The five most essential practices for great voice interactions

March 26, 2018 | Contact Center Industry | Blog


woman talking on phone

Automation makes great human service even more critical for brands

The future of customer service will be automated. That’s a top takeaway from a recent Gartner research report [paywall], which projects that by 2021, three-quarters of customer transactions will be automated.

Should human customer service contact center agents be worried? We think not. That’s because automation will make human interactions even more critical for brands to get right. It will filter customer service calls, leaving the machines to provide rote services such as “press 2 to check your balance,” or “press 3 to pay your bill.” Meanwhile, the most complex problems will be routed to real people—an opportunity for brands to soar or sink.

So how can companies pivot their customer service organization to ensure that even as automation increases, human agents deliver great experiences? Here’s our list.

Pick up quickly.

The most important factor is successful calls is time. According to Forrester Research, 71% of consumers say that “valuing their time” is the most important thing a company can do in customer service. Strive to answer more than 90% of calls within 20 seconds. Customers are much more likely to drop calls if they are just listening to a ringtone.

Be human.

Sure, interactive voice response (IVR) technology can cut down on some issues with automation, but if a customer perceives they are stuck in an endless “press 5 to be ignored” phone tree, they might give up before reaching the agent.
In fact, Consumer Reports research showed that 67% of American adults have hung up in the past year out of frustration because they couldn’t reach a real person. As a best practice, offer an opportunity to speak to a human no later than the second automatic voice prompt, and keep selection menus short and simple.

“67% of American adults have hung up in the past year out of frustration because they couldn’t reach a real person.”

Be clear.

Lamoya is a real Liveops agent. She loves pushing herself to deliver the best possible customer experience.

When your customer service agents answer the phone, the customer should feel like they can immediately relate to the agent. There should be no language barriers, and an accent should not interfere with understanding.

According to the CFI Group in a contact center satisfaction study of 1500 adults, customers who reach foreign agents were 52% more likely to have to speak to more than one representative, 10% less likely to resolve an inquiry, and 25% less likely to resolve the inquiry on the first call.

Be relatable.

Ideally, the agent should be able to relate to the customer in a comfortable way. That could be a quick exchange such as, “How’s the weather up in Washington? It’s been raining non-stop here in Texas.”

This issue also shows up in the agent’s ability to pronounce local cities and streets correctly. Customers can tell when an agent doesn’t share their common experience.

In roadside assistance, for example, it’s a best practice to route calls to microregions so that the agent has an understanding of the area where the customer is calling from. Sales calls and calls for charitable donations perform better when it appears that a friendly neighbor—not someone from thousands of miles away—is calling.

Joan is a real Liveops agent from Florida.

Be personable.

The human connection can’t be understated in its importance, yet the impersonal approach of a contact center often ruins this. Only 21% of customer service employees ask for a customer’s name during the course of transaction, according to ContactPoint Client Research.

Liveops seeks agents with a high degree of empathy and warmth, whether for customer service to help turn a bad customer experience around, for insurance when a customer first reports a loss or accident, or to help roadside assistance customers during a scary experience such as a breakdown.


With these five essential practices nailed, contact center customer service leaders are well positioned to cement customer loyalty with great voice interactions.

Next, consider the fact that the biggest factor in call quality is agent quality. Find out how to source higher-quality and more qualified agents in a whitepaper comparing key agent quality markers.

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Heidi Tretheway

Heidi is director of brand & marketing communications for Liveops. A Satmetrix-certified NPS Associate, she specializes in creating systems to deliver customer service excellence and brand-building through storytelling.

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