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Managing Contact Centre Demand Whilst Energy Prices Skyrocket


What can you do to manage the inevitable increase in demand on your contact centre following the energy prices rising?

With a record-breaking price increase in the UK energy market that is coming April 1st - roughly £693 per year for the average customer - most consumers will see disposable income squeezed. This will undoubtedly increase the demand on contact centres in the energy and utilities industry as consumers rush to get the best deals possible and gain a better understanding of the sharp rise in their bills.

With 62% of customers still favouring a phone call over other contact options, how you manage demand types, what channels you use, and the way which you deflect demand using self-service help (be that FAQs, account info or chatbots) is vital to your companies ability to impress customers, maximise revenue and reduce inefficiencies.

How do you navigate this increase in demand on your contact centre?

Getting your FAQs up to scratch

Updating your general website information, in particular your FAQs, to be in line with the prices increasing is one of the best ways to have a first line of defence and reduce demand on your contact centre agents.

This is a win-win scenario for your company because if a customer can find the answer on your website not only is that one less person calling your contact centre, but it also means the customer has come away satisfied that you’re proactive enough to foresee their question coming and provide a reasonable answer.

You should make this your number one priority – get your FAQs completely updated, maybe add a blog post with further details explaining why prices are rising, and make sure you redirect customers to these areas of the website before they contact you directly. Ofgem, a recognized regulator by consumers, has already written an-depth (but approachable) piece on what the recent cap increase means to the typical consumer which you can point towards.

Calls vs webchat

So, your FAQs are up to date, but that won’t satisfy everybody’s questions – what’s the next best option? Considering it’s an average of 33% more cost-effective than taking a call, we suggest you set some agents up on webchat.

Webchat is becoming an increasingly popular way for customers to communicate with contact centres. It offers a convenient and efficient way for customers to get help, without having to wait on the phone for a representative to become available. In addition, webchat often provides more immediate support than calling, as agents can typically answer chats faster than they can answer calls (particularly during times of high demand). This is because chats tend to take less time to complete than calls, meaning more agents are available to help customers.

Webchats are significantly more cost effective because it allows agents to have multiple conversations at once. Although we highly recommend you only allow a maximum of three conversations to avoid agent burnout and confusion, you’re still tripling the number of customers being served at once when compared to a phone call.

Webchats, however, do have a few disadvantages – they are less personable, people might not feel comfortable sharing sensitive information, and some customers will have issues too complex to resolve over messages. Despite these disadvantages, webchat is a great way for customers to seek support, and it is becoming increasingly popular due to its convenience and efficiency.

The final frontier – taking customer calls

It’s inevitable that not everyone will be satisfied with your FAQs or your webchat. And, as we mentioned earlier in the article, 62% of customers still prefer to make contact via telephone. So how do you ensure these customers are being served in the most efficient way whilst maintaining the best CX possible?

Avoid channel transfers. We appreciate that redirecting your customer to a different channel or agent is sometimes unavoidable, but if this is a common problem in your contact centre then it’s time to address the root cause. Do everything you can to solve your customers’ problem at first instance; it doesn’t just improve their experience, but it helps to avoid any lengthy back-and-forth contact with the consumer which incurs cost and reduces efficiency.

In our recent analysis of almost 100,000 retail customer conversations, channel transfers and repeated contact were the second and third most common problems the consumers faced. This drives negative sentiment and can damage your reputation whilst increasing customer churn. Research shows that the average customer is even willing to pay a premium price if it comes with an improved customer service experience.

Coach your agents. Tying in with the avoidance of channel transfers or repeated contact, coaching your agents is vital to avoiding high AHT and has been proven time and again to improve customer service quality (CSAT), reduce turnover rates, increase retention rates, and boost overall performance.

There are other benefits too: You'll find you have happier staff members who enjoy coming into work because they feel they are being developed and supported. This in turn can lead to higher customer satisfaction ratings as people will appreciate the effort your company is making to improve the quality of its service.

Utilise scripting and NBA software. You should be using conversational guidance software to intelligently guide your agents based on customer data – resulting in the best experience from your agents taking the best action at the right time.  Higher sentiment, higher conversions and fewer dissatisfied customers.

Conversational guidance platforms can provide information on the customer straight away for the agent, saving them time and effort. The leading software in the market is able to intelligently recommend the next best steps for each agent to take – reducing AHT and increasing the capacity per agent. We’ve covered why scripting most of your customer interactions can be massively beneficial to agents and customers alike before – you can find that article here.

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