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Scary New World

Agent in the loop - Groundhog day of customer service

Customer Service agents have to answer over and over again the same customers' requests every day. We show you how to break this loop with AI.

Sophie Rodriguez Flechas

August 20, 2020 · 9 min read

I have always liked talking to people and helping them out to find a solution if there is a problem, that is the reason why I decided to join the working force in customer service and became a customer service agent. When I signed the contract, it sounded like the best idea I ever had, and during training it was only reinforced. However, I was wrong, oh so wrong!

My days usually start with a warm cup of coffee and some toasts, a warm shower and clean clothes. Daily commute to my work does not take long as I ride my bike, and I am usually at the office in around 15 minutes. I like to be early, just to start the system and get ready for a day of taking calls, answering questions, solving issues and overall completing support tasks. I have a coffee break here and there, have some lunch, finish my shift and go back home. It’s a simple and nice routine.

This day started as any other day, with the alarm clock going off and my arm reaching out to stop it. I had my breakfast, took the shower and put clothes on. Rode my bike, got to the office and started the system. Everything seemed in place, even the gossiping in the corridors were as normal. Cue the first call, I said my opening line followed by a customer asking about how long will their order take to arrive?

3 to 5 business days, ma’am. -I say as friendly as I can, and nothing was out of the ordinary.

Next customer asked how to reset their password if they forgot it, but not before a small rant about the waiting time in the line

I am really sorry for that inconvenience, sir. Due to the high volume of calls we are handling at the moment; our customers might experience some delays. - I apologized. – If you provide me with the email you registered with, I can send you a link to reset your password. – Issue solved, up for the next call. A customer had issues with the payment method and of course, with the waiting time. I again, offer my apologies and explained to her how our payment methods work. Before my coffee break, I had a customer be really rude at me because I couldn’t offer my services in Chinese, and our company in general, could not.

One of the things I most enjoy of my days are the coffee breaks. We have a machine that makes awesome coffee and I like having my quick fix. On this day I changed my status to break and went to grab a mug of that dark goodness, but on my way back I bumped my hip into a table and I spilled hot coffee on my white shirt, I had to run around with a big stain in the middle of the chest, and also it burned. It was a minor accident, so I let it go and went back to work.

Customer A has a question about shipping, after complaining about the waiting time. 3 to 5 business days. Customer B has a question about account login. Link to reset password. Customer C want to pay with gift card. Explain payment methods available. I got a call again about shipping time, again 3 to 5 business days. Customer D is asking for an agent in Chinese. We do not offer support in Chinese. Coffee break again, bump into the table again and spilled the hot drink on my shirt, again. Back to work.

Expected shipping time. 3 to 5 business days. Long waiting time. High volume and apologies. Issues with account login. Reset password. Gift card is not working. Explain payment methods. Customer service in Chinese. Do not offer. Coffee break. Bump table. Spilled coffee. Stained shirt back to work. Didn’t this happen before?

Shipping. 3 to 5 days. Waiting time. High volume. Account login. Password. Gift Card. Payment methods. Chinese. Not offer. Coffee. Table. Stain. Work. Shipping. 3 to 5 days. Waiting time. High volume. Account login. Password. Waiting time. High volume. Gift Card. Payment methods. Waiting time. High volume. Chinese. Not offer. Coffee. Table. Stain. Work…

I was pretty sure I had already been doing that at least twice that day and I started to feel agitated, as the customers sounded the same, the questions were the same, even the coffee was spilling on the same exact spot. I tried to talk with a coworker, but they all were so focused on their work, I thought maybe I was getting paranoid, so I got back to the line. Chinese. Not offer. Coffee. I knew what was coming next, so I tried to break the cycle by not having a coffee break, but more of a tea break. I brew my tea, grabbed the mug and started walking to my desk. The table was there, I just had to be careful and not bump with it. Still, I bumped my hip, spilled my… coffee? I was pretty sure I had brewed tea. What was going on?

I got back to my desk and prayed it was just my imagination. Maybe I was just tired perceiving things differently, more scary. I took a deep breath and got back to the line, however, my nerves were on edge, and I was so close to flying off the handle. My palms were sweaty and my breathing was fast just by waiting for the next call. Cue the next call, the customer complained about waiting time and I apologized as good as my nerves allowed me to, and then it clicked, I had heard this voice before, it was the same customer. She asked about shipping times and my stomach sunk. Before I could even answer, there was a loud sound on my right and the whole floor trembled. I looked over and it was Sam, one of my coworkers. He was sitting on the floor, knees to the chest and arm around the legs, rocking back and forth, repeating over and over the payment methods and returning policies. I tried going back to the call but it was the same customer that had forgotten their account details, asking about a password reset, and complaining about waiting times. I was so confused and tried to flag a manager down, but they were already taking Sam away on a stretcher, however the lines were still open.

The management had to notice something was wrong, really wrong, for this to happen. I mean, yes, we usually answer repetitive questions through the day, but no one had ever collapsed because they were exactly the same. Sam’s line opened and there was an angry customer on the other line, somehow having a conversation with the agent that was no longer there. We all went pale, and looked terrified to the window, some tried to open the door and run, but it was nothing on the other side, just the void.

I saw them making phone calls, in the meantime we had to keep answering the phones. Again, same question, same voices, same complaints. When was this going to end? In the middle of a call a bright light suddenly appeared right where the door was at and a portal opened letting a robot come inside. It meant business, and although friendly, it looked tough. The robot connected itself to the communication channels, including the company’s website, gaining access to the answers to all recurring requests. We felt the office mood was getting lighter and stood next to our desks surprised. We were all happy and relieved that we finally had a way out of this loop, and the robot looked as if it was also enjoying taking care of the customers, doing it with ease and swiftly. It was answering every recurring question, taking care of every repetitive request and solving every taxing demand, even if they were not phrased right it was able to find an answer and render it easily. It was even able to make address changes and small tasks on the background.

After some minute passed, we were ordered to go back to the lines. My nerves were almost to the roof, I put the headset on, and waited. Cue the phone line, and I was waiting for the worst. Some minutes later and I still haven’t had a call, this was a first time. The call came in after some time and I introduced myself with a big whole in the pit of my stomach as I asked how can I help. A new voice on the other side, a sweet old lady asking if it was possible to reserve an item online but pick it up on the store. I took her through the conditions and how the process would look like, also explaining that the store near her didn’t have that option, but the second closest by did. We did it together, and she thanked me profusely for my patience and service, while also apologizing for not knowing how this “new technology works”. She also mentioned that our rival company took ages to answer, more than a week had passed by without any reply, and she really needed this item. She was so happy I had answered her call as fast as I did. I told her it was my pleasure to help her and said my closing line. I was back on available, actually most of us were available and relieved the loop broke. After deciding to go grab a coffee, I stood up, went to the kitchen, brewed a coffee and missed the table while my coworker Susan complimented my shirt. The spell was broken thanks to our savior, the AI robot.

How can OMQ’s super AI help you?

As we read in the story before, one of the biggest issues in customer service for agents are repetitive questions. These requests are not only taxing for the agents but are also a nuisance for customers because they would like to have that information as fast as possible. However, customers often have a long waiting time to get their answers, although these are questions that have been answered a thousand times before.

An AI-based software such as OMQ’s can help both your customers and agents, helping you too in the process. It minimizes manual work for agents as well as miscommunication, as it is not only automated but works with a centralized knowledge base, which stores all resolutions for the most often asked questions, for example it’s policies, the shipments and even sales going on, to distribute it to all the communication channels. This allows accurate answers and fast customer services support. You might be asking yourself how this helps agents. By reducing the manual work and repetitive requests, they can focus on unique and more complex requests, exercising their true talents and disposition.

When a customer has a long waiting time on the phone or their e-mail takes ages to get answered, they get frustrated and their perception of the company changes. Customer frustration is one of the main reasons you might lose them, as it takes just one bad experience to create mistrust in the customer, but it takes up to 5 good experiences to create loyalty. This frustration also leads to verbal abuse towards the agents on the phone, which in return creates a hostile environment and can negatively affect the quality of the customer service. If you can find communication channels that give those answers fast and are available 24/7, then you can also avoid this frustration and reduce the verbal abuse. It’s a win-win situation. Agents will not feel tired, exploited and mistreated, therefore, improving the quality of their working life. By feeling less mentally exhausted they would be putting their all when they have to support you and your customers.

Our OMQ Bot is here to help you and your team. We break the loop of recurring questions in different communication channels with our different products, such as OMQ Help for websites, OMQ Assist for ticket systems, OMQ Contact for the contact forms, OMQ Reply for your e-mail inbox and OMQ Chatbot for the different instant messaging platforms. If you might be weary about implementing AI to your team, you can find great tips to do it smoothly here. And you can also ask for a demo any time, we are more than happy to help you. :)