Driving cost savings through operational improvement
Any team viewed as a cost center can face significant challenges when financial times are tough, so it’s imperative that customer service orgs prioritize spending where it counts.
Last updated February 16, 2024
Don’t panic. That’s generally good advice–but when business leaders are facing one of the worst economic downturns in more than a decade, it’s not particularly easy guidance to heed.
Yet crisis breeds opportunity. Now’s the time to invest in improving employee productivity and operational efficiency, working to remove redundancies, streamline workflows and drive out inefficiency.
For customer service leaders, one of the best ways to pare down expenses without sacrificing quality in the customer experience is to add artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to your service center. Done right, you’ll undoubtedly find your customer satisfaction increase as the majority of customers around the world are already expecting companies to add AI to their support. You’ll also find that these investments will improve your agents’ productivity and efficiency. Getting this right creates a win-win, driving better experiences for both the customer and the employee.
Prioritize spending for efficiency
If AI is not already part of your service offerings, adding it can help reduce operational costs by eliminating redundant, low-value tasks for your agents. These time-saving workflows can deflect inbound interactions without the need to invest in additional tools, training or staff. In customer service, AI serves three key areas well: automation of tasks, recommendation for content and making predictions for what customers may need next.
Another way to cut costs and support your agents is to ensure that they aren’t working in silos. In addition to your support platform, connect agents to other vital teams through collaboration tools that allow them to easily interact and quickly get the answers they need to resolve issues.
This is also a good time to audit your frequently asked questions and develop a robust knowledge base so your customers can help themselves without ever having to contact a live agent. For maximum efficiency, adding AI to your self-service can help suggest better and more relevant articles to your customers. It can also continuously analyze which help articles are the most popular and keep updating your self-service page with what customers need the most, reducing the lift required by agents.
Deliver better service while decreasing spending
According to our research, 73 percent of business leaders state that it’s even more important to deliver excellent customer service experiences during an economic downturn. So, as tempting as halting investments might sound, some companies might very well risk losing customers as a result–as almost half of consumers are willing to walk away after one bad service experience. Investing in AI in this economic climate is a great way to deal with increases in ticket volume all the while delivering fast, personalized service.
Liberty London, a UK premium department store, saw their online sales rise by over 50 percent and were in need of a modern customer service solution that could match their growth.
Ian Hunt, Director of Customer Service at Liberty, uses Zendesk’s Intelligent Triage solution to identify and classify intent, sentiment and language, so that the ticket can be rerouted to the right team and solved as quickly as possible. This dramatically reduces manual work behind triage and allows service agents to focus on other more complex and valuable tasks.
“With Zendesk AI, I’m seeing an exciting opportunity to streamline and be more efficient with the day-to-day stuff,” says Hunt. “That will allow myself and others on the team to have more time to work on other projects of importance to the business, be it driving revenue or new sales channels”.
With Zendesk in place, Liberty’s CSAT score went up nine percent while the time it takes to give a first reply dropped by 73 percent. Using Zendesk, Liberty also put a self-service strategy in place, reducing agent-related costs–the luxury retailer saved $21,461 on self-service last year alone.
Liberty sees Zendesk AI as key to delivering personalized service
“Liberty is all about delivering a personal service. I see AI enhancing that personal service because now our customers will be interacting with a human who’s being put in front of them at the right time with the right information.”
Spend on tools over headcount
It’s not unusual for service teams to be challenged with scaling their work in times when you aren’t able to scale resources. Many leaders are tempted to launch into crisis mode at the first sign of a recession–as one of the most popular ways of reducing costs is to both halt hiring and reduce headcount. But judicious leaders look to technology as a way to drive improved business performance alongside the delivery of excellent customer experience.
Unity, a development platform that allows creators to build interactive real-time 3D content, grew quickly from 2019 to 2020. But as the company expanded, so did the ticket volume. With a 56 percent increase in new tickets, the company needed to find ways to scale support services–without adding more staff.
David Schroeder, the senior manager of services for Unity Technologies, added Zendesk automations and self-service options to build time-saving workflows across the support team.
“Zendesk tools enabled us to quickly recognize large increases in ticket volume, identify the cause, and create steps to migrate the problem,” Schroeder explained. “Without Zendesk, our support team would have gone underwater”.
Instead, Schroeder and his team witnessed a big pay day.
“Last year, we deflected 8,000 tickets due to self-service enabled by Zendesk,” said Schroeder. “That amounts to about $1.3M saved due to reduction in tickets”.
On top of that, with the appropriate workforce management tools, many companies can empower their service teams to remain able to deliver competitive service experiences, all the while ensuring that they remain cost efficient.
Peek, an online booking platform system for tours and activities, faced hours of manual work to maintain their agent scheduling and performance reporting each week, preventing service staff from focusing on delivering quality service experiences. Erik Jansen, Support Team Supervisor at Peek, explains how Tymeshift, a Zendesk product, helped their team reduce time on manual and time-consuming tasks. “I used to do about 15 hours of workforce management before Tymeshift. I think that I really got it down to maybe an hour a day”.
Using Tymeshift as a workforce management solution has also allowed Peek to have better insights into staffing needs, ultimately allowing the company to cut overtime costs. “Tymeshift also helped us become better staffed. It has provided us with the visibility to make sure we have the appropriate head count.”