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What is avoidable contact and how do you implement it correctly?

In a previous blog, we looked at the subject of ‘first contact resolution’ in contact centres. In this blog, we are looking at whether ‘contact’ is always the best option for a transaction, and whether there is there such a thing as ‘avoidable contact’?

What is avoidable contact?

If you work in a contact centre environment, you may already be familiar with the term ‘avoidable contact’. Yet, in a number of contact centres that Unipart Expert Practices has worked within, we’ve found that ‘avoidable contact’ is used commonly in two very different contexts. These are:

  1. Where there is a deliberate strategy to divert phone calls to another service channel/ self-service channel.

This is the context that Unipart Expert Practices strongly supports and, to us, is the correct avoidable contact definition. The strategy has been implemented successfully in this context across thousands of call centres.

  1. Where phone calls into a call centre are occurring as a result of a failure with another service channel/ self-service channel.

In this second context, people are actually talking about ‘failure demand’ when using the term ‘avoidable contact’. Failure demand is when a contact is made as a direct consequence of a flaw or failure in either of the contact strategy, or the organisation’s operations.

Unipart was recently called upon to help one company with their avoidable contact strategy. We found that 85% of their calls were a result of broken processes or systems. Consequently, the company was resourcing for 85% more calls than was necessary, all that was needed was just to fix the issues in their omnichannel processes and systems.

Learn more about how we help companies overcome challenges.

Why and how do businesses choose to implement avoidable contact?

In this section we will look at why and how businesses choose to implement a deliberate avoidable contact strategy for their call centres. We will cover:

  • The motivation to implement avoidable contact
  • Understanding customers’ preferences
  • Business culture and avoidable contact
  • Teams working together on implementation
  • Continuous improvement and not a single transactional study

What is your organisations motivation behind an avoidable contact strategy?

There are two main drivers that motivate businesses to implement avoidable contact strategies:

  • To save operational costs within their call centres
  • A belief that their customers prefer to operate via online channels

This is the debate between the drivers of cost and customer satisfaction. Are you implementing an avoidable contact strategy simply to save on operations costs? Or, are you doing it for the good of your customers?

Actually, the answer to these questions should be ‘yes’ to both. A good avoidable contact strategy should figure as part of the design of the overall customer experience. When executed properly it will cut operational costs whilst also increasing customer satisfaction by reducing or removing the occasions for when a contact might currently be necessary, or by fulfilling a customer demand for contact to take place via different channels, such as online portal or web chat.

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Understanding your customers’ preferences is key

Successful avoidable contact processes and systems come as a result of:

  1. Knowing your customers.
  2. Contact centres working closely with other parts of the value stream to deliver a great, seamless and integrated customer experience.

There may be times when customers want to talk to you, and that is often when an interaction can deliver enhanced value for the customer. There may also be times when the customer doesn’t want to contact you and these situations must be avoided – they do not enhance the customer experience and they are a cost that needs to be eliminated. Understanding where these touchpoints exist and the difference between them will allow organisations to deliver the best customer experience and deliver maximum value.

The means of contact your customer may want to take is also important. For example, a company like SAGA will have a mixture of customers who will want to contact the business in different ways. They may have a proportion of customers that are ‘silver surfers’ (older, tech-savvy, users) and a similarly sized population that aren’t as confident using technology. In this instance, you may want to create omnichannels as a choice. This would mean that you are only avoiding contact with one segment of the client base and not alienating another important segment who still want to transact through a call. At the same time, by being able to use their preferred method, each customer segment can receive an optimum customer experience.

In some circumstances, however, a simple avoidable contact channel can work for all. An example of this could be for insurance companies that target young drivers. In this scenario, they would benefit from having lots of online omnichannels that they can use as opposed to making a young person talk to somebody on the phone. This approach would only be successful because they understand that their target customers prefer to do things quickly on their smartphones or laptops and that they are completely comfortable completing a transaction that way.

Comply with your brand’s ethos

Some businesses pride themselves on their engagement with customers on a human to human basis and use this as a competitive advantage. When creating implementing omnichannel strategy, these businesses should ensure that they are still complying with their businesses vision. If a ‘human to human’ engaging organisation creates lots of self-service channels for cost savings, they could be at risk of taking away this personal experience - and their competitive edge. If not careful, cost savings could be outweighed by the value of lost business. 

Get everyone working together on your avoidable contact strategy

More often than not, there can be a significant departmental split in the creation of an avoidable contact strategy. You may have an operations team who understand what the strategy is trying to achieve and why it has to be introduced. They may not, however, have any skills in actually building the omnichannels needed. This is usually passed to the IT department, or outsourced to an external provider.

In either case, whilst the project team be may capable of creating the different channels, they may not understand the full picture of why those channels are needed and what exactly they’re going to be doing. They can focus too much on transactions and not look to problem solve processes in the organisation. What we often see is the delivery of an Avoidable Contact strategy creating ‘Failure Demand’ by automating already poor processes.

It is much better to optimise process before it is digitised. For this reason it is crucial that everybody is working together when implementing an avoidable contact strategy.

avoidable contact strategy

Why an avoidable contact strategy must encompass a continuous improvement process and not just a short-term transactional study

Too many avoidable contact projects simply look at customer transactions as a means of achieving goals - yet never reach their business case objectives. In the experience of Unipart, this failure happens because those organisations don’t do any ongoing problem solving - merely transferring the ‘contact’ from one imperfect channel to another.

Unipart’s whole success is founded around a never-ending problem solving culture practiced across thousands of employees in countries across the world with some of the global experts in continuous sustainable improvement.

Our advice is in implementing an avoidable contact strategy is to work with all your workforce to get to the heart of the issues, improve processes, measure improvements and then start all over again looking for new improvements. You must also constantly collect and analyse multiple, relevant, statistics in order to measure if your omnichannel strategies are working towards your objectives.

Why use Unipart as a partner to develop your avoidable contact strategy?

Everything Unipart Expert Practices has in its portfolio to assist you has been developed in a workplace environment and has worked in many situations - including our very own. Unlike other ‘continuous improvement’ consultancies, we don’t use theoretical approaches. We can show you the proof that our strategies work. Having implemented sustainable continuous improvement practices across the entire Unipart group for almost 20 years we have seen improvements of up to 70-80%.

When it comes to correcting existing and introducing new processes, Unipart Expert Practices work as an integral part of your team. We train and coach staff at all levels of the organisation in the implementation of these processes and this support continues until you are ready to run sustainable continuous improvement in your contact centres, or any other part of your business, all on your own.

If you want to implement a deliberate avoidable contact strategy based on continuous improvement then contact our experts for an initial, no obligation, consultation.

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