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Rebranding Call Deflection

I am not a betting man, but I will wager that the term “call deflection” did not come from the marketing department, maybe from operations, but most likely IT (sorry, guys).

Call deflection is a process designed to reduce the amount of incoming voice calls to a contact center by diverting those calls to customer self-service digital channels managed by AI technology. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but there are some fundamental problems with what is being communicated to clients and customers of contact centers about this process including its name.

I came across a recent software website that stated call deflection was “king of the castle” and extolled all the different ways to automate so a CSR would not have to speak with a customer. Its main premise was that there were too many calls and not enough agents. Ironically, on the same page, there were several photos of smiling customers with cell phones presumably making calls to contact centers. The website did make some good points and did outline benefits, but it was driving the wrong message home for customers and clients of contact centers.

Let’s start with the name “call deflection”. When a politician, businessperson, or celebrity does not want to answer an awkward question they “deflect” it. When an asteroid is discovered hurdling towards Earth (like in the movie Armageddon), we want to “deflect” it. I think you get where I am going here - deflect means avoid.

Contact centers do not want that negative message pushed towards customers or clients. Contact centers generate money from companies and organizations by the number of agent seats they can get, and I have yet to hear a contact center say they would like less.

The main purpose of digital self-service options is to provide the right information in the most appropriate channel to achieve a satisfactory resolution for the customer, not to alleviate call volume to a contact center. Technology companies have advertised that the initial customer responses or even "intent" can determine the correct digital channel to help the customer. However, the term "call deflection" suggests bouncing the customer off somewhere else without regard to where they end up. If these sophisticated digital and well-designed pathways have been laid down in a pre-planned manner for the customer to choose from, then the process is based on guidance not deflection.

If contact centers want to promote self-service AI options, then they need to convey and implement the process from the point of view of the customer. Client companies of contact centers do not want to hear otherwise. Software companies have worked diligently in designing digital technology for contact centers, but some are doing a disservice to themselves, their software, and the contact center business in general by marketing their solution under "call deflection".

So, what would be a replacement for the unfriendly term “call deflection”? There are several options: assimilate it into an existing but established term like "call management", which expresses some kind of responsible supervision and care; adopt a neutral term such as "content management" as proposed by Roy Atkinson ("Customer Experience"); or canvas the community for a new and more customer centric term. Your thoughts and input are welcome.

Atkinson, Roy. “Customer Experience: Banish the Words Call Deflection.” HDI, 25 Aug. 2016,

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