What is call deflection?
Call deflection is reducing the number of inbound calls that require human service agents (call centers, helpdesks) by offering alternative digital self-service channels. The primary goal of call deflection is to reduce the amount of time customers spend waiting for an answer to their question.
Typically, customers must wait on phone lines, but enterprises can instead increase opportunities for them to resolve their questions or challenges. When it's done well, it also reduces the load on a live agent on customer service teams.
How does deflection benefit the staff who otherwise would be tasked with answering those incoming calls? It requires just as much focus and concentration from a representative to respond to simple questions as it does to handle complex ones. Agents must context switch dozens of times per day, if not hundreds, and that mental effort takes a toll on their patience and resources.
Due to the high-touch nature of the calls into customer service, it's in everyone's best interest to only put calls through that can't be handled through any other form of customer support.
What call deflection is not intended for
There is understandable controversy in guiding customers away from human service agents. It feels disingenuous to position it at for the consumers benefits when we all remember times when we’ve shouted "representative" to a poorly coded IVR solution that made us want to throw our phone out the window. For customer call deflection to benefit both a business and its customers, companies must also understand what call deflection is not intended to do, such as:
- Rerouting customers away from humans:The purpose isn't to reduce human interaction. Call deflection provides multiple support channels so that customers can choose the most efficient and convenient resolution for their needs.
- Leaving challenges unanswered:Well-timed call deflection knows when to bring in human intervention to help ensure customers leave the call satisfied.
- Treating all calls exactly the same: Personalization is essential for customer service. Call deflection requires personalization methods so each interaction builds the relationship instead of harming it.
Call deflection is more than a voice recording from the customer support team over the phone or adding a chat function at the bottom of a website to represent a knowledge base. It's a proactive, considerate look at overall customer communication strategy, website design, customer service channels, and technology to guide customers to what they need.
How to Use Call Deflection
Businesses need consider a multi-faceted approach to call deflection that provides value for customers at every single interaction, no matter how simple or complex. Here are a few unique ways to implement call deflection principles.
Give customers the option to choose channels—and then switch
Providing customers a choice for when and how they interact with a company is a powerful feature, but especially if that choice is adaptive and personalized. For example, companies could use email triage to route customer service-related emails to the right person and department the first time. This could help prevent frustrated customers from feeling that they must call customer service to resolve issues after receiving no answer through digital channels.
Even better, customers can choose to take a different communication path once roadblocks appear. When a customer decides to call in with a question and they hear that the current wait time is one hour, if they're given the option of switching to text message, they can receive an instant answer. With the touch of a button, they're out of the call line and handling needs through an alternative service channel.
According to a report from Gartner's research, 70% of service interactions over the phone don't have to happen at all—artificial intelligence could resolve them before the need for a human agent. That should inform a digital transformation strategy.
Call out common points of friction
Companies can display their phone number and other contact channels prominently on their website, but merely making the channels known won't solve customer questions. A company must also make critical information easily viewable and searchable. For example, imagine a customer is having an issue loading a certain feature in the company's app. With a little digging, the company discovers that this is a common issue with iOS users. The fix is a 30-second toggle in their phone's location settings.
It takes much longer than 30 seconds to call customer service, and many customers may simply uninstall the app. However, a prominent section on the website with a direct link to this exact fix and other common troubleshooting solutions prevents an unnecessary call center touch. The customer fixes their problem and feels seen.
Companies can organize these tips in video form, allow customers to read them, or even program chatbots to walk customers through particularly frustrating tasks. With a searchable database right on the website, customers don't have to spend a lot of time before they get their answer.
Use chatbots to engage and scale
Chatbots never get tired and never sign off work. They can pull data from previous interactions to customize interactions and predict what customers might need. They offer a realistic way to scale communications and handle even those sudden large number of calls pop up.
As chatbots have evolved, they’ve become more realistic, and many customers may not even realize they aren't talking to a human. Chatbots can address customers in their native language thanks to multi-lingual programming. Customers have overcome their initial distrust of chatbots and now may prefer a live chat with a bot to humans thanks to lightning-fast response times 24/7.
Chatbots can handle most customer service inquiries but nowadays these self-service options are designed to tag human agents for complex, high-priority tasks. This blend of human and machine intervention improves call center performance without increasing the team or running the customer service team into the ground.
Create a thriving community space
Some companies have created spaces where the community can support each other. For example, peer-to-peer support allows customers to receive answers to their questions and give their own solution to others. It deflects calls and helps build brand loyalty.
Anecdotal answers also provide companies with valuable information about customers' real pain points, common troubleshooting issues, and even new problems before they become more widespread. A community space offers real-time information, and making it searchable offers even more answers to help customers help themselves.
Along with help articles, troubleshooting FAQs, and yes, customer service agents and associated chatbots, customers can find and receive information about their specific issue more easily than ever. These methods preempt the call in the first place unless it's necessary.
How to build a call deflection strategy
So how can companies ensure their call deflection strategy offers real value for customers and not just cost savings for the company? With a handful of non-negotiables.
Preempting and Timing are absolutely everything
A key strategy in customer satisfaction when it comes to call deflection is a tactic of preemption with proactive information. Preempting the call is the best way to handle calls to a customer service center. If 70% of calls are unnecessary, imagine the vast majority of those are best handled by distributing key information at the right moment.
But if that can't happen, timing the right alternative is best. Suppose a customer can find an answer to their problem through the community board or the FAQ section, excellent. If they need more help than what's available on the website, having the choice to email, chat, or call is still the best option. It may only need a quick email to solve.
Let the customer lead
The early days of automation frustrated customers because they had no choice and the designs were brittle. Shouting frustrated commands at a machine that didn't understand and sent them in circles or a chatbot that couldn't process even simple communications—this is the worst nightmare of someone contacting a company.
Now, customers can choose their interactions through the channel that suits them best. They can find answers before having to call. They can abandon long wait times at the call center for more convenient chat options or even schedule callbacks when it's most convenient. The choice transforms call deflection from avoidance to personalization.
Carefully consider the journey
The early days of automation also failed to deliver results because call deflection strategies weren't fully fleshed out. Chatbots simply directed customers to the call center or very limited resources without nuance. Call deflection didn't consider what channels customers preferred to use, or were already attempting to use, so they went unnoticed. That’s a failing strategy for customer satisfaction through automation.
Instead, call deflection only works when each different channel offers a comparable and viable option to calling customer service. If customers can't resolve their issues through these alternatives, they won't bother, and companies risk poor feedback. When they are equally as effective as calling for resolving most issues, they can revolutionize customer service.
Create the best conditions for customer resolutions with call deflection
Call deflection can relieve customer service agents while ensuring that customers receive valuable assistance for their questions and challenges. It can free up agents to handle high-touch, complex challenges and ensure that companies can scale their customer service offerings without adding extra cost or labor. The right call deflection strategies will be a significant business differentiator, and help build strong customer relationships through personalization, efficiency, and convenience.
Call Deflection Use Case Example
There’s an easy to imagine scenario across three customers all waiting on the phone for service agents, but with different outcomes.
- Customer A called with a quick, standard question, and has been waiting 26 minutes. This customer is thinking about hanging up, and maybe that means in the future they’ll consider moving to a competitor.
- Customer B isn't sure if the question is simple or not. They're tried to self-service the question before calling, but now a long time into the wait, they're anxious and considering hanging up.
- Customer C called with a complex question that has taken 30 minutes to resolve. This customer waited almost an hour to reach a customer service agent due to call volume and began the call frustrated but in need of help.
A common thread across all three customers is that each is on their own specific journey, and the service representative is a catch-all for the business when automation is unreliable and inflexible. IVR Call deflection can revolutionize the way companies manage customer service using limited resources in the post-pandemic, remote work age, but only if they understand it’s true constraints and true potential.
Customers may want the choice to access a human service agent but may not always need one for simple needs. A subset of customers may prefer to avoid human agents altogether unless absolutely necessary. Call deflection helps both groups because it reduces wait times and relieves burden on contact centers.
Excited to leverage call deflection for your business? Request a demo today!