Calls Are Taking Longer, and It’s a Good Thing

It’s challenging to get precise objective data about the overall state of self-service technology. Case studies about specific projects exist in large amounts, but, as the saying goes, “the plural of anecdote is not data.” Besides, you always have to account for bias in that reporting: vendors are going to show their data that make their technology look good. They will tout successful projects, and projects that fail get buried quickly. If we desire hard answers, we have to get a little bit clever. Data released last week, permit us to do just that.

customer service, call center

Why are longer calls Durations so interesting?

The net impact is to make easier transactions off the plat of the call center agent. As self-service becomes more active, the nature of the calls that end up with agents skews toward more complex transactions, and these calls naturally take longer. An increase in the average call duration is the best indicator of aggregate improvement in self-service. But, let’s note what this doesn’t tell us. It doesn’t say precisely which self-service technology is doing the heavy lifting. Maybe are better websites? Chatbots? An even combination of them all? Going back on a level further: it doesn’t say whether the self-service offerings have themselves gotten better or whether buyers are just willing to use them. Maybe it only reflects the increase in smartphone entrance over that same 15 years-period, which one makes self-service options always available? We can’t still separate the contribution of any of those trends. So the data is a little bit unsatisfying because they can’t say a contact center in which technology invest. But it shows that self-service options are taking on a growing share of “easy” transactions. 

Contrast This with “Catchy” Forecasts

Another dark side of this data is that it’s a lagging indicator. It indicates what improvements have already happened. But the real appetite out there is for leading indicators or forecasters that go out five years. That’s a good reason for that appetite. IG budget needs to be planned, and the more you can see in the future, the better you can devise. That’s where the analysts come in. They tell us that the interactions in 2025 will be automated. I find these pronouncements are pretty meaningless. Two big flaws: first, the data comes from the surveying call center about what they think will happen. The survey participants have no stakes in getting it right; second, how are they counting “interactions”? We would guess that every company handles that differently. The forecasts serve a useful role, but everyone who relies on them for planning processes should be keenly aware of their limitations. Always look to whatever hard data you can find first.

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