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Reducing Customer Effort in the Contact Center

When it comes to pleasant experiences and customer satisfaction, the time and effort put forth by a customer in interacting with your brand play a major role. Voice calls in particular are an area where the level of effort required by the caller can either become a customer satisfaction liability or asset. Too often companies fail to account for customer effort when considering their call handling practices -- in the contact center, at the switchboard, and even at the department level -- and miss out on a significant brand differentiation opportunity.

Customer Frustration is Rampant

A recent Harvard Business Review study listed some enlightening facts concerning customer effort in the contact center:

  • 56% report having to re-explain an issue
  • 59% report extending moderate to high effort to resolve an issue
  • 59% report being transferred

These less than stellar interactions can put your brand at risk, resulting in decreased likelihood of repeat business as well as poor recommendations via word-of-mouth -- as seen in a recent Institute of Customer Service study:

  • 58% of people would stop buying from a company as a result of poor customer service
  • 70% of people would discourage others from engaging with the company when given poor customer service

Time, Effort, and the Dreaded IVR

Despite the importance of pleasant experiences, efforts to control rising costs can often lead to poor experiences and negative customer impact. Reliance on outdated self-service solutions and IVRs, in particular, can lead to increased customer effort and associated consequences.

These inflexible, menu-driven solutions are intended to accurately guide callers to the appropriate agent pool, reduce average handle time, and speed first call resolution. Unfortunately, in this era of instant gratification, customers are unwilling to engage with seemingly slow and impersonal automated solutions -- no matter how well intended. They instead zero out to an agent -- or worse -- abandon the call entirely, arguably doing more harm than good while actually increasing contact center costs in the long run.

The chart below -- compiled from industry metrics -- depicts exactly what happens when callers encounter a slow, cumbersome and frustrating IVR:

Customer wait times 

As you can see, adverse behavior in the form of opt-outs to agents and abandonment increase considerably when callers are required to invest time and effort into interaction with menu-driven automated solutions.

Bridging the Customer Effort Divide

Several new solutions help bridge the gap between live agents, outdated IVRs, and callers. These new advanced self-service solutions allow customers to speak and interact naturally. Intuitive interaction helps callers get to where they need to go and do what they need to do in a fast and simple manner without annoying menus or frustrating instructions. It’s quick. It’s comfortable. Callers engage.

Take, for example, the improvements these advanced self-service solutions make when replacing outdated push-button IVRs in contact center settings. Compiled from Parlance customer data, the chart below shows dramatic reduction in both call abandonment and opt outs to agents when menu driven automation is replaced with advanced self-service:

Customer service connection time 

As seen above, detrimental customer behavior in the form of opt outs and abandonment are cut nearly in half. Meanwhile, agents remain available and unburdened by routine information requests, agent-to-agent handoffs, and the need to diffuse irate callers who are unhappy with their slow IVR interactions.

Single Solution, Multiple Applications

Contact center managers seeking to improve service levels, ease agent handle time, deflect general information requests, and reduce call management costs can leverage one single advanced self-service solution to enable a number of different applications and benefits:

Improve Customer Experiences

Eliminate hold times and deliver faster, more efficient caller experiences without the frustration of menus and IVRs. Allow callers to just speak naturally.

Connect to the Right Agent

Guide callers to the appropriate resource on the first try and eliminate agent-to-agent handoffs -- a proven customer dissatisfier.

Increase Capacity

Meet rising call load demands without adding staff or meet existing call loads with less staff.

Reduce Management Burdens

Outsource self-service solution management and reduce the internal burden on IT and contact center managers. Ensure performance without the day-to-day workload impact.

Offload Routine Calls

Connect callers with routine or erroneous contact center requests (names, departments, locations, general info, etc.) to their required destination without impacting agents.


Time and effort contribute greatly to a customer's perception of your brand -- for better or worse. A frequent problem area -- one where customer time and effort is wasted -- is in the voice network, with frustrating call management practices at play that can annoy and alienate your customers.

Companies truly looking to deliver top quality customer experiences will examine their call management processes from every conceivable angle to understand the caller experience they deliver. Today's advanced self-service solutions can be of great benefit in bridging any call management divides and improving the customer experience. Less time and effort for callers, and greater business impact for the organization. Everyone wins.