Call Deflection: The Key to Customer Satisfaction

July 14, 2014 John Gorup


In 2010, the famous entrepreneur Stefani Germanotta (better known as Lady Gaga) produced the song “Telephone.” In addition to being a catchy tune, the song’s chorus carries an important observation for today’s Customer Service Managers: “Stop callin’ Stop callin’ I don’t wanna think anymore I left my head and my heart on the dancefloor.” Increasingly, customers do not want to talk on the phone to their vendors. According to Forrester’s Kate Leggett, survey data shows that, on average, 38% of all US online consumers of all ages prefer online customer service to the telephone, up from 32% in 2012 and 28% in 2009. This shift in preference will not remain in the online consumer world.

As millennials start gaining roles in business transactions, the expectations they have from their personal consumer experience will inform their business life. Getting  customers with service issues to move from the telephone to other channels is referred to as call deflection. Call deflection is not a great term for this strategy. Because the focus of call deflection is not about avoiding contact, but about giving customers great service. Indeed, if companies simply want to lower the amount of telephone talk time without increasing customer happiness, they are making a huge mistake.  As Diane Clarkson writes: “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.” The goal should be a better customer experience, not strictly less talk time. Call deflection done right benefits both customers and customer service organizations. Customers get their problems solved with less effort, while customer service teams gain the ability to focus on the most important issues. So what tools and processes can help a customer service team increase call deflection?

  • The first is Knowledge Management. While not the most exciting process, establishing a solid Knowledge Management process has proven to pay off in the long run.  One Gartner study showed a 12% increase in customer satisfaction after a Knowledge Management engagement. Along with Appirio’s Knowledge white paper, customer service managers should start familiarizing themselves with Knowledge-Centered Support Methodology.
  • Secondly, many organizations should be looking into building a community (known sometimes as a customer portal). Salesforce has pioneered this type of channel, but building a community is much more than implementing technology. Careful analysis needs to be done to understand how your customers would use a community, what security issues exist, and what internal structures are needed to help foster a community.

It is time for organizations to think about getting their customers off the phone. The worst way of accomplishing this is just to stop answering the phone when it rings. The best way to handle call deflection is by building great tools and a  great Knowledge Management system.


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