Customer Service : answer fast or answer right

As controversial as it may be, this is an important question when seeking to improve the performance of a Customer Service department. The two options are far from being contradictory – they both aim to increase customer satisfaction – but they do point the organization in different directions. One will impact the technical architecture of the contact center and the other will require work on business processes that extend beyond the contact center.

In the first option – answer fast – the focus should be on increasing the number of requests that can be handled by a given number of advisers within a given time frame. 66% of consumers still complain that the response time is too long (BVA Customer Service Observatory 2020).

  • This is a technical issue. 

In order to increase the number of requests that can be processed, the flows must be improved, so that the requests are answered, get a satisfactory response and are closed quickly. For example, the process teams can design intelligent IVRs that automatically provide the information needed by retrieving data from a database (CRM or other) and presenting it in a simple way, before the customer ever even speaks to an adviser.

So if Mr. Martin calls his bank, the automated voice system can tell him right away: “Mr. Martin, your checkbook is on its way! It will arrive at your branch on December 12th. Thank you for calling”. Without transferring the call to the contact center or the bank. The IVR just has to intercept the caller’s phone number, find the customer record in the CRM, and identify a current request on the record. Then it extracts the category (request for a checkbook), the relevant information (location, status and estimated delivery date) and tells the customer, via voice synthesis.

Obviously, this requires integration between the customer interaction management solution and the CRM. Also, the caller’s phone number can’t be masked and it has to be recognized by the CRM, there has to be just one current request for this customer and both the request and the answer have to be relatively simple. In short, the goal isn’t to handle all requests in this way, but to quickly deal with those that can be, in order to make room for others that are more complex.

Of course, we can always give the customer the option of going back to the IVR, or being transferred to the bank or a contact center adviser. “If you have another request, say ‘Other’ and stay on the line”. But only after giving them the information they apparently need. The goal is to keep the interaction as simple as possible and to limit transfers to the bank or an adviser.

If contact with an adviser cannot be avoided because the issue is too complex, or because the IVR was unable to understand the customer, the adviser will be given all the information needed to provide an answer quickly. The adviser will be able to see the customer record, with the likely reasons for the call highlighted, such as orders or requests that are in progress or late. Using semantic analysis technologies, we can also help the adviser listen to the “voice of the customer” to figure out what the IVR system didn’t understand. And finally, we will use AI and Big Data from marketing to tell the “augmented” adviser what the Next Best Action is to resolve the customer’s request.

One limitation of these technologies is the inability to reduce the flow, even if it is easier to manage thanks to automation and Artificial Intelligence.


The goal of the second orientation is to answer right : we try to reduce the number of requests by avoiding having to respond to requests for information and reminders about tickets that have not been closed, and by avoiding reopening tickets.

44% of consumers complain that they don’t get a satisfactory response during their first contact (BVA Customer Service Observatory 2020)

This is clearly a business process issue. 

For example, a tenant calls the building management office to find out when the plumber will be coming to fix a leak he reported. The person who answers is able to tell him that the service call has been scheduled, but they don’t know when the plumber will come, or even whether the plumber went out to fix the leak but no one was home, so he canceled the service call.

This means that the tenant would continue to call back every day, if the plumber still had not come by or contacted him directly.

Not only is the customer dissatisfied because he has to call so many times, but this increases the wait time at the call center, leading to dissatisfaction among both tenants and advisers.

Ultimately a technical solution was found: a Partner portal, where service providers confirm the jobs and report the status and results of the service calls (in order to get paid). The information is reported in the tenant’s online account so they can track it in Self-Care mode. The report of the leak continues to generate inbound calls to the Contact Center, and is handled by an adviser, whose business process expertise and ability to listen are necessary to properly qualify the incident. The entire process was described and worked on at length by the process teams, and in addition to the online solution developed, training and support was offered for many people in the company, well beyond the contact center.


The two options are not contradictory.

Determining which option will increase the satisfaction of your leads and customers requires an in-depth analysis based on:

– the experience of the supervisor and advisers,

– analysis of contact center metrics (most frequent types of requests, response rates and average response times),

– a detailed description of the business processes used to handle requests (including the teams and tools used)

– and an assessment of the organization’s capacity to lead change (budget, schedule, management).

Do both options seem right to you? Typically, tight budgets and schedules dictate choices in terms of change. But choosing one option doesn’t necessarily mean giving up on the other! With a flexible, open system that fully supports the manager’s technical strategy and the advisers’ process expertise, it is possible to share the effort and develop a reasonable transformation plan.


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