What's all the fuss about?
The past few months have been busy ones here at Contact Centre Panel. So much so, some of the latest news and updates in the world of tech have well and truly passed me by. However, I’ve been trying to catch up over the Christmas period. Mainly in between my leftover turkey sandwiches and watching some questionable films I would not normally watch – but hey it’s Christmas!
One of those recent finds was that of ChatGPT. A curious sounding name that had me intrigued instantly. I thought “what is ChatGPT?” and “what is a GPT, is this the new lingo the kids use?” Bingo, it was time to do some research! Here’s some of the more pertinent details on ChatGPT that I found:
What is ChatGPT?
Launching back in November 2022, ChatGPT is a chatbot that uses conversational AI to interact with the human user at the other end. ChatGPT uses natural language processing (NLP) to understand the user’s question(s) and responds accordingly.
The tech itself was developed by San Francisco-based OpenAI, a research company led by Sam Altman and backed by Microsoft, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman and Khosla Ventures.
What can ChatGPT do?
In the context of Contact Centres, ChatGPT will be able to perform a number of functions. This includes, but not limited to:
How does it work?
Through the use of NLP technology, the chatbot is able to understand user input by recognising patterns in conversations and breaking them down into key components such as context, intent and entities. Once it understands what the user is asking, it can then provide an appropriate response.
ChatGPT also has the ability to learn from its conversations, meaning that it can grow and improve over time. This allows it to become more efficient and better at understanding customer needs and providing useful answers.
Will we be using ChatGPT anytime soon?
So far, the response to ChatGPT has been overwhelmingly positive, with many praising its advanced capabilities and ease of use. It remains to be seen how ChatGPT will be used in the coming years, but it’s clear that it has the potential to be a major player in the world of NLP.
By the way, ChatGPT wrote that last paragraph. When asked by a reporter at CNBC to write a news story on ChatGPT, it came up with a very well-rounded response (including that last snippet).
Why not give it a go?
Whilst we wait for a simplified solution that can be integrated within our current contact centre technology stack, you can still give this piece of tech a whirl by visiting OpenAI’s website.
Here’s a joke that ChatGPT put together for me:
Me: Tell me a joke about Batman and Superman?
ChatGPT: Why did Batman bring a ladder to a fight with Superman? Because he knew he'd have to climb up to Superman's level!
Who'd work at a contact centre when "everyone's angry"?
One of the biggest contact centre challenges of 2022 is still with us - the rising tide of rudeness and incivility, which is most often experienced at work by our frontline colleagues. Research conducted by Professor Christine Porath, across multiple countries, business sectors and customer-facing roles, demonstrates that this depressing trend is real and growing.
This HBR podcast about her article “Frontline Work When Everyone Is Angry” provides an authoritative view of the problem. But also offers some ways to combat this onslaught of unpleasantness and help protect the welfare of our colleagues at the customer service ‘coalface’.
It’s getting worse
Professor Porath shows that “rudeness or disrespect or insensitive behaviour” has worsened globally over 17 years and that by last August, 76% of people claimed that they had been treated rudely during the month.
Porath highlights that a lot of abuse is now experienced through digital channels, the use of which has grown massively. Even when not directly subject to abuse, people working in online content and community moderation are also exposed to damaging levels of intolerance and unpleasantness.
Covid and complexity
Porath also cites surveys showing a decrease in workplace community since Covid. As this McKinsey article explains, homeworking doesn’t necessarily worsen a sense of isolation and disengagement, but it often does. Traditionally, contact centres have - at their best - been cohesive and supportive workplaces. So in theory, contact centres should be well-placed to help support workers faced with rude and unpleasant behaviour, but many just aren’t.
At the same time, with the rise of self-service tools, the types of queries customers present to contact centres have become more complex, time-critical and emotionally charged.
So, our frontline colleagues are facing a toxic ‘double-whammy’ of consumer incivility and task complexity.
Colleagues’ emotional damage and distress are obvious, but there are clear performance impacts too, says Porath: “they lose attention, lose focus, make more errors, and perform far worse.” Added to which, abused and unsupported staff quit their jobs, fuelling costs, colleague stress and management challenges.
How to help
Increasing rudeness and incivility is a complex, societal problem - but there are concrete measures you can take to help make things better:
1. Support your people and allow them to support themselves
2. Use technology to protect your frontline colleagues
3. Reconsider whether “the customer is always right”
If you’d like to discuss how to better face up to the challenges of growing incivility and anger – or share with us what you’re already doing – just drop us a line.
Are you multi-channel or
Often people talk about multi-channel and digital customer service as some elixir that will solve all their challenges. However, whilst offering the customer more ways to contact you, are you just adding in more plates to spin?
For many years we have seen additional contact channels being bolted onto the side of an existing model and not achieving the desired results. However, at what point do you make the brave decision to put a line through your existing technologies and start again with a blank page? We’ve all seen e-mail being run for multiple agents using a single Outlook inbox, cherry picking work items that they can do, repeatedly the more difficult tasks being left for someone else to manage.
As times get harder, cost to serve increases and customers become more demanding as a result of a hardening of the economy, we need to ensure that our people are able to work as efficiently as possible. Is now the time to make a shrewd investment in new technology which empowers your people to be more productive, do more with less, and offer a properly joined up service where a single view of the customer is available?
A single view gives the opportunity to ensure that you are effective in managing the next best action, understanding customer propensity and what that customer is likely to need next. The real opportunity comes from knowing this before the customer even works it out for themselves. The best service being no service at all, minimising effort for the customer, but also for your contact centre considering that you are likely to be picking up the cost of that service.
So, with a proper multi-channel set up, one view of the customer and effective analytics, what opportunities will you have to maintain your current base, grow wallet share and save costs? The answer seems evident in my mind.
Additionally, those brands that take the best care of their customers in hard times are more likely to be better remembered when we come through the other side.
Always consider using the paths that others have already trodden. If you are experiencing challenges in growing or maintaining your brand, the benefits of using an outsource provider to support your customers whilst you focus on the broader business should not be underestimated. Those outsource providers will have already worked out the conundrum of effectively managing those multi-silo activities to a mature multi-channel approach.
At the moment, we all know that a little bit of help from someone who has been there before and already made (and of course learned from) those mistakes, could be a conversation well worth having.
"As opposed to single-channel, omnichannel marketing provides an increase in purchase frequency by 250% and a growth in the AOV (average order value) by 13% per order."
The rise of the 'Super Agent'!
Developing high performing customer service representatives
Over the past few years, we have heard the term ‘Super Agent’ increasingly mentioned. With technology reducing the requirement for low level agent customer interactions, more emphasis is being put on developing skilled representatives who are able to deal with more complex enquiries and scenarios which require the human touch.
So, what exactly are Super Agents? The term, which is also described as ‘Power Agents’ or ‘High-Performing Agents’, refers to customer service representatives who handle a large volume of contacts and consistently achieve high levels of customer satisfaction, productivity and sales. These agents are typically characterised by their strong communication skills, ability to handle complex interactions and navigate multiple systems and tools.
Super Agents often have a deep understanding of the product or service they are representing and are able to quickly and accurately provide information to customers. They are also adept at handling difficult customers and resolving complaints quickly.
Super Agents can improve overall contact centre performance by handling more contacts, reducing handle time and increasing sales or upsells. They also tend to have a lower turnover rate, which can lead to cost savings for the organisation.
There are several ways to create and maintain Super Agents in a contact centre. Here are a few key strategies that organisations can use:
It is worth noting that Super Agents, also need to continuously learn, adapt and advance, it is important that organisations continuously evaluate and update their strategies for creating and maintaining a team of high-performing agents.
If you need help sourcing the right technology to empower your agents or need guidance around training and development, performance management or recruitment, get in touch.
Managing payments effectively
New year, new you?
So, it’s all over. The preparations, food, presents and Santa has been and gone. It’s a new year but is it a new you?
We all recognise putting things off until the new year. Going to the gym, looking for a new job and paying bills. December is often a month where the bills are deferred and money is spent on Christmas. Most companies will struggle to collect money in December and often in January too.
A number of consumers will be suffering a financial hangover in January, with some going further into debt in order to buy the associated treats and goodies. The gap between an early December pay day and January pay day can feel like months rather than weeks. Don’t be surprised if people don’t have the money to pay and will again be in defer mode.
With ever increasing rise in costs for businesses, writing off the money isn’t a palatable option. However, going in strong is not the best way to engage. People need help now more than ever. For a number of people being in debt will be a new experience, for a number of reasons. Therefore, getting prepared early with your Q1 strategy is a must.
As providers, we are now also more aware of the mental impacts owing money has on a person. That coupled with “January Blues” can be a potent recipe. Be proud of the support you offer to consumers. Some industries shun being public about how they work with and support their customers who are in financial distress. It's felt to be a poor public image to even acknowledge that there is debt and that you have a team of people who are dedicated to manage it. Don't be shy, you should be proud that you work so hard putting measures and teams in place who are ready to help engage and work through financial challenges with your customers.
Definitely make sure it is front and centre on your communications platforms at this time of year. Website, apps, call holding messages, emails, letters, texts and even carrier pigeon if that's your bag. Make is easy for people to find, use and engage with. The content should be clearly written and the tone used is very important here.
A new year will often mean customers feel that they are starting again. Part of your strategy needs to be a refresher of where things were left at the end of 2022 and where we go next. This can be useful as a scene setter, but also useful as a reminder that the money is still due and that you are there to support and talk to people if they need it. It also works as a reminder for any “won’t pays” that you haven’t forgotten them and you won’t be going away anytime soon.
Therefore, the communications and handling for January needs to be a little bit "Christmas Carol" based. What does the past, present and the future hold?
Why not go one further and offer a new year’s incentive? We know the gym does it, so why don’t you? Discounts for paying off quicker, reduction of debt owed on settlements, or anything else that you feel could work for your business.