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Call Diversion and Deflection 101

Call diversion/deflection is a hot topic across the CX space, particularly in the Banking, Insurance, Telecom, Healthcare, and Lending verticals. This page summarizes call diversion and deflection and why it is crucial to the customer experience discipline today.

What is Call Diversion/Call Deflection? 

If you’re reading this, you’re likely trying to get a handle on your call center volumes and costs.  Call Diversion, also known as call deflection and call containment, refers to a strategy of proactively preventing customer questions and queries from being answered by live contact center agents. Callers are either guided to or given the option to address their concerns without agent assistance. Call diversion and deflection are powered by digital customer service experiences. 

Why is Call Diversion/Call Deflection Such an Important Topic for CX Leaders?

In the traditional agent-led customer support model, customers with issues or concerns call a number. They are immediately connected to a customer service representative (CSR) or enter a queue to speak with the next available support agent. 

Over the years, companies have tried to reduce inbound call volumes by providing more self-service solutions for common customer problems. Here’s why: 

1. Cost: Live customer support is costly, often requiring large teams of agents standing by to answer calls. A typical contact center call often costs about $1 per minute in the US. By contrast, answering support questions via live chat or without human support can cost far less. For example, well-designed digital self-service experiences and AI-powered bots can deliver answers and information to customers at a much lower cost — often a tiny fraction of the live support cost.

2. Service Gaps: Because call volumes are unpredictable, call centers must either incur high costs to support idle agents or make customers wait in potentially long caller queues. Every moment a customer stays in a queue increases their agitation and frustration with the company and can lower customer satisfaction (CSAT) ratings.

3. Long Time-to-Resolution: Involving an agent in every customer query can lengthen the time it takes to resolve many customer issues. Caller wait times, manual identity verification, the time to explain issues, and the time it takes agents to access resources to resolve questions can contribute to higher frustration and lower CSAT scores.

4. Failure to Heed Customer Preferences: An effective CX practice focuses on delivering customers the information they want/need in ways that match their preferences. Many customers today prefer digital self-service versus agent-assisted interactions.

5. Questions Better Addressed via Self-Service: Straightforward tasks are often more quickly and efficiently resolved for customers when you offer digital self-service processes as part of a customer service automation strategy. Digital self-service reduces wait times, and customers can better input familiar info like their address. Identity verification can be achieved quickly via digital self-service. Examples of these low-value engagements include getting account balance info, payment info, change of address, and more.

Call Deflection is a “final line of defense” that provides self-service options in the final stages before connecting to an agent. 

How Do I Know if Call Diversion is Right for My Business?

Any call type that can be handled easily in self-service is a great candidate for call diversion, regardless of business or industry. That said, industries with a recurring service model, especially those with tight regulations, can significantly benefit from a successful call diversion program.  Industries like Banking, Lending, Insurance, Telecom, and Healthcare are very active in devising call diversion options. Still, call diversion can be suitable for almost any industry that gets a lot of inbound customer support and/or sales calls.

What are the Most Common Forms of Call Diversion and Call Deflection?

The most commonly pursued forms of call deflection originate in the IVR experience before they are connected to an agent. Self-service can be delivered multiple ways over IVR. While there are several differences between each approach, the primary difference is the interaction method. Each has its pros/cons.

Standard IVR: The easiest-to-deploy method uses an audio IVR to give customers automated options for answering their questions. The approach keeps the user in the same contact channel, but audio menus can be complicated for customers to use, particularly if they deliver multiple options for self-serve resolution. 

Conversational IVR: This approach uses voice recognition and possibly AI to query the customer’s needs and then attempts to provide correct information without involving an agent. Again, the advantage of keeping people in the same contact channel is here. But the success of conversational IVR depends on the quality of the voice recognition and response tools. Many companies have soured their customers on this approach because their toolsets cannot understand most customer queries. 

Deflect to Chat/SMS: In this approach, the customer is offered the option to shift their query from audio to a visual automated or live chat/SMS interface. Chat/SMS are asynchronous and visual, offering some experiential benefits over conversational IVR, but they require a channel switch. Live chat environments can give customers a greater sense of personal service while enabling an agent to serve multiple customers simultaneously. But response delays and communication challenges can also lead to frustrating experiences.

Deflect to Digital Here, the customer is given the option to receive a link to a micro-app that they can use to get their needs met. Clicking the link, usually delivered by SMS or a messaging app, opens a secure webpage that the customer can use to perform straightforward tasks like checking an account balance or starting an insurance claim. Users are typically the most comfortable with this interaction method as it is simple and visual, providing all the versatility of an app or website.

Which Call Diversion and Call Deflection Strategy Should I Focus On?

The right mix of call diversion and deflection options may differ for every brand and target audience. The key is recognizing that all CX activities should give customers appealing options that effectively meet their needs. When companies can lead with clear communication of multiple options, customers can select the support method best for them. Further, we always need to recognize that some customers will be most comfortable speaking with an agent, and we should not try to force them into a self-service, menu-based, or bot-based path.

Many companies use statistical analysis of their call center data to identify the most common straightforward queries that can reasonably be completed without assistance to identify the most critical call deflection initiatives. Focusing on the most prevalent questions enables the company to concentrate efforts on all diversion call deflection initiatives that can materially affect total call volumes.

Many companies find that when they build out excellent self-service and AI-based support options, these customers that say they prefer direct agent interaction may quickly learn the benefits of self-service. This is a frequent consequence of effective CX automation.

How Do Companies Get Started with Call Diversion and Deflection?

Many companies first analyze the data from their call center to identify the most common and straightforward customer queries. From there, they analyze those queries to select those that can be easily accomplished with digital self-service. While you have several options for call diversion, digital self-service offers the best balance of customer experience, executability, and resource requirements. This means the ROI for this approach is usually the highest.

Once the customer queries for automation have been selected, micro-apps must be developed. In almost all cases, sending someone to a simple, purpose-built application is preferable to dropping them on an existing webpage. Micro-apps are the easiest to use.

You have multiple options for micro-app development. You can build custom apps internally or through an outsourcer. Recently, new solutions have been developed that enable faster and less expensive development processes. Callvu is such an offering.

Once you have developed your application, you need to integrate it into your IVR. Testing the app in different places in your IVR workflow is often valuable to find out where it delivers the best customer adoption and satisfaction. You should also analyze the user flow through your experience and optimize as necessary to maximize completion rates.


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