Call deflection -making alternative customer service channels available to deflect calls to telephone center – is a concept with two frequent misconceptions that I think should be addressed:

  • Call deflection can drive customer satisfaction.  I’ve spoken with clients who say that their key objective is customer satisfaction so call deflection is not a goal. But call deflection and customer satisfaction are not mutually exclusive. According to Forrester’s North American Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey, Q4 2009, 72% of US online consumers prefer to use a company’s Web site to get answers to their questions rather than contact companies via telephone or email.  So from a customer perspective, call deflection means having alternative customer service channels available that offer choices other than the telephone. If your customers prefer online customer service, then call deflection tactics may actually drive customer satisfaction.
  • Call deflection is not call avoidance. The telephone will continue to be the most appropriate or most preferred alternative for some customers or situations. Not being available on the telephone will compromise customer satisfaction. The savviest companies proactively offer telephone support to ensure customer satisfaction. For example, if you post a question on Intuit’s support forum and don’t receive an answer within 48 hours, Intuit will respond with a toll-free phone number and invitation to telephone for assistance. Intuit’s forum certainly deflects some support calls but they don’t use it to avoid offering the telephone when their customers need them.

Call deflection rates are a misleading metric. You may be successfully avoiding calls but also may be leaving your customers dissatisfied and disloyal – a risky outcome in our social media world (think Dave Carroll and United Airlines). What matters most is customer satisfaction – a measure that requires soliciting customer feedback on every customer service contact. When done right, call deflection can drive customer satisfaction in addition to cost savings.