30 to 40%. So people, they are giving it fair crack of the whip, can’t do it physically, themselves, or it’s simply not there. The takeaway

for me, starting from a collections industry point of view is obviously queue time, last call rate, those kind of things are still critically important. Although we had all this focus on digital, we still got to make look after the things are actually very familiar with. And that’s really very relevant from an inbound point of view.

Yeah, absolutely. Okay. Just mentioned something there when we look at because we again, it was another survey, we look at where customer experience budget is being spent. And it’s probably about 60, to 70%, digital 20 to 30, phone and the rest of the businesses that do stuff in store. So it’s despite the fact that when you look at the proportion of interactions, as we’ll see later, that those are almost flipped around. So you get far more phone calls and you do digital interactions. It’s worth talking about, I have to call that multiple times and explain the issue again, because that’s first contact resolution. And although you’ve got more than half the people said they’ve got a problem with that. That, as we found is actually the key driver to customer experience and satisfaction. So it’s well worth focusing on getting first contact resolution. So yeah, what we’ve done here, as you see, we’ve been around for a while been tracking this since 2004. And you know the story there is very much kind of a gradual increase in speed to answer over the years then shooting up during the pandemic years and staying up there be interesting to see when we do our survey at the end of this year, whether those figures are coming down on auto and call abandonment rate, as you would expect logically is linked to speed to answer. The longer you have to wait the more likely you are to abandon a call on And that tracks it pretty closely.

This graph really shocked me from an inbound point of view just how much it has gone up. And we all know that we’re all consumers essentially making calls in and we know that it feels like there’s been longer wait times, which will then be linked to longer higher abandon rates as well. But do you think that, is that just purely related to pandemic? And are we seeing that now, do you think in terms of resourcing, so it’s almost like we bounced back from pandemic, the volume has returned, but maybe there isn’t a resource, then to then bring that back down. But I’m really surprised just how high it’s gone. And it’s continued to go up. And it’s almost like businesses haven’t reacted to bring people on to then fix it. And this is, despite all the conversation around self serve as well.

That’s right. I think there’s a few things coming into play here, I think, and some will be kind of more resonant with some businesses than other. Others, for the last few years have seen a lot of opportunity for alternative jobs. And if contact centre agents being paid minimum wage, then to be honest, they could go on the tills at supermarket, earn the same money, and it’d be a far easier job. So we have seen the attrition rates going up. And off the back of that, obviously, recruitment is going to be more of an issue. So yes, the resourcing things there, as we’ll talk about in a minute, we’ve seen the customer demand for the voice channel, increasing over the pandemic, and staying there. So these are all things that kind of put pressure on that channel, I’ve no doubt that these figures will start to come down as they do look out of control at the moment. But I think as customers become increasingly happy to use digital channels, that will take some of the pressure off, and we are starting to see that now. But we have to realise that the phone is the kind of gold standard channel for customer contact. And during the pandemic, a lot of people were very emotion about a lot of things, and they got into the habit of using the phone again. And that hasn’t really gone away yet.

I thought it was so interesting, because it’s different from Nestle, the narrative that we’re all in that sort of the industry narrative, which has been around digitalization, let’s push digitalization, let’s push self serve. Do you think we’ve almost sold ourselves resourcing of the contact centre doesn’t really matter, because we’re investing in all this digital stuff on the self stuff stuff, when actually if you actually look at the results, particularly over this longer term trend, it’s almost like we’ve taken our eye off the ball, and not resourced the contact centres properly, because we pretended that it’s going away. But actually, it really hasn’t been and the the data kind of says that it was a real aha moment for me

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No, very true. What this boils down to is customer demand has not gone away from the phone channel. In fact, in the past couple of years, it has increased for the phone channel. And that’s something we saw when we started tracking figures in terms of proportion of interactions in back 2006 2007, firms about 90%. And it dropped very rapidly over those years. But it’s bumped along between 60 and 65% for many years now. So you’re not, you pick, you’re picking the low hanging fruit with kind of self service and digital. But I’d say the fact remains that you’ve not really asked the customer what they want to do what you said right here and you channels go away and use them because we’d like to be honest with you. A lot of the time, though, I don’t want to do that. As I said the resourcing is going into digital, the investment rather is going into digital rather than the phone channel. With the results, you can see that.

Yeah, it’s just interesting, it just feels like there needs to be much more like blended approach, it has secured some of my opinions or views it to a certain extent.

There’s another factor here as well, that the types of phone call that people are getting now tend to be more complex and take longer. You’ve also got more security in a lot of cases, which drags out the conversation, call durations are going up as well. So obviously, if you have the same number of agents, but longer calls, you’re gonna be able to take fewer of them. Yeah, so call duration for service and sales. And as you can see, it’s it’s climbed very significantly in the past 19 years is that looking at service calls have almost doubled in duration in that time. sales calls get more complex, you’ve got probably compliance issues that you didn’t have back in the day, reading people the terms and conditions and what have you. And also we got cross selling upselling opportunity, we got somebody on the phone, spend a bit longer with them and try and sell them some more stuff. So you know, the the story with that is be very clear, that call duration, whatever that is going upwards.

It’s a very similar story in collections contact principle has been driven via regulation as well. So for example, affordability, income, expenditure, etc, you’ll see, you’ll see 1015 minutes, even up to 40 minute type of calls, depending on the products.

There’s a couple of other factors that feed into this as well, on the face of it, the chart we showed before the abandonment and the call duration. So the abandonment and the speed to answer going upwards. That’s not good news for anybody unequivocally. This doesn’t necessarily say the same thing. It’s not necessarily bad news because I say go in towards the left hand side of that graph, the call duration was seen as quite key metric then cost per call. It’s very much keep it tight, get through the work and you call through but now it’s much less seen as a key metric, because the longer the call can be at greater relationship, building more profit Going up sentence opportunities and stuff that so in itself is not necessarily seen as a bad thing. However, when you start digging into what’s actually happening within that call, you can see that some of that fat can be trimmed. So you’ve got loads of time spent unnecessarily in it and the identity verification, which, in terms of the proportion of call, the length of ID and V has gone up a lot in the past few years as things get more complex and a greater number of fraud threats, so you have to react to those accordingly. So you’re looking at probably 40 seconds there, which is of no benefit to anybody, but you still got to do it. So the ways to do that, to get around that. And you’ve also got complex calls will require longer POST call wrap up. So the agent might be there write notes on the call, minutes after the call, and things like that. And again, there are ways in which we can reduce that and AI comes into that. And the third thing is also, I think it’s 97, or 98%, of contact centres don’t have a single pane of glass for their agents. So the agents have to flick between applications often can be six, seven applications, some of them legacy, and that can take a long time as well. So it’s more dead time within the call. So although they’re kind of the content of the call is richer, there’s still the case that we’re wasting an awful lot of time within the fingers, you can see there that could be got rid of and not hurt the relationship and certainly improve the performance of the contact centre. Yeah,

yeah, the idea of AI and the political wrap up, I think it was quite interesting in terms of like, how can you use that to, to populate notes or to summarise calls or those kinds of things? Have you seen that starting to roll out yet? Or is that still early days,

it’s starting to obviously, it’s not only kind of either or so you know, it might be used for some things and not for others? Or a fairly basic stuff and make suggestions to the agent who then accepts it? Yes, that’s what my understanding the call was, as well, or it’s yeah, it’s kind of iterative process. Really, there are some things. So for example, if there’s a change of address, the address might be held on six or seven databases, then, you know, you use rpa, robotic process automation to kind of write those in the background to those databases without the agent having to do it six or seven times. And that’s an easy and quick win, the more complicated stuff that requires understanding of the conversation. Yeah, that’s coming. And some solution providers would say, yes, it’s actually there now. But like I say, again, it’s not it’s not a big bang thing. It doesn’t happen overnight. It

certainly is good to hear that he is not used, you know, as a performance driver as much now many of us we certainly see that in in the collection as well, but I suppose it does. The reason why I’m interested in is it does impact your capacity planning doesn’t mean you have to use it for capacity planning in terms of resourcing, which goes back to the previous slide

mentioned before about people like using the phone. This is from survey that we’ve done for the past six years. Yeah, it’s the customer experience, decision makers guide. This is from and this looks at both. So basically, what we do is ask 1000 customers, we’ll give them a scenario, a high emotion scenario, maybe they’re making a complaint about wrong item that’s been delivered high urgency, maybe they’re picking somebody up from the airport, they need to know if the plane is on time, high complexity filling in a mortgage application form or or tax thing or something like that. So given given a scenario, so they can imagine it. And then we give them a list of channels and say, What would be your channel of choice? Where would you go to first. And as you can see, pre pandemic, because this is done in like q1 each year. So this is just before the pandemic hit, you can see the 2020 figures there. It was the case that phone channel wasn’t necessarily chosen by a particularly high number of people, high emotion, a lot of that tends to go by email, you used to be letter, but now email is the new letter. Because complaints especially it’s interesting, actually, because in America, the far happier to pick up the phone and complain. Obviously, the British are terribly polite and don’t want to do that. So let’s just bang out a rude email instead. But for the complexity, and the urgency, the urgency was very much along web self service complexity, a lot of people actually wanted to go and have a sit down and a face to face chat with somebody, especially the old generation. So there’s a real kind of mix there. But what we saw, we can’t prove it’s pandemic related. But to be honest, it looks pretty coincidental otherwise 2122, we saw a large proportion of people with urgent and complex issues, wanting to pick up the phone, even at NASA wasn’t necessarily for urgency wasn’t necessarily the quickest way of doing it. But they wanted to get the job done. And they were confident they get the job done on the phone. So that’s the urgency side. The complexity side, obviously people locked in houses or when they were let out a lot of people well, to be honest, I don’t really want to have a face to face with somebody. And so you can see that they’d rather pick up the phone and that would replace the kind of face to face challenge. So different stories about why urgency and complexity of change, the same result as in more pressure on the phone channel. And again, all those have dropped a little bit in 23. It’s not those are unpublished figures. At the moment, we’re putting that in September, we’ve done the research on it. And that’s, as you can see, the phone is still people have got used to using the phone again.

It’s really interesting because I would have thought with the pandemic initially, people didn’t have the systems in place to be able to do things automatically. But then but he would have been quicker to self serve some of this stuff versus phoning in, but there was always like a knee jerk reaction. It’s like I’m gonna on it, because it’s urgent, or there’s something unusual to talk about. But that’s the standard, right as well. So so once

you look at when you look at the alternatives, so you send out an email during the pandemic, you might as well not have bothered, but you get responses back saying, we’ll get back to you in 30 working days, what you’re going to do, if it’s actually, if it’s anything remotely important that you need an answer to, you’re gonna say, hell with that, I’m gonna pick up the phone. So we’ve been training ourselves out of using certain channels in certain situations, because they used to be the case like you get an email back in a day or two. And so far, that’s fine. That will do but when you get an auto replies saying we’re incredibly busy with books, and I’ll get down to it next month, sometime, maybe, then you start losing your faith in that channel. And this kind of inoculates you against everybody else’s channels as well, as you think, Frank, I can’t rely on email anymore. I need an answer. So what’s my alternative? So it’s a lot about the kind of psychology of customers and that some of this is conjecture, the numbers backup the idea,

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I suppose you had the resourcing pieces important for email handling as much as it is for call centres as well, making sure that it doesn’t build this stuff doesn’t actually just happen magically. Again, it’s interesting, and just in terms of the the importance of the telephony channel, but I think also, we’re just sitting on the back of potentially relief around mortgages. And due to interest rates as an example, or energy in the autumn as well, the need your reaction for customers is going to be I’m going to pick up the phone to deal with it as much as any kind of automation that might be in place, or you might put in place beforehand, just psychologically, it looks like the phone’s gonna still be important. We’ve got to plan for that

very much. And if customers are stressed about something, they it’s very much the case, I want to talk to somebody and ask them. Is that definitely been done? Oh, yes. It’s been changed the record or Okay, that’s great. Whereas if clicking on buttons on a website, anything, is that really happened? Did they really get it? It’s about the reassurance. And that’s why I say telephony, still a gold standard for customer, customer service,

the high emotion element. And so I know this is didn’t include the collections processes specifically. But I was surprised that wasn’t higher. So if I if I get upset about something, or if I’m talking about something sensitive, I could understand why you might want to talk with someone because you’re going to have a relationship conversation you tend to have with people. And yet that didn’t seem to move during the pen. During the pandemic, people were stressed about potentially, their mortgage situation, or the job situation, etc. And it’s a stressful time for folks. And yet they didn’t seem to didn’t seem to go up.

I think there’s in some ways of what you say that makes sense. In some ways, though, we are beholden to the strictures of the questionnaire. So when I’m giving them the scenario, of a high, high emotion thing is something I bought from a shop or an online store that I really want to just come in, it’s in the wrong size. So that’s maybe what they’ve gotten their heads into when they’re thinking like high emotion, how do I deal with that, and you can deal with that effectively without picking up the phone? So yeah, it’s not to say that people with high emotion aren’t that aren’t picking up the phone or sort of job by that because I daresay if you ever used a different scenario, I use the same one each year. So we can track the same thing, obviously. But yeah, if I gave them a different scenario, we might well have a different situation. So it’s actually really hard to provide scenarios that are high complexity, but low urgency and low emotion and stuff like that, we kind of do our best we stay consistent. And this is we track patents over time like that. But yeah, it doesn’t rule out the fact that this what you described might well have happened, briefly mentioned AI before. And it’s very colourful chart here, because people violently agree and violently disagree with things. So we this is this has been asked not to the customer base, this was asked to 200 businesses, 200 contact centres, and the UK. So is that what you reckon about AI? Then? Will it be used to replace agents. And the large majority though, if you look at the net difference, it’s very much a case of no AI will not be used to replace agents. And this is UK people. And it’s interesting to see the difference between this and the US. There, they are far more about AI replacing agents, or at least they were up until maybe a couple of years ago. And but there’s been quite a sea change in the US about how AI in the contact centre is actually expected to be used. The proportion now that thinks that there’s going to replace Asians is far lower than it used to be. So maybe that was the kind of story at first, yeah, the AI is coming to take our jobs, and they’ve actually seen what the AI solutions on the market do and think no, that’s not actually the case. So what is it being used for pretty obviously, that AI will be used to support and augment agents. So aren’t just you know, the AI will be unimportant to our contact centre. Hardly anybody thinks that so there we are, AI is a given. How’s it gonna be used in terms of supporting agents? The first one, the first big kind of use of it was about chatbots which are increasing kind of their intelligence and capability. And, but I think to be honest, the really interesting thing is about AI enabled agents assistants within the call itself the AI is listening. And understanding and providing next best actions based on successful outcomes from similar conversations in the past might be bringing up various pieces of information that the customer is referred to, or the agents referred to, within the conversations of the agent have not to go rooting around all these different applications and databases looking for it, it can listen to the conversation and make sure compliance is being followed as well as you’d expect with the kind of real time analytics. So those are the ways which people are starting to use this. And I think that’s probably the, in the short to medium term, the most interesting use of AI in the contact centre,

it does link up with what we talked about a little bit earlier around. People wanted to speak to people on the importance of that human connection. And so the AI piece is not replacing as much as I like helping that connection get better.

It’s getting. It’s getting faster, it’s getting more accurate. So you’re gonna increase your first contact resolution, you’re going to decrease your call durations. Yeah, happy days for everyone.

Yeah. Yeah, very interesting. Very interesting.

I mentioned before interactions by channel. And despite the fact 60 to 70% of investments going in digital 60 to 70% of customer contact is actually through live telephony. Obviously, there’s been a huge sunk cost in that already. So make an argument for that. terms of other channels, email has been bumping along about 15% or so for a number of years web chat has increased every year. And in terms of web chat handling, six or seven years ago, pretty much everything was done entirely by an agent typing things in. Now, about half of web chats involve AI in some way. Roughly half of them are completely automated, excuse me, 25% of websites, approximately are fully automated. Another 25% are, that’s where we get the AI assistants. So the AI recommends this is what I recommend that the agent reads through and says, Yeah, that’s fine, or changes. So they work at working together on that.

And you mentioned you have this sort of over time is that percentage of live agent telephony, as that is how that changed over time in terms of

2007 or whenever it was, we started this it was 90%. dropped. It’s been 65 ish for six or seven years now, to be honest with. We see the lights of letters, and we used to have facts on there as well. This is how old we are. Yeah, that’s obviously dropped off a lot. Social media has never really taken off as much as was predicted. There’s a reasonable some people, some companies are using WhatsApp and messenger and things like that. But again, it’s pretty niche, return digitally to on our web chat and email.

And so it’s gradually being chipped away as a big push. And then it’s like from 97 down to 65. Ish, there’s a big push, and then it’s like it’s being chipped away. But it’s flattened out. I’m

seeing this in America as well, things they’re very similar.

And what about the interrelationship between this which is inbound interactions, and portal or self serve on the website? Which the other piece? I imagine people are probably going to that the answer to some of the questions. So some of the easy questions might actually come out because I can see my account online. So I don’t need to phone in for that. But then when I do, then this is proportionate this out that was that kind of relationship.

thing is we don’t track that because it’s it’s incredibly difficult to measure light for them. Some companies don’t even measure that at all. We took a view on this is just like write stuff coming into the wider contact centre inbound, what does it look like, rather than how many self service sessions are there and stuff like that. So it wouldn’t be something that I could comment on. Fortunately, there’s a wealth of evidence to suggest that telephony is not going nowhere. What about

omni channel? I suppose we didn’t chat about that. I mean, Omni channel where people bounced between the different channels as well, that’s been a theme that’s been discussed about more recently, how do they start to companies looking around how they interact between the different between the different channels?

Yeah, you’ve probably put in a look at about maybe one in five companies have actually got omni channel. And this is what they themselves say, despite the fact that the vast majority of them are multi channel. So there’s a couple of things there that kind of hold this back. This is kind of silos of data of business processes between the channels when they were set up that they’ve never really played together nicely. And a lot that is not just business process, also down to the technology platform, it doesn’t support single view of the customer. If you have channels working in isolation, without a technology upgrade, a platform upgrade, where the customer can literally be tracked and you have a single master data set. And to follow them around and what they’re doing, then, you know, you’re going to be isolated. The choice really is let things right as they are and just hope for the best. Replace your technology platform or upgrade your technology platform and get something to work everything work together. Or have each of your individual channels so amazing that nobody has to ever change channel they can always get what they want on the channel that they choose. Yep, those your options.

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So it’s about 20% at the moment because the interaction between those interesting definitely look at the cost on it. In your server, you had some cost analysis around the relative cost of each of the different channels. And surprisingly, telephony was the was the highest. But obviously, if you can shave off some of the costs of the telephony by starting with a web chat, and then going halfway through to an inbound call, when it’s needed that can help with cost cost I’ve imagined,

I wouldn’t necessarily say so to be honest with it depends if it’s an automated website, in which case, yes, it costs pence. But if you’ve got an agent involved, now you’ve got the agents time there. And then you’ve still got to, in most cases, take them through ID and V, identity verification and stuff like that. It’s really you want to try to be solving the issue on that particular channel, unless there’s a really good reason that you don’t,

this is going back to the idea of first contact resolution, isn’t it? So whatever the channel is, then to make sure it’s solved then. But what about efficiencies in terms of cost of each of the channels here, certainly, email and web chat at sort of face value was seen as being cheaper versus live agent. But I suppose to your point, if you’ve got someone sitting behind manually doing the chat, then, you know, limited efficiencies there.

We have been tracking this since 2017. So the cost of the phone, as you mentioned, had gone up considerably since then, because call duration. The web chat. On the other hand, that’s the one we’ve noticed the real difference in. And not particularly unusually, unexpectedly, web chats dropped, as the level of automation has gone up, because the web chats dropped. Who would have thought it but it’s nice to actually see some sorts of evidence, their email cost has dropped as well, but doesn’t tend to be used as much. You don’t get as many fully automated emails as you do fully automated web chats. And the good thing is to deal with the level of automation that’s involved there. I’m not including just the standard responses that you get, that doesn’t count. I’m sorry that we are ones that actually involves some sort of intelligent response. So yeah, basically, we see the more automation and intelligence that’s being used, the lower the cost per channel. And as this gets used in the phone channel, I would expect to see the same thing there. It’s going to be a few years yet before we can be 100% sure about that. It’s still very early days for AI enablement. On an agent desktop. Yeah.

Okay. Okay. super interesting.

last chart, got to talk through here is about the kind of most most valued characteristic, the contact centre agents. And this feeds into really the rest of what I’ve been talking about here, I think the importance of the voice channel, which is closely linked to the importance that customers place on being able to talk to somebody for yet to make sure that make sure they’re heard to be confident that their business is understood, and that we will actually deliver at this confidence is driven in large cases by empathy. Oh, yes, I understand. Yes, we can do that for you and stuff like that. So there’s the rest of the things on there actually, in many ways, teachable skills. I think empathy and listening comes, it can be improved. But it comes far more naturally, I think, and some of the other hardest skills that can be trained.

This one here, just really emphasises the fact that humans being on the phone being humans is what you need. And it’s what it draws up this whole sort of narrative around the fact that it is important, people are going to want to speak to humans to certain to a certain extent, and that still is important is probably as has ever been, despite all the discussion that’s out there. But it’s that human skill, the empathy and the listening skills, which I know that we do training and think about vulnerable customers here in collections, or people under financial stress, as well as that is the skill way you want it. I was like, isolate, isolate that within your contact centre, because it’s that human understanding.

Absolutely. And when people are recruiting agents, some of them do look for these particular soft skills, I said they are, in some cases, they come naturally. But with we’re seeing now AI being used for things like sentiment analysis within a call, and going flagging instances of stress or flagging either customer behaviour and or agent behaviour within the course or the agent is monitoring. If they say they’re monitoring their tone, the pace, the kind of the empathetic language that they’re using. Is there any other any instances of calf talk over? It? Somebody’s raising their voice? Can you hear stress patterns in the voice and things like that, and then have little cues on the screen for the agent just like Shut up a minute and listen, or you’re doing this or and then the AI is able to look at instances before where similar situations have happened? And where did the positive outcomes come from? And how did they get there, and then suggest those so it’s like in call coaching, from, in theory far more effective than having somebody sat next year because you can’t have your supervisor who knows everything sat next to every single agent in the contact centre, but the AI does give the promise of having the supervisor on your screen.

Yeah, and it did hear one use of AI which was also interesting, which is around the training side of things as well which is so if you look analyse all the calls, are you looking to try and get to an outcome. Let’s say that sales be it’s identifying vulnerability, or putting people on a payment plan etc. And if you identify all of the good calls and all of the calls, and you have those that are good Which were the ones that what techniques we use to get there the quickest, and the most efficiently, and then almost like wrapping that up into a training programme to say, based off the calls I’ve heard, this is where you can improve. And it’s almost like shortcutting, the training cycle was like from side by side training been like six months, dentals or two or three months, which is, that’s a big deal in terms of new starters, better skills, lower HD, those kinds of things. Absolutely.

Certainly, for teaching people in the first place. So these are the, say you get positive outcomes, that’s great. I do well, there’s evidence to show that the better way of doing it is to do that, and then have real time analytics on the screen, making sure that those things are followed, because people will retrench back to their previous position before because that’s just our personalities, who we are. So people need to carry reminders about do this, don’t do that, especially, especially when you’re caught up in a call and things like that. And maybe you’re not actually thinking about your kind of communication style, or, or are my listening clearly or things like that. So

I could do with the big flashing light that’s in the corner saying stop talking, Chris. These things, I think they’ll be very helpful in many aspects of life and things. So okay, Steve, I think it’s fascinating, right? I know that I saw this data, and I saw the data earlier on just into the it was a bit of an aha moment. It’s not actually the data saying something else. different to what necessarily hearing. And I thought it was just, it’s super interesting. And it was a bit of a setup moment. For me, at least anyway, that was why I picked up the phone.

We do a lot of reports on kind of technology and business processes within contact centres. And this was something I was really keen to do for a number of years, because we often interview businesses, and it’s great to get businesses views, but I really wants to hear stuff from the consumer. And there’s some stuff in there, it’s actually pretty counterintuitive. For example, one of the questions was, which of these particular attributes of a contact centre do most value, things like first contact resolution, low, long opening hours, this type of thing, one of them is polite and friendly agents. And in fact, it was the youngest year group that really rated that the highest. And you can think why would that be? Because surely, everybody knows older people like politeness, younger people just want to be doing things really quickly and get on with it. But in fact, younger people have got so much less experience about handouts speaking with people on the phone, generally, and in particular, with businesses that they’re actually quite nervous about it. So having a nice agent who listens to them and explains things and calms them down almost in some ways, is actually viewed as really positive by these guys, which just I wouldn’t have thought of, unless we’d actually gone out and done that Daydream Countess. Okay, that’s maybe counterintuitive. But yeah, I can see why that is. And actually, a few teenagers myself, I can totally see that because they hate thinking.

Yeah, it’s interesting. I just find it. It’s fascinating. Going back to original data, seeing data in particular, when it’s counterintuitive. I’d say it’s super interesting. I know you’ve got that on the screen, just in terms of where people go more information. I do encourage people to go and have a look, because there’s a whole suite of different reports out there for the US App for the UK and the US as well. I think you do for both right. So yeah. Well, Steve, thanks very much for making the time. I really appreciate you taking me through the report. And say I do encourage people to go and have a look but I really appreciate it.

Thank you very much.


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