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GUEST COMMENT Launch control: what customer services teams need when preparing for a blockbuster launch

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The long awaited PlayStation 5 (PS5) console launch had been eagerly anticipated by consumers around the world. Demand for the new gaming console has become so high that every single unit for the UK market sold out on the launch day. This shouldn’t have been a problem for customers who had pre-ordered the console, yet many were let down when they received kitchen appliances as opposed to their pre-order of the hotly anticipated console   

The huge consumer appetite for the product also impacted online sales channels with leading retailers’ websites failing to load or appearing broken for many customers trying to get their hands on the new console. 

When preparing for a big launch of big-ticket items, what do brands need to consider from a customer experience point of view, especially when things go wrong? Understandably, consumers will be frustrated if their order gets cancelled due to a technical glitch and will turn to a number of different channels to vent their frustrations. Retailers and brands, therefore, need to be equipped with the latest knowledge bank information, but most importantly, they need to lead each interaction with empathy to diffuse consumer irritation. Empathy alone will not be enough to solve customer frustrations and businesses need to be equipped with other smart ways to handle this type of situation: 

Flexible management of demand across every channel

When demand for a product or service spikes, inbound customer communications can come from all directions. In the age of multi-channel customer experience, it’s essential to make sure each customer touch point, such as phone, social media, webchat and email is staffed appropriately. Software that measures and analyses the multiple channels in real-time will allow the contact centre to move agents to the channels experiencing spikes in volume promptly. But retailers should think beyond simply having agents available to cover each channel. They should leverage data captured from customers’ interactions on each of the channels to help build context around each query.

During periods of peak demand, consumers are often placed in virtual queues. However, customers are often left waiting for hours with no insight into stock levels. This is where retailers can innovate and introduce webchat and asynchronous messaging, such as WhatsApp, to provide customers with transparency around stock levels as they wait and register for updates. 

This is where technologies such as predictive engagement can into play to help manage the demand. Many chat solutions don’t know the visitor’s intent but predictive engagement uses AI and machine learning and all available real-time and historical data to understand the nature of their enquiry. This provides context for the webchat, meaning the relevant support that the customer is looking is for can be offered at the right moment, such as when a customer that has pre-ordered but hasn’t received their product begins browsing the website’s contact page. 

To help deal with demand through phone channels, predictive routing works in a similar way to predictive engagement. It can deploy voice bots to build to a profile of each customer and understand the context of each call to match the caller with the agent best qualified to help them. This includes personalising the caller’s journey by matching them with an agent best suited to resolving the customer’s issue. For example, if a caller has been delivered a product that is not working, they will be routed to an agent that has specialism in dealing with such situations and ensuring best possible outcomes. 

While AI-technologies are helping route customers to the appropriate agents, they also work assisting agents in handling queries. AI-based assistants relaying information from knowledge banks can be particularly useful for providing agents with the details they need during any large-scale consumer launch. This can include the latest updates on stock availability from the manufacturer and delivery lead times. Being able to instantly access this information can be instrumental in limiting customers’ frustrations when it comes to finding in-demand products. 

Measuring customers’ frustration levels

Understanding the general sentiment of all inbound customer communications at any one time has traditionally been a challenge for customer services teams. Without tracking customer sentiment businesses can’t fully gauge the effectiveness of their customer service. Today, modern sentiment analysis software makes it easier to understand customer sentiment and what approach works for each customer. Enabled by speech analytics technology, customer service managers can now answer crucial questions that will help to improve the customer services team’s performance. Did the interaction go well? Is the customer happy? Are agents resolving the customers’ issues? Are agents potentially causing frustration? The questions can be applied to all interactions to build a picture of caller sentiment. 

Traditionally, answering these questions would have meant undergoing labour and time intensive tasks of listening in on calls, listening to call recordings, reading transcripts or sending out customer surveys. Sentiment analysis software can gauge how well the contact centre is performing by looking over multiple call transcripts and applying sentiment markers. It can understand whether customers are interacting in a positive, negative or neutral way. 

The ability to measure and understand customers’ frustration levels at the beginning and end of interactions ultimately helps to determine the effectiveness of the interactions from the agents’ side. It can also help to understand the collective sentiment of customers during an unexpected event or to track changes in sentiment over time. With this knowledge, the agents are prepared for hostility from callers and can adjust their demeanour to pacify them and deliver a satisfactory experience and outcome. 

Ahead of the Christmas rush, with shopping restrictions and social distancing driving more people to order gifts online, companies need to ensure they have a robust customer service strategy in place. Many consumers expect to have the latest tech under the tree as presents, but with limited stock available, it will often be the customer service agents that will bear the brunt of customer disappointment, whether online or on the phone. 

By following these steps and ensuring that agents are equipped with the latest information on availability and treating each customer empathetically, will go a long way in helping customers during a big launch. But it will also pay to follow these steps to build ready customer service teams for unexpected surges in demand that can happen at any moment.


Brendan Dykes, senior director, Genesys

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