If Only Call Deflection Could Be Like A Caramel Macchiato … Or Can It?

I'm at Starbucks and I'm thinking about call deflection. Strange, I know, but here I am observing chatty baristas and customers all engaged in a dance of questions and answers, instructions, advice and perspectives. It's the perfect metaphor for call deflection!

Let me explain. I watched a flood of customers at Starbucks. People are lined up inside and in the drive-through. Inside, one customer asks questions, laughs, tells stories and enjoys the barista banter. Another one walks in - with a mobile order - and says almost nothing. He gets his drink and leaves. Some customers pay by credit, very few by cash, others use Starbucks cards and a surprising number choose the mobile app. Every customer chooses a different path – a different channel – for his or her Starbucks experience. And yet the common denominator was obvious: It was a positive experience and they left satisfied (and likely to return for more). It hit me that this is our aim when it comes to call deflection.

Start to Finish, Call Deflection is About The Customer

"Deflecting" customers to various support channels is a strategy to keep customers happy while managing related costs. The good news is that companies can do both as they consider what engagement models, like the ones below, are best for their customers.

  • Self-service channels, online knowledge bases, Frequently Asked Questions and related content on a web site or mobile app and hardened devices like ATMs and Kiosks
  • Email, which even today is very common, and fairly effective for lots of interactions – and inexpensive
  • Live online/web chat, which is growing in popularity since it is immediate, and can resolve issues quickly (it's not just about converting sales anymore, but increasingly about issue resolution)
  • Mobile Interactive Voice Response and mobile texting/SMS
  • Social media such as Facebook and Twitter, even though this may be akin to airing your dirty laundry in public
  • In-app chat on mobile devices, a fast-growing service delivery tool that allows customers to build rapport and loyalty by engaging with an agent or series of agents over time on the preferred device of most consumers

There are others as well, each of these are tools to help an organization relentlessly deliver personal, precise customer care. But consistent implementation across channels isn't so easy and it's hard to get them all right at once. It can be complicated, cost prohibitive and tough to manage and measure. Very few companies are diligent in doing their homework before they roll out new programs and channels. Before any roll-out, channel or technology is identified, it's best to start with The Customer (shocking right?). Know and understand every stage of their journey. Measure what they want, expect, prefer and really use. Far too often we watch companies try to "get omnichannel" by standing up technology and never really improving the experience.  Doing the hard work of customer journey mapping helps reveal the ideal channels for deflection and ensures high-value, high-performance results, or at least results you can measure objectively. Maybe you don't have to do everything, rather just one thing that will make a big impact.

Once you've got your buyer journey down, a call deflection program can be created, launched, executed, measured and managed, be it in-house, outsourced or some combination. Regardless, the critical success factor is to first do your homework about your customers. Examine your call deflection tools, systems, processes and content, make sure they are up to date, accurate, intuitive and "in harmony" with your other customer-support teams.

At the end of the day, call deflection has one purpose: to serve customers. It is about creating a quality customer experience in which answers are given. Problems are resolved. And customers walk away with smiles on their faces.

In essence, it's like that recent trip to Starbucks: You get what you want, when you want it. Exactly the way you want it.

Extra espresso shot in that macchiato please. Thank you.

Jarrod Johnson

Chief Customer Officer
November 28, 2017