Why call deflection is a must for contact centres

By Brendan CrawfordNovember 1, 2023

Type the word ‘deflection’ into an online dictionary and negative connotations abound. “Something you do or say in order to avoid … criticism or blame,” says one1. “A psychological coping mechanism (that is) all about protecting ourselves from difficult emotions and conversations,” suggests another2. Then there is this – “A narcissistic abuse tactic (used) to move attention for bad behaviour away and redirect it towards … scapegoats3.”

Given such definitions, one could be excused for thinking that nothing good can come from the act of deflection but it only takes a quick look inside the modern contact centre to realise how far from the truth that is. In a world where customer expectations have never been higher, agents are struggling with increased call volumes and businesses are straining under the high costs of providing voice services, call deflection is proving an invaluable strategy.

What is call deflection?

Call deflection is the process of redirecting incoming callers to the best channels for delivering them fast and efficient solutions. This can include diverting to mid-touch customer support options such as live chat and SMS or low-touch customer support like self-service platforms. Research shows providing customers with the option of digital support can reduce contact centre call volumes and operating expenses by as much as 30%4.

C_Call deflection
Source: Call Deflection PowerPoint Template and Google Slides Theme (sketchbubble.com)

Why is call deflection important?

Better customer experience

Research has shown that 50% of customers consider an ‘immediate’ response essential or very important when reaching out to a contact centre, with the majority defining ‘immediate’ as 10 minutes or less5. Such targets are almost impossible to reach when relying on human agents alone, hence the power of call deflection in giving callers the chance to opt-out of waiting in phone queues and be redirected to digital channels. This is supported by studies that show 43% of people prefer contact centres with bots that simplify the customer service experience6.

Fewer calls reaching agents

Deflecting calls to automated platforms means human agents have more time to send resolving more complex enquiries. This is invaluable during peak call periods or when managing the fallout of unforeseen events, with deflected callers grateful to quickly resolve their issues and those that connect with agents appreciative to receive the extra time they need.

Reduced costs

It’s simple really: the less calls that need to be handled by human agents, the less resources that need to be invested in employing those agents. Along with lower staff headcounts, there are intangible costs when those employees frequently need to deal with frustrated customers who have been forced to wait on hold to speak to an agent. This includes high staff turnover and the associated expenses of recruitment, onboarding and training.

How is Oration improving call deflection?

In a market filled with AI-powered intelligent call routing (IVR), Oration by Convai is one solution that is changing the game when it comes to delivering more targeted deflection outcomes.

Identifying intent

Digital transformation means different things to different organisations but one of the primary aims in the contact centre environment is to drive callers to self-service and assisted service platforms. Oration achieves this by using the power of artificial intelligence to interpret a customer’s language and determine their true intent. Once that intent is identified, the solution can automatically route the call to the most appropriate outcome, which is often a self-service or assisted service option. Even if a call is routed to an agent, they may also offer the chance to deflect to another channel, either in-call or post-call. This ‘softer’ deflection approach is a proven winner, with Oration deflecting up to 23% of all customer call volume to assisted service.

Why it pays to deflect

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Source: Call Deflection Through AI Chatbots - Synthetix

Mobile number identification

Knowing a call has originated from a mobile phone is a huge advantage when it comes to deflection and Oration is ahead of the game on that front. While the 04 prefix means it is easy to identify a call from Australian carrier networks, Oration has algorithms in place that can detect mobile calls emanating from New Zealand and the US, which is notoriously difficult as it does not have a specific pattern for mobile phone numbers. This technology means Oration does not need to ask callers for their phone numbers before sending deflection options, while also seamlessly excluding non-mobile calls.

Pre-integration with SMS providers

Sending an SMS to a customer while they are on a call is an excellent way to encourage deflection but working with SMS providers to incorporate has historically been a costly and time-consuming affair. With Oration, that feature is pre-integrated with a variety of carriers and means it is as simple as inputting the deflection copy to be sent via SMS and the solution takes care of the rest. No huge expense. No spending up to six weeks integrating the technology with an SMS provider. Organisations can even insert their business name as the sender of the SMS so it appears to be from their business when it lands on a customer’s phone.

Callback options

It may not result in an immediate resolution to their query but customers tend to appreciate the offer of a callback over waiting on hold for an indefinite period. Indeed, research shows 63% of people would prefer that option and Oration’s IVR system makes it possible by recording the number they are calling from so they can hang up. Then, when the customer has reached the front of the queue, the IVR will automatically notify agents that it is time for the callback to be made. This simple but highly effective deflection technique is helping improve CX.

Summary

Call deflection has traditionally been viewed as a cost-saving measure but an increasing number of organisations are recognising it as a one-way ticket to improved customer experience. As customers become more familiar with self-service and assisted service technologies, digital channels are fast earning a reputation for achieving higher Net Promoter Scores despite the fact callers have been deflected to other platforms. Ultimately, it is as much about boosting customer convenience than managing high call volumes and saving money.

Facing a shortage of contact centre staff? Not able to keep up with customer enquiry demands? Discover how an Australian supermarket retailer saved $65,000 per month by deflecting voice calls to its web chat channel service.

Reference

1. DEFLECTION | English meaning - Cambridge Dictionary
2. Deflection: Definition and Solutions (thepracticalpsych.com)
3. PSYCHOLOGICAL DEFLECTION (bricefoundation.org)
4. Why companies should care about e-care | McKinsey
5. Live Chat Exposes a Fatal Flaw in Your Go-to-Market (hubspot.com)
6. salesforce-state-of-the-connected-customer-4th-ed.pdf (sfdcstatic.com)

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