“Computer Says No” may be a phrase that most people in the UK associate with a comedy sketch, but it is a real and frustrating reality for contact centre agents. When resolving customer issues, agents usually follow a defined process, like a decision tree, where a system provides recommended steps to follow for customer resolution – anything from changing device settings for a technical issue to offering a refund or exchange of a faulty item. Whatever the industry and context of the scenario, these systems are designed to make the agent’s job as easy as possible and provide a resolution for the customer. 

But what happens if the “computer says no”? What happens when an agent makes it to the end of the decision tree and there is no other possible action to take for a resolution? Having to relay this to the customer can be difficult and uncomfortable. Agents are left unfulfilled by the service they were able to provide and on the other side of the phone, the customer is unsatisfied and frustrated at the lack of resolution. 

This can be hugely damaging for the business; 63% of customers leave after one poor customer experience and this number rises to 86% after two negative interactions. These negative experiences can quickly spread on social media, and ultimately one bad experience can have a big impact on brand reputation. 

Steps to turn a negative into a positive

These “computer says no” interactions don’t have to be negative. Even when delivering a non-desirable message, which sometimes can’t be avoided, there are steps that contact centre managers can take to help agents deliver messages in a manner that can leave customers feeling supported and valued. 

1. Encourage agents to communicate clearly and consistently: 

Using positive language, as well as displaying empathy, is essential in interactions when telling customers something they may not want to hear. Remaining calm and using phrases like “I understand your frustration” ensures people feel heard. Agents should also avoid saying “no” or “we can’t do that” (where possible) but instead explain the situation clearly and precisely and focus on finding an alternative solution or avenue, such as adding a different contact to the conversation who would be able to help. 

2. Give agents more tools: 

The onus to getting the interaction right isn’t solely on the agent handling the call. Ultimately, they shouldn’t reach a “computer says no” screen in the first place; contact centre managers should provide their agents with the necessary tools and systems to avoid this outcome. Alternative options and supporting information should be easily accessible, enabling agents to handle the situation in the best way possible. This can be achieved through identification and quantification of what is leading to those “computer says no” moments. We can then support our agents with equipping them with information in relation to alternatives for the customer and/or signposting, ensuring customers are not left unsupported.

3. Use analytics to improve the handling of challenging scenarios: 

Contact centres should use analytics to support this identification and quantification, understanding when these scenarios are handled well and where they can be improved. Capturing analytical data across 100% of customer interactions (with human and virtual agents) and overlaying them in your analytics solution with metadata reflecting key metrics, like Net Promoter Scores (NPS) and customer satisfaction scores, helps identify the essential ingredients to providing positive experiences. This enablescontact centre managers to successfully target agents with personalised coaching and training plans that will improve performance against key metrics. By improving agent performance, businesses can help ensure customer interactions are resulting in positive experiences.

Five-star customer experience

Implementing these strategies will establish a strong relationship with customers, who consider the business to be helpful, friendly and communicative, three of the key characteristics people look for in brands they choose to interact with, strengthening brand reputation and recognition. Businesses can provide a five-star experience for all involved – customers and agents – no matter how difficult the scenario. 

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