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How To Cut Costs Without Destroying A Good Customer Experience

by Simon Hedaux, Founder and CEO, Rethink Productivity - November 1, 2020

How to cut costs without destroying a good customer experience


Well-trained and motivated agents are a precious resource and focussing their time to add value for your customers is the way to deliver great experiences and optimise your cost base.

For most businesses, the commercial environment is tough. There is an ever-keener eye on operating costs and delivering great customer experience within cost constraints remains the perpetual challenge. So, where should you look to reduce costs without damaging your NPS?

  1. Map and review all your customer journey. Are all your journeys easy and optimised for customers? Are there steps you can combine or remove to speed up call times? Look at the systems your agents use and if multiple systems are needed, ensure they are smoothly integrated. Does your customer database provide instant agent access to the relevant information and a summary of recent contacts so agents can deal with every call well? If not, there are opportunities to invest to save money and improve customer experience.

  2. In parallel with reviewing your journeys, look for opportunities where you can automate process stages. Some customer journeys can be completed without agent input and create a more efficient resolution for the customer too. Chat bots are increasingly deployed to cut costs and when done well can even provide an enhanced experience. I successfully closed a no-longer used bank account with the help of a chat bot recently and was impressed how easy it was and that I’d avoided waiting to speak with an agent.

A good place to check your automation works is when confirming customer IDs. When I call my credit card company, I enter my credit card number via the keypad as part of the login process, yet when I get through to the agent, I have to provide it again, creating a frustrating start to any interactions. Ensuring customer details are passed through the systems saves time for agents and customers alike. Spotting customer pain points in the customer journey is a great way to identify where invested effort will quickly reduce agent time and improve customer experiences too.

  1. Identify where in your processes an agent can add value. This may be when a customer has a complex issue that can’t be dealt with by automation or when you have an opportunity to better understand customer needs and offer an enhanced service or solution. If your systems can automate the essential admin in the call, then highly trained agents can focus on using their people skills to provide a great experience, rather than undertaking data entry or searching files. 

  2. Volumes of transferred calls are important to monitor as they take up unnecessary agent time and cause customer frustration. In one large workstudy of a multi-site call center, our analysis showed that over 10% of calls were transferred to another agent because they couldn’t be dealt with on first contact. Deep dive analysis showed that the call routing options presented had not been updated to match the latest service offer. A simple routing change meant that more than 10% of calls were able to be handled more quickly and customers avoided explaining their issue multiple times.

  3. First Call Resolution has long been the call center gold standard KPI, and with good reason. Understanding how many customers call multiple times for the same issue and taking steps to eliminate the root causes is one of the best ways to reduce agent costs and make significant improvements for customers too. Ensure you have a robust method to measure First Call Resolution and where it goes wrong. Your customer experience programme can be a rich source of insight into multiple call issues, provided your programme does more than just capture a score. The best customer experience programmes use innovative techniques to capture and analyse customer feedback in a way that creates actionable insight for the operator. While poorer ones provide a number and little context or evidence to identify root causes and potential improvements.

  4. Matching resource levels to demand sounds obvious, yet in many of our studies we observe too many agents online at quieter times and too few during peak customer demand periods. This means that agents waiting for calls at quiet times add cost to the operation while being unable to add value and customer experience is impacted by long waits at busy times. The best way to get a good match is with a workforce management system that uses business demand patterns and work standards of the average time to complete a call to calculate the optimum number of agents available at any time. The best solutions provide agent flexibility via an app that allows them to choose their own shifts while creating the best match to customer demand patterns, includes shift bidding for any extra hours and a communication route that many operators found to be easy and effective during Covid disruption. For many agents, the personal benefits of using an app to manage their hours, increases agent retention and reduces turnover.

  5. Deep dive workstudy can help identify the things that happen during a call that take up unnecessary time. You probably know how long an average call takes, but do you know how long an agent waits on average for a screen to load? Or how long to switch systems to check a broadband speed or track a shipment, for example? Undertaking workstudy in a call center unearths opportunities to save time. A deep dive study for a client who had retained their old and slightly clunky system and recently added a much-improved interface, showed that some customer queries needed agents to go back into the system via the old interface. Switching between interfaces was so difficult that some agents had abandoned using the new system altogether and newer agents struggled as they were no longer receiving in depth training on the old system. Workstudy analysis identified exactly when the old interface was called back into action and measured the time impact on the calls, which helped create the business case to go back and complete the required system development work.

  6. Covid has forced many businesses to do radical things and to take a fresh look at their operation and business overheads. Removing overhead the right way has no impact on customer experience yet cuts the cost of the operation, so the benefit drops straight into profit. Many call centers have issued equipment so agents can work from home and one of our call centre clients is seriously considering if they need all their office space now that many of their agents are home based. Your leadership structure is an extra cost that adds value when perfect, yet we find in practice that many call centers operate with more levels of leadership than is required. Review how many leadership layers you have between the agents and the general manager – most can operate effectively with just two.

Looking for opportunities to make processes easier and customer interactions more rewarding for your colleagues is likely to lead to better customer experience and higher commercial returns. The key to cutting costs is to eliminate non-essential times from calls and to find the savings that have no downsides for customers.

Article by Simon Hedaux, founder and CEO of Rethink Productivity, a world leading productivity partner which helps businesses to drive efficiency, boost productivity and optimise budgets. For more information see

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