3 Rules of Call Deflection
December 19, 2018 • 4 minute read

3 Rules of Call Deflection

What is call deflection and why are we talking about it?

Call deflection is a technique of re-routing a customer’s call to an alternate channel of customer care. Contact center executives have argued over the years that call deflection is the most effective way to reduce costs by moving customers to lower cost ‘digital’ channels. Those advocating customer experience will always shake their heads at that advice, saying that customers, not brands, decide how and where the contact happens. Change that by forcing customers to bend their ways and you will suffer in terms of low CX and brand value.

As the providers of conversational customer care solutions, we sit at the cross-section of contact center executives, customer experience mavens, and the end customers. From our experience, call deflection helps improve customer experience when it follows 3 rules:

When it’s done at the right time

In a recent Interactions survey, we found out that 49% of customers named ‘long hold times ‘as one of the top reasons why they find voice channels frustrating. That’s where call deflection can come in. Customers can be offered a choice to complete their transaction or resolve their query via an effective self-service channel as they wait in line. Some brands can go one step ahead, and detect if the customer is calling from a smartphone and provide them a link to the mobile website or an app via a text message.

When it’s still the customer’s decision

Modern customers don’t wait for the brands to tell them how, when and where to contact them. Most modern consumers frequently visit the brand’s website or apps as well as third-party communities, review and rating sites. In most cases, they have already done their research before calling a customer service number. In fact, 52% of customers said that ‘having to repeat themselves was their top reason for frustration.

In this case, the brand can offer an effective personalization and context transfer by understanding where the customer is in their journey, getting insights from their past purchase or interaction history, and deflecting the call to a channel where the customer can ‘pick up where they had left off’. Doing this can lead to instant results in terms of high CSAT and FCR (First call/contact resolution)

When the alternate option is equally, if not more effective

And we saved the most important rule for last. Call deflection works as expected ONLY when the alternate channels are equally effective. 2018 was the year when a lot of brands ventured into new and emerging digital customer service channels, such as a bot on Facebook messenger, a chat on their website or an Alexa skill. There was a great marketing push to increase usage of these relatively inexpensive channels and reduce call center overhead. But interestingly, a majority of the brands did not see any reduction in overall call volume. Why?

Since most of these initiatives were pilots, the ‘bots’ only partially helped and often sent customers to the website or call center. The new channels did not integrate well with traditional channels of communication and often drowned customers in repetitive Q&A loops. Certainly not a good strategy to deflect calls.

However, I’m hopeful. As digital channels evolve in 2019, they will be more closely integrated with traditional channels, offer a full range of self-service and finally be able to handle the deflected calls gracefully.

It’s true that deflection does have the ability to improve customer experience, but only when it’s done thoughtfully and in a way that removes friction and frustration for the customer. Has your organization used some of these tactics to improve customer care? What have you found works best for you?


To learn more about how to improve your customer care channel strategy for 2019, check out our latest on-demand webinar below.

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