Influenced by powerful market trends such as changing customer engagement preferences, digitisation, channel fragmentation and, most notably, the rise of the Experience Economy, the legacy contact centre model is facing obsolescence.
To remain relevant and contribute meaningfully to the prosperity and profitability of the modern enterprise, the contact centre must evolve into a platform that facilitates meaningful first-line customer engagement via multiple traditional and new digital channels.
Central to this transformation are overhauls of the contact centre’s technological and operational capabilities. However, in a marketplace characterised by the commoditisation of products, services and communication channels, it is ultimately the delivery of superior customer experience (CX) that will differentiate a business from its competitors and deliver a strategic advantage.
Reworking customer service and CX
“A company’s growth and success are directly connected to the quality of its customer service and CX. It therefore seems perfectly logical that when customer service is bad, business will suffer. As simple and logical as this seems, it’s easy to make mistakes that can put a customer off or make them take their business elsewhere,” says Bruce Arnold, CEO and co-founder of Pivotal Data. “Research has demonstrated that there are some commonalities that assist with making the right decisions for customer service that will allow a business, and its contact centre, to ‘get it right’, all the time and provide great, mature CX.”
There are 5 reasons why customer service needs to be reworked:
- Quick response: customers interact via different channels and platforms and yes, each has an average response time with Twitter being quicker and web chat almost instant. However, when a customer interacts with a contact centre they expect a seamless, beneficial experience with service queries resolved in the first call. Contact centres today need to balance the growing customer demand for meaningful and helpful engagement, with the requirement for expedient issue resolution, which improves call rate and agent utilisation.
- Customer satisfaction: contact centres need to ensure that customer problems or queries are quickly dealt with while keeping the customer informed of progress/process. Happy customers make for loyal customers and they in turn become advocates who will refer your company to friends and family.
- Customer experience vs. price: treating customers well, by ensuring a professional and efficient service via the contact centre, enhances the possibility that they will pay more for a service.
- Speaking from knowledge: contact centres need to ensure that all agents have pertinent customer, service and product information and intelligence on-hand and easily accessible so that, regardless of who answers the phone, query assistance is offered promptly.
- Happy staff = happy customers: contact centre agents are the front line of the business, which means that the happier agents are, the happier customers will be. When agents are satisfied, interested and engaged in their work, they will be better at their jobs, thereby directly influencing CX while attracting and retaining customers.
Memorable and consistent CX
Connected customers still want to be heard, understood, remembered, and respected. Ultimately, they want to be treated like people, whether they engage with digital channels or human agents.
Successful contact centre CX strategies will therefore need to apply technology and customer data in ways that deliver experiences with a human touch. The challenge facing CX professionals in 2018 and beyond will be to ensure that technology-enabled channels can address customers as human beings, rather than mere data points.
Delivering memorable and consistent CX has therefore become a strategic imperative for any business (and its contact centre) that wishes to not only survive but thrive in the new digitally-enabled economy. Increasingly, business leaders are realising this fact, with Forrester research indicating that 86% of companies surveyed already aspire to be leaders in CX.
To achieve this objective, contact centre leaders across industries understand the importance of advancing CX maturity, with Gartner predicting that this year more than 50% of organisations will redirect investments to CX innovations. They will need to use technology to create positive emotions in moments that matter by delivering enchanting experiences. In doing so, brands will ensure that those experiences become memories, which build the relationships that ultimately drive business outcomes.
However, contact centres find themselves at different points on the CX maturity curve. While some are only beginning to explore how to improve CX, others have already begun to implement strategies aimed at improving customer engagement and experience.
A new customer face
Generation Y, also known as Millennials, are set to become the largest economically active generational cohort globally, which means the habits, behaviours and preferences of these digital natives are already driving paradigm shifts across sectors, and contact centres are no exception.
Most significant in their digital behaviour is their desire and ability to switch between tasks more frequently, and their tendency to use multiple devices and channels to complete these tasks. In this way, Millennials operate within an omnichannel world – one that often blends real-world interactions with new digital platforms.
To survive, businesses need to design a seamless experience for the multi-screen, multi-input, multiple device world that this new generation of customers inhabits. They will need to embrace the fact that customers are continuously switching between devices and channels, or even using multiple devices simultaneously. This will require an omnichannel approach that seamlessly integrates CX across contact centre and digital interactions.
CX-centric strategic roadmap
“Businesses, and their contact centres, are starting to understand the benefits of embarking on the development of a unique CX strategy – an experience that will distance a business from increasing competition and commoditisation,” says Arnold.
“Contact centre and technology executives need to ensure that their CX strategy is a part of the overall business plan backed by innovative, enabling technology. The lack of a long-term commitment to the development of a CX strategy can potentially have damaging consequences to a business including confused and disengaged employees and high customer churn as a result of inconsistency. Today’s customers can see through attempts at ‘window dressing’ by customer service representatives and agents, and they are not impressed by initiatives that have been created with little understanding of customers expectations or real needs.”
Whatever level they find themselves, in the absence of a CX-centric strategic roadmap, few will craft the type of CX that differentiates a brand from its competitors. To truly excel, the contact centre needs to advance to a higher level of maturity by developing formalised processes and implementing the appropriate systems to deliver superior CX to customers.
The point of departure for every modern contact centre is to first develop a strategic maturity model, which will provide an actionable framework to better understand and benchmark the current state of its CX capabilities. This model will then guide the on-going maturation of a contact centre’s operations, processes and technology, by identifying both the strategic direction and the tools needed to continually improve customer engagement and their experiences with the brand.