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Kiwis Can Endure Being On Hold, So Long As Their Problem Is Solved

Kiwis are more likely to put up with wait times for their calls to be answered by retail and business contact centres—even during the busy holiday and retail periods—provided the operator is empathetic, and their problem is solved, says industry body Customer Contact Network New Zealand (CCNNZ).

CCNNZ CEO Elias Kanaris says that, at the moment, the contact centre industry focuses on fast service (on keeping call waiting times as short as possible), but this may be at the expense of the customer experience.

“I think you will find that most New Zealanders are prepared to be on hold for longer, so long as their problem is resolved and the contact centre operator listens, understands, and ultimately produces a solution.

“Unfortunately, the quality of the customer service experience is likely to be poor if the operator is unhelpful, impatient and short, all of which can happen when operators are measured by their average handling time—the faster, the better.”

Kanaris said contact centre operators who are evaluated on speed of response and processing can feel harassed, stressed, and anxious, which harms the customer experience.

“We know that the most significant reason customers will stop buying from a business is how they are treated. If they feel recognised, valued, and heard and their problem is resolved, or at least progressed, a customer will leave happier even if they were on hold for a while.

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“That is why we are encouraging the New Zealand contact centre industry to shift from prioritising speed to customer experience instead. We believe this will improve customer retention as well as that of contact centre staff, of which there are between 60- 80,000 employed in New Zealand.”

Kanaris says that while artificial intelligence (AI) is not going to be empathetic, he does expect that it will help contact centres find a happy medium between speed, experience and resolving the customer’s problem.

“At the moment, we believe customer contact centres are a bit too process-driven, which is to facilitate closing the call as fast as possible. AI’s ability to retrieve information will help us reach a happy medium between speed and experience, resulting in a satisfied customer and a happy contact centre operator.”

He urged contact centres in New Zealand to prioritise the following actions over speed:

1. First contact resolution:People will be less disgruntled at waiting times so long as their problem is solved.

2. Call recognition:Customers, many of whom have been doing business with an organisation for a long time, want to be acknowledged for their loyalty. They want to be recognised and known.

3. Knowledgeable:Operator knowledge, experience, the ability to retrieve information quickly, and the power to make decisions are highly valued. This is one area where AI can make a contribution.

4. Keep it simple: Ensure that the processes are designed to make it a pleasant experience for the customer.

5. Proactive Engagement: Be proactive by, where necessary, offering a choice of alternative solutions if they cannot be found initially.

“The most common metric with contact centres in the industry is to answer 80% of calls within 20 seconds as the base standard, but we believe people will wait longer if the experience is good,” Kanaris says.

CCNNZ’s role is to improve and innovate the contact centre industry, improve outcomes for employers and employees, and help make contact centres the leader in customer experience rather than contact centres as cost centres.

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