Customer Contact Network New Zealand (CCNNZ), an industry body that aims to evolve and innovate the contact centre industry, suggests that New Zealanders can better tolerate hold times so long as their concerns are addressed. CCNNZ maintains that more emphasis should be placed on ensuring the customer's problem is resolved and that they were attended to by a sympathetic call centre operator, even during the busy and hectic festive season.
CEO of CCNNZ, Elias Kanaris, stressed the need for a change in mindset within the contact centre industry. At present, the priority lies on efficient and quick service. This emphasis on keeping call waiting times to a minimum, however, may come at the cost of the customer's 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," said Kanaris.
Kanaris pointed out that a drive for efficiency might also affect the operators' performance. "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," he said. Staff who are constantly evaluated based on the speed of their response and processing can feel harassed and stressed, which spills into their interaction with customers.
"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," Kanaris explained. Therefore, the organisation is pushing for the New Zealand contact centre industry, an industry that employs between 60,000 and 80,000 people, to prioritise customer experience over speed.
While acknowledging the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in improving efficiency, Kanaris believes AI to be a tool that could ensure a balance in contact centres between speed and customer experience. "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 asserted.
Kanaris has also set out a priority list for New Zealand contact centres: solving customer problems at the first contact; recognising long-term customers for their loyalty; having knowledgeable operators; making the process as simple as possible for customers, and proactively engaging by offering alternative solutions if necessary. "The most common metric with contact centres in the industry is to answer 80% of calls within 20 seconds as the standard, but we believe people will wait longer if the experience is good," he concluded.