Put yourself in your customers’ shoes for a moment. Imagine you spend all day rushing around at work. Then, you have to rush home, make dinner, drop off your kids at practice and pick them up. By the time you sit down to tackle the nagging customer service issue that’s been hanging over your head, it’s at least 9 p.m. and the contact center is closed.
Twenty years ago, most business leaders would have scoffed at the idea of keeping their contact centers open after hours. Customers had standard business hours to resolve conflicts, and it was their responsibility to find the time.
Now, things are entirely different.
The power has shifted to the consumer, and businesses are being forced to respond. We’re living in an ultra-connected era, where customers expect immediate access to support services. Customers don’t want to be told to wait until the following business day to resolve their issues.
In response, many contact centers are experimenting with rolling support services that extend well beyond the end of the normal business day. For example, social housing provider River Clyde Homes recently announced that its customer support center will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Moving forward, customers will be able to receive live human assistance regardless of what time it is.
Some larger companies are getting on board with this idea, too. Hulu, for instance, recently announced that it will open a 24/7 customer service center for subscribers before it launches its upcoming live TV service later this year. By the end of next year, Hulu hopes to staff 500 customer service agents.
As this trend continues to accelerate over the next few years, it’s going to make things difficult for businesses that lack the resources to power around-the-clock contact centers. After all, running a 24-hour contact center is very expensive, especially for an on-site company.
Businesses in this situation will have to get creative. Chatbots, for instance, offer an effective and affordable after hours solution. Chatbots exploded onto the customer service scene last year, when Facebook finally allowed businesses to integrate chatbots into its Messenger service. Chatbots use artificial intelligence to have advanced conversations with customers. They can help customers solve basic problems quickly, and in near real-time, too.
By using chatbots, it’s possible to staff less agents after hours. By using an omnichannel platform, a single agent could manage 10 or more automated conversations, stepping in for manual intervention when human assistance is needed.
That being said, it’s time to start looking for ways that you can either extend your contact center into the late evening, or keep it running around-the-clock. Chances are likely that your competitors will be doing the same thing this year.
Do you have any strategies for after-hours customer care?