Why inbound call centers are more relevant than ever

A customer in a deli pops their debit card into the machine for the fifth time. Chip error — use magnetic stripe. But the magnetic stripe had long worn off and the chip is coming loose. The deli doesn’t take mobile payments. It dawns on this customer that they’re leaving the deli without their sandwich.

After dialing the number located on the back of the card, the hungry customer is greeted by a robotic voice that asks him to please state his issue clearly.

“My debit card doesn’t work.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. Please try again,” it says. The customer tries again — but hears nothing.

“Thank you for calling,” it says. “Goodbye!”

Click.

How many times do customers try to contact a business for help only to be inhibited by bad automation, or turned off by questionable service? When do inbound calls seem like an afterthought to an otherwise comprehensive support strategy?

Communication roadblock

Customer service is a battleground for businesses. While a customer probably isn’t going to switch their whole bank due to one bad phone call, dissatisfaction might plant that seed that makes them jump ship. Bad IVR is a roadblock to effective communication. When customers want to resolve issues quickly, or even in times of stress, they expect easy access to a human conversation.

According to the Zendesk Benchmark Report, 64% of customers have resolved an issue by phone, making it the most used channel. These same customers factor in whether or not they’ll receive an immediate response when making that call.

In all fairness, not everything about the experience was bad. Their number, for example, was easy to find on the card. Making the number easily available for inbound callers — whether that means placing it in an app, online, or propping it up in the search results, is a good practice for making sure your customer base can easily contact you.

Customer service is another huge factor — how long did it take to solve the issue? Was the agent friendly and knowledgeable? Does the agent have access to resources that make their job easier? Call center software like Zendesk Talk, fully integrated into Support, presents a full view of the customer. Agents know who they’re talking to, have access to the inbound caller’s history with the company, and are able to collaborate with other team members on tickets to better solve the issue. In a snap, good software empowers agents to find the solution that fits their customer’s needs.

People love speaking to people when they need to get shit done

Sometimes the best way for customers to solve an issue is to call. While self serve articles, email or messaging allows the customer or agent to solve an issue at their own convenience, businesses being reachable via their inbound call center means ticketscan be resolved relatively quickly. Ifnot, at least customers feel heard. While customer needs and expectations are changing — call centers remain integral to fostering communication.

Setting up an inbound call center

Maintaining an inbound call center might seem like an old-fashioned way of being ready for customers — but that doesn’t mean call centers aren’t part of a modern customer experience. In hosting an inbound call center(as opposed to an outbound call center that might be used for marketing), brands need to be ready for their customers by expecting them to reach out and being prepared with the right tools.

Omnichannel has been the buzzword du jour for a long time, but by this point it’s basically a synonym for “reasonable customer expectations.” Each channel has a place in a well-managed customer support strategy.

Whether that means the myriad messaging channels that are now open for business, or old standbys like email and phone, each is an avenue to providing customers with a solution.

What’s the difference between a call center and contact center?

The difference between a call center and a contact center is largely semantic. “Contact center” implies modern omnichannel capabilities.

Call center software, like Zendesk Talk, can be added on to existing support software. Text by Zendesk, integrated into Talk, allows agents to respond to SMS support tickets from the same Support dashboard they work from.

Indeed, the reimagining of the call center as a contact center, when accounting for the multiple conversational channels, signifies a shift in how we understand the importance of customer communication.

Understanding your customers is good customer service

Conversations are a goldmine for customer insights. By listening to customers and taking into account their needs, pain points, and journey, brands should be able to understand their customer base more broadly.

When informed customer service representatives, and support agents, and management have access to this customer data, callers aren’t forced to repeat themselves.

Most importantly, while presence across all channels means more opportunities for brands to better connect with their customers, phoning it in is still the most popular method for customer support.

This is especially true for baby boomers, of whom 80% prefer to solve issues over the phone. Omnichannel is ultimately about accessibility. Alienating a large swath of customers on generational lines by neglecting to develop a support strategy is bad form in an era where customer experience is a key-differentiator for businesses. Call centers are as essential as ever.

Care about the customer experience? Empower your agents

Call center agents have difficult jobs but giving them the right tools that facilitate easy management of customer inquiries can make their jobs easier, which trickles down into a better customer experience. In the report, 51% of customers remarked that one of the most important aspects of customer experience is whether or not the agent knows how to resolve their issue.

Tools available to call centers (like routing software, bots, accessible data analytics, the ability for agents to collaborate on tickets) all foster better communication between the customer and the agent. For businesses, tracking common issues might reveal gaps in training.

Agent experience is a crucial part of a call center’s inbound customer service strategy, aided by modern call center software that provides a 360-degree view of the caller.

Inbound for greatness

Customer experience shouldn’t be an afterthought — but that doesn’t mean it has to be all work and no play. With a host of modern features like SMS support, conference calling, and sharing conversational data, call centers are still an integral part of a true omnichannel customer support strategy.