Improving charity contact centre call response
Charities face several unique challenges that must be tackled head-on to meet the demands placed upon their contact centres. Numerous charities are tending to face large volumes of calls, which are putting voice systems under significant strain. Combined with the added stress for the volunteers and staff on the frontline for answering these calls, a major problem begins to play out.
Unfortunately, many charities are utilising legacy technology, which is naturally less agile. If this is the case, you have a genuine long term issue on your hands.
On their own, badly handled calls, long wait times and only offering one channel of contact (usually voice call) may not seem significant. However, when you multiply that by the thousands of donors, volunteers and myriad people who require support all calling in and struggling to get their queries solved, it’s easy to see how much a charity can miss out on by not streamlining its customer service experience.
Fortunately, there is a solution. If you break down the process of updating your contact centre strategy, where the emphasis is on phone contact, into easy steps, it becomes a much more manageable problem. Charities should consider adopting a structured approach to combatting the problem.
USE DATA TO YOUR ADVANTAGE. This starts with analysis. You need to understand what insight you can gain from your data. For example, what are the common issues your customers (donors, volunteers and people using or newly requiring your services) calling you about? Who are they? How frequently are they calling you? Who are your VIP customers?
Once you have a clear direction, you can then start to collect the right data. Without this first stage, time will be wasted in collecting irrelevant information.
Alongside this, you need to analyse which channels your different communities are contacting you through and how effective these are. Typically, 80% of these customers will getting in touch via a mobile device and that will be via a telephone call, webchat or email.
Once you collect the right data, you need to go back to the primary problem - handling a large volume of voice calls. It’s clear that the approach needs to turn from reactive to proactive, but to do this you need a clearer understanding of your callers.
STAYING IN CONTROL. Identify which calls are urgent in nature, whether your VIPs/priority people or return callers are kept on hold, and how best to approach these situations. Digital deflection is a crucial technique for this strategy, which effectively enables your systems and teams to maintain control and efficiency at peak periods.
An example of this is the option to give callers a chance to receive a call-back, stopping them from having to sit on hold for extended periods. Another example is getting callers to switch channels to tackle their queries efficiently, like utilising webchat or SMS, where AI and automation can answer their questions at speed.
MAINTAINING COST-EFFECTIVENESS AND MAXIMISING VALUE. The next step is to look at external contact centre platforms. They will do the heavy lifting, analysing what technology you have in place and what improvements are necessary based on your own requirements and those of your agents. This should be more of an overlay approach, rather than a rip and replace process.
You need a partner that will maximise your existing investment, regardless of the systems and applications that you use, such as Microsoft Teams.
Scaling to volume
This approach is incredibly cost-effective because it has scalability. If you have a peak period coming up, the external platform should be able to simply scale up the options at your disposal to handle these instances. You will then be able to scale down in the same way when you need to.
Crucially, integrations with your existing software, such as Teams, will give you incredible fluidity and flexibility. While also reducing training times for volunteers, homeworkers get a single sign-on to login fast, and it is so much more than just voice.
OMNICHANNEL TO THE RESCUE. Omnichannel solutions provide you with a single pane of glass that brings contact centre technology within software such as Teams so that your charity can tackle queries without complication.
The end goal with an omnichannel approach is to shift the pressure and demand away from one option, such as voice, and spread the workload to other areas to help you manage your caller enquiries more efficiently and effectively. By utilising a combination of voice, digital and email, you’ll have a more balanced approach that won’t crumble under pressure, and it will continue to allow your teams to provide excellent customer service at every opportunity.
By adopting an approach that focuses on the utilisation of multiple channels, your risk profile immediately changes. No longer does one channel take precedent because you’re able to manage the flow between each one more succinctly.
Prioritising voice response
A real-life example of the need for prioritisation of response might involve someone trying to reach you to find out when one of your physical sites is open, versus another person who wants to know how they can donate or adopt a pet.
The first query does not warrant a phone conversation, and it is important to note that in this scenario the customer is simply wanting a quick and efficient answer so they can likely visit your nearest site, e.g. a shop or food bank.. This is where the likes of messaging platforms, social media and webchat come in to offload the pressure on your voice systems.
The next person has a more complex query potentially that might involve a human, and therefore a phone call is likely to be more effective than, say, webchat. Equally, it is important to have built-in routes to escalate queries to a human contact within more automated systems.
If you take the first example, that person might then have a more complex follow-up query that they need to speak to a human about but without an obvious button to press to get a call back, they are left frustrated and unanswered.
Now the above scenarios aren’t complex in nature for a charity, but they might be new territory, which is why it’s critical to remember your goals. Most charities suffer from peak periods on the phone and out of hours queries that don’t get answered.
If you could implement basic automation via messaging channels, your customers get quicker access to answers, yet also have the option of receiving a call back from an agent at a designated time. Therefore, they aren’t hanging on the line waiting for an answer.
THINKING ABOUT YOUR PEOPLE. This formula isn’t built just on the technology itself, or even aimed at purely improving customer experience. Whilst of course it is related to these, the approach is also geared towards your people - the volunteers and staff who keep your charity ticking, namely the people operating your contact centre.
If you can provide them with an enjoyable experience that gets them speaking to callers in quality conversations, as opposed to repeatedly answering a swathe of mundane requests, they will be far happier in their working environment. The natural result is more service with a smile, and happier customers.
Balancing the workload
If your teams are struggling with constant calls and enquiries, you can help them by diverting some of the workload onto a hybrid of automated systems or predetermined answers. The balance it’ll give to you is that your teams will be more manageable, and you’ll more easily be able to prioritise where team members need to be focused – to the benefit of those contacting you and those responding.