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Companies that endeavor to provide outstanding customer service need professional response management to ensure that customers get the right answer to their inquiry quickly. Numerous companies have already recognized that good customer service is a relevant competitive advantage, especially in increasingly saturated markets. Response management plays a key role in this context. Inquiries should be answered reliably, quickly, in a friendly manner and with the correct content, as this ensures a high level of customer satisfaction and loyalty, in addition to a high recommendation rate. Response management can therefore make a decisive contribution to a company’s business success. In the following, we explain the most important aspects of the topic and discuss what companies should pay attention to when selecting a response management software solution.
Zu den wichtigsten Kennzahlen im schriftlichen Response-Management zählen
A distinction is made between quantitative and qualitative Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). One of the most important quantitative KPIs is the average response time. This defines how long customers or sales prospects have to wait for a response from the company. In the case of service providers in the contact center environment, it often also defines the “service level”, i.e. how quickly a service provider must answer inquiries on certain channels. Response time requirements, which are either set as internal goals or are a part of the contract when awarding work to a customer service provider, differ significantly according to the communication channel. They factor in customers’ expectations that chat and Messenger messages be answered immediately, for example, while inquiries via social media should be answered within an hour and, for email inquiries, ideally within 24 hours. Typically, for telephone service there is a default “80/20” service level, i.e. that 80% of calls be answered within 20 seconds. An overview of what is currently considered the “market standard” is available here, for example.
Another KPI is average ticket costs. represent another quantitative KPI. Every inquiry in the contact center is counted as a “ticket”. At a minimum, the average costs should include personnel and IT infrastructure costs (including telephone and internet). Full-cost calculations are also used to calculate ticket costs especially when it comes to a comparison with external service providers. If some inquiries can be answered at least partially in automated fashion, this usually lowers average ticket costs since fewer staff are required to process them.
One of the most important qualitative KPIs is the first fix rate or first resolution rate. This indicates the proportion of inquiries that were able to be definitively answered the first time the customer made contact. An answer should not only be quick, but also be correct and have readily comprehensible content so that the customer does not need to re-contact staff in order to resolve his or her concern. A low first fix rate means a high proportion of multiple contacts, which has a negative impact on customer satisfaction as well as on the total cost of the service.
Customer satisfaction is also one of the most important KPIs in customer service. Often, customer satisfaction is automatically surveyed following contact with customer service – be it directly following a chat by using an on-screen form, or by sending an email that requests a rating. In many cases, the recommendation rate is a sub-component of the customer satisfaction measurement. The Net Promotor Score indicates the number of customers who would recommend the respective company. Customer satisfaction has a significant impact on customer loyalty, i.e. whether the customer repeatedly purchases from the same company or will continue to maintain his or her contractual relationship. Customers, however, who migrate or terminate their contract in order to switch to a competitor (churn rate) can be an indicator of both product quality and service quality. Consequently, all KPIs should only be viewed and analyzed in context and over time.
In addition to the KPIs mentioned, there are a number of other Key Performance Indicators that can be used for contact center control and response management controlling. A selection can be found here, for example.
But when automating response management, considerations in the area of customer experience management also play a role. Companies that attach particular importance to highly personal, individualized customer service and excellent customer experience can use partially automated response management, in which each response proposed by the response management software is rechecked by a service employee.
Artificial intelligence offers great potential for response management automation. Consulting companies such as Lünendonk and Bearing Point also reach this conclusion in their studies. Nevertheless, the topic is surrounded by numerous myths, as summarized e.g. by Frauenhofer IAO in a blog post. The first misconception is that all systems that provide automatic responses are based on artificial intelligence. This is incorrect. There are numerous response management systems that provide automated answers based on a keyword but which do not really understand the inquiry. They are not based on artificial intelligence, but rather rely on developers to program them in advance with keywords or sentences and the appropriate answers. If the keyword or a certain programmed wording is missing in the inquiry, it will not be understood correctly, and the customer will receive no answer or the wrong answer. The second misconception is that AI-based response management systems learn from every inquiry and become a champion service provider virtually on their own. This is also wrong. What distinguishes human learning, namely the “understanding” of a context and the subsequent application in an abstractly similar situation, i.e. transfer, does not take place in machine learning. The technology hasn’t come that far.
To be able to be used in response management, AI must first be specifically trained to recognize certain recurring service topics by “tagging” highly suitable answers previously developed and content-checked by service experts. For these vector-based AI algorithms, a significantly smaller number of datasets or sample inquiries is sufficient for the learning phase in order to achieve very good results. Thus, the AI is not given an unstructured heap of big data in which it is supposed to recognize patterns, but rather is provided with clear guidelines regarding which answer or which answer category is actually the right one. The best results for precise topic recognition are achieved by vector-based algorithms that are combined with statistical methods – a technology that is also at work in ReplyOne.
The key to highly successful response management automation with the best customer experience, however, is an intelligent combination of man, machine and well-thought-out service processes, so that service employees are relieved of routine tasks and can deal with complex inquiries.
The goal of good response management should be to retain customers over the long term through a high level of satisfaction with the relevant service. Customer satisfaction is increasingly viewed as the overarching quality criterion for customer service and is systematically gauged in the context of benchmark studies such as customer monitor. As part of customer experience management, contact centers should ensure high response speed and quality on all service channels. At the same time, the service process should be recorded and processed in the system completely independently of the selected communication channel.
Response management systems should be networked with other important company systems in order to enable a 360° view of the customer. When automating response management, potential effects on the customer experience should be considered in advance and factored in. A high degree of automation that doesn’t sacrifice customer experience is only possible when the subject of an inquiry is precisely identified.
If you would like to learn how contact centers use a modern response management solution such as ReplyOne in daily operations, be sure to read one of our user reports.
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