A contact center might receive thousands of calls every single day. Some of those calls are from customers with very specific questions or requests, while others may be more general inquiries. In either case, it’s important for the contact center to quickly and accurately identify the customer’s intent. But why, and how, should customer intent be captured?
What is customer intent?
Customer intent is defined as the goal or desired outcome that a customer or caller hopes to achieve by interacting with your brand. What is actively driving them to contact you? What problem are they trying to solve? And what are they hoping to accomplish by doing business with you? Whether you work in B2B sales, run a non-profit organization, or operate within the service industry, it’s vital that your contact center can understand the goals and motivations of each of your customers.
Outside of contact centers, it can encompass the entire buying journey — from browsing to consideration, to the final point of purchase. In short, customer intent is all about understanding what your customers want and why they want it. And as a business, if you can align your service with what your customers are looking for, you’re more likely to drive conversions and build happy, loyal customers.
Why should you be capturing customer intent?
There are many reasons why you should be tracking customer intent. In a general context, understanding the internal motivation of your customers at each stage of the buyer’s journey is essential to being able to address their needs in a way that resonates and leads them to convert. It can help you to better segment your audience, understand what messaging will resonate, personalize the buyer’s journey, and close more deals. This is particularly crucial when buying online, as purchase journeys for customers are more fragmented and time-sensitive.
However, In the context of a call center, gaining a clearer understanding of customer intent will have a direct impact on a number of crucial metrics and KPIs, and improve the level of service you provide your customers. Here are some of the key benefits.
Increase first contact resolution
First and foremost, when you understand what your customers are looking for, you’re better positioned to deliver the fastest, most appropriate service. You can route them to the right department or agent the first time, without them having to explain their query multiple times.
Reduce average handle time (AHT)
If your agents can address customer queries quickly and efficiently, it will lead to a reduction in AHT. And when they are spending less time on each call, they can take more calls overall. This increase in efficiency is one of the main reasons why many organizations invest in identifying and understanding customer intent.
Lower abandonment rates
Abandoned calls are a huge source of frustration for both customers and contact centers. In fact, most call centers have an average rate of abandonment between 5 – 8%. This adds up to a lot of missed interactions and unhappy customers. When you have a clear understanding of customer intent, you can avoid this frustration by ensuring the right agents are handling the right calls with the right information, and your customers are spending less time on hold during call transfers. This will lead to a significant decrease in abandoned calls and a corresponding increase in customer satisfaction.
Decrease call volume
By quickly and accurately addressing customer queries the first time they contact you, it stands to reason that you will receive fewer repeat calls about the same issue. Not only will this reduce your AHT, but it will also decrease your call volume, freeing up your agents to deal with more complex issues.
Improve customer satisfaction & loyalty
When customers feel like they are getting the service they need, satisfaction with your company as a whole will increase. Happy customers often become brand loyalists and evangelists, who actively promote your company to their friends, family, and social networks.
How can a contact center capture customer Intent?
Contact centers can use a variety of methods to understand customer intent. Here are two of the most common.
One fast way to capture customer intent is by using Chatbots based on Conversational AI which are integrated into your company website. Also known as Virtual Assistants or Conversational Agents, these computer programs are designed to simulate human conversation. By asking the right questions, they can quickly ascertain the needs of the customer and direct them to the appropriate product or service.
While not usually a full replacement for a human agent, AI Chatbots can be a valuable asset in any customer service arsenal. They are available 24/7, can handle multiple queries at once and can utilize machine learning (ML) to constantly improve their ability to understand customer intent. By using AI Chatbots to engage with customers, you can quickly and easily gather customer intent data that would otherwise be unavailable. This can reveal patterns of intent that can be used to improve the customer experience and predict future customer behavior.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) technology has been used by contact centers for decades. In its most basic form, it allows customers to navigate a company’s phone system using pre-recorded messages and keypad input. However, modern IVR systems are far more sophisticated and can utilize Natural Language Processing (NLP), Natural Language Understanding (NLU) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to gain a more in-depth understanding of customer intent.
IVR systems that use NLP algorithms are able to interpret the user’s speech without keypad input and with the help of NLU algorithms, they can also understand the context of the conversation. This allows them to identify the needs of the customer quickly and accurately, in a way that mimics human interaction. The caller can then be routed to the most appropriate agent with the skills to help them, saving time and improving customer satisfaction.
In addition to this, AI technology can be used to analyze customer intent data gathered by the IVR system. This data can be used to improve the customer experience by predicting the needs of the customer and proactively addressing any issues. Smart IVRs can even provide self-service options that allow the customer to resolve their issue without needing to speak to an agent. This can free up valuable resources that can be used to address more complex issues.