The Case Against "Deflection" in Customer Service

Customers today are more willing than ever to pay for a fast and personal customer experience, and customer service itself has become a major battleground in brand differentiation. So why are we forcing them to use deflection tools?

Phill Brougham
Posted by Phill Brougham
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DigitalGenius - The Case Against Defection in Customer Service

In my first post for the DigitalGenius blog, I’d like to consider the topic of deflection in customer service. The idea is widespread, both as a tool and as a metric or goal in contact centers. The idea is to attempt to diagnose the customer’s question, then provide a possible route to self-service, therefore removing the cost and time required to provide the service.

Think about this for a second. Your customer is reaching out because they have a problem they want solved, and in reply, are told to shove it, and sort it out for themselves. It made me reconsider the meaning of “deflection”, so I looked it up. Divert, parry, and fend off came up - is this how we want customers to feel after an interaction?

There’s a psychological concept called a Communication Chain: when we put out a message, we expect a response consistent to that message. If there’s a break in the chain, we feel slighted, rejected or angry. If I’m asking for help, as a paying customer, I want you to help me, period. I’m not looking for a machine-suggested article that throws the burden back on me.

It turns out a majority of customers are looking for real help. 67% want to engage with an agent, whether that’s over the phone, email or on chat. Remember that customers today are ever more willing to pay for a better customer experience - “better” meaning fast and personal. In this way, customer service has become a major battleground in brand differentiation.

Why care? According to surveys like the one recently conducted by Canam Research and DigitalGenius, CSAT is a direct contributor to key business performance metrics like customer retention and revenue per customer. There really is tangible payback to investing in personal and quick customer support.

All of this to say: when customers want help, you’d better give it to them fast, accurately and with empathy -otherwise you might lose them. Yet hold on: how can anyone beyond the most profitable companies be expected to deliver such a phenomenal experience for demanding customers, with volumes and costs are only skyrocketing upward?

The Alternative to Deflection is Resolution

This brings me to resolution as the necessary counterpoint to deflection. I also looked that up. I got the following: outcome, solution and sort out. Solving the customer’s query quickly and accurately allows them to plan exactly when to be home to expect a delivery, or provides them with the peace of mind to know they will receive that refund.Customers are busy; if they’re merely served up semi-relevant FAQ articles, not only are we failing to empathize with their calls for help, we’re not respecting their time. These strike me as violations of the cardinal rules of great customer service.

At DigitalGenius we’re using Conversational Process Automation to fully resolve a customer’s queries end-to-end, by understanding why a customer is getting in contact (their intent or objective), then connecting data from disparate systems to respond directly to them with personal, real-time information that will solve the question - all without a human agent.

We should view this as an opportunity. By auto-resolving a significant chunk of volume, not only are we removing agent pain (swiveling between multiple systems is psychologically painful at a minimum, isn’t it?), we’re also creating extra time for those agents to build or deepen authentic relationships.

This doesn’t happen overnight. Only through understanding and genuinely acknowledging customers’ feelings while trying to find an appropriate solution can agents build trust. If the customer does not feel understood; if they do not get the help they ask for; if they feel their time isn’t respected, they may not be your customer for long - and they may turn elsewhere for a relationship that invests in empathy and trust.

Coming back to the Communication Chain - there are only two viable choices if you’re serious about your customer’s experience: either deploy technology that responds directly and appropriately to the customer request, or have a human agent manage the interaction in full. Customers deserve better than “deflection” of the concern they’re trying to bring to your attention.

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