Many businesses will tell you the primary way they differentiate themselves from the competition is through exceptional customer care. Meaningful connections through direct interaction with customers not only address and resolve issues, but they also directly impact many lives. Once contact center employees realize they have the ability to genuinely affect people, they begin to approach their jobs in a different way. They no longer watch the clock as they perform the perfunctory components needed to make it through the day; instead they are present and mindfully engaged in each and every interaction. They feel great about what they are doing, and a refreshed approach creates moments that are unique, individual and special for each customer.
This is what business is all about: finding ways to provide a product or service that customers love so much, they become highly loyal to your company, relay direct and candid feedback to better improve your product or service, and ultimately tell others about how fantastic the business is. What should be so simple to integrate in everyday business turns out to be complex, because the problem is that no matter how many times businesses say their employees are the face of their business, they either don't empower them to connect on personal levels, create metrics that hinder their engagement strategies, or both.
The Balance Between Efficiency and Engagement
Technology is critical to a company's success, but it's important to remember that technology alone has no human component. Advancements made over the past five to 10 years have been instrumental in streamlining the processes of contact centers. Technology advancements in marketing (i.e. social media, mobile, ecommerce) and call centers (automated call routing, enhanced IVR platforms, CRM systems) combined with a nasty recession, all tipped the balance toward efficiency. We began to focus so hard on technology that it limited, or even avoided, personal interaction with our customers.
Do you remember a time, pre-recession, when having longer call times with customers was rewarded, because we knew longer calls equaled an engaging conversation? This translated into a more satisfied, loyal customer who we knew more intimately. Customers like knowing we care about them, not just the money they spend with us. For businesses like Southwest Airlines, Zappos, and Trader Joe's, the primary competitive advantage is their people - inspired, empathic employees and adoring customers. Their employees are thoughtful about their interactions and empowered to make sure they're centered around the individual customer, regardless of the channel. These companies haven't abandoned efficiency, but they have tipped the scale to find a better balance that creates enriched environments for employees and a far better customer experience, which is the perfect combination of technology and people to create human moments in the business world.
Trending Toward Individuality
To connect in a meaningful way, employees need to be empowered to think and act individually. However, there are limitations to that concept. Heavily regulated industries have strict guidelines they must adhere to, but they can engage as far as their boundaries allow. Financial services companies, insurance companies and others face greater scrutiny than non-regulated industries. By providing framework employees can base interactions on, the company can mitigate the risks associated with encouraging individuality. This provides employees quick and easy ways to create human moments and develop deeper engagement with their customers.
However, many companies are still challenged by their fear of what "might happen" when contact center associates are empowered to act individually. What they have found is strict regulations, big rulebooks, and overly scripted responses never give them the competitive advantage in the area of customer care. With big rulebooks comes employees who sound robotic and are unable to connect with customers on a personal level. The new goal is to create a system or framework that enables their employees to be individuals, yet maintains enough control that the company feels safe from what "might happen." By hiring the right people, training them well, and empowering them with the right tools, genuine interactions result.
When you empower your contact center associates to build and create the relationships that turn customers into advocates, you'll know you've achieved success. It comes down to increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty, and then going a step further to create a tighter bond with your customers through personalized, human connections-connections that not only deliver customer brand advocates, but also bottom-line results.