Calculating the Contact Center's IQ

Customer Service
Customer Service
By focusing on sense, not cents, brands can inevitably add value to customer service in order to move from cost center to revenue center.

Communication channels continue to multiply, but with so much information divided between silos, it's difficult for companies to create an efficient contact center strategy that adds value to the entire organization. From social to mobile, these emerging channels offer vast insight into how the average customer perceives any given brand, allowing companies to better align their goals with the wants and needs of the consumer. However, because many businesses have yet to bridge the gap between silos, their customer service and support efforts neglect to draw correlations across channels, often failing to measure up to today's consumer expectations.

"In recent years, new channels for communication have empowered customers to take more control of the conversations they have with brands," says Spence Mallder, general manager of workforce optimization and CTO of Aspect. "But at the same time, this has also increased service expectations. While some companies would argue this creates customer experience challenges, it also offers opportunities for organizations to deliver differentiated customer experiences and better meet customer demand."

Such channels offer consumers access to information that has revolutionized the purchase process. The power once afforded by advertisers has been passed to the consumers who voice their opinions online, while mobile devices have opened the pathway for immediate customer feedback, when the service experience is still fresh in their minds. Though potentially detrimental in the case of poor experience, these new channels allow brands to gather organic insights that would otherwise have no public forum. But, if companies are to develop adequate methods for collecting and utilizing such customer data within the contact center, they must master the basics for leveraging a successful data strategy.

Add Insight from Emerging Channels

Today's consumers prefer the multichannel experience. According to an Aspect survey, 77 percent of respondents think companies that offer multiple channels as part of their customer service are easier to do business with, while 74 percent say they provide better service. But customers have come to expect that the information from those interactions are recorded and shared across channels so they don't have to repeat their actions to a live agent. By making insights available to employees across the organization, companies can use this data to draw cross-channel correlations, drive results, and maintain a consistent consumer experience.

While capturing data is no longer the primary challenge, it's the process of cutting through the massive volume, velocity, and variety of data to discover what matters most that has become the average organization's greatest obstacle. This information must not only come together to provide a single 360-degree view of the customer, but it must result in actionable insight that allows employees to truly engage with consumers during the support interaction.

To best share that insight with frontline agents, TeleTech suggests that companies must leverage contact center learning technologies to empower collaboration and allow users to rate content and give feedback. The system should support real-time updates to training and knowledge materials in the form of game-based, video, and mobile training solutions to make learning engaging and convenient. Plus, these systems should integrate with the web self-service technologies into the social platform, so service employees can tap into (and maintain) the same service system customers use online for self service.

Such mechanisms may promote information sharing, but often don't allow businesses to identify trends and root causes of the issues that trigger repeat customer calls and frequent concern. Multiple systems lessen agent engagement, while bringing all relevant feedback into one single platform allows frontline representatives to interact with consumers in a manner that's conducive to everyone's needs. Companies should also consider adding tools that identify issues so they may route problems to the proper agent while focusing on improved loyalty and customer satisfaction. Thus, by analyzing customers' data and determining the possible reason behind their calls, brands can adjust their support efforts to address the needs and meet the expectations of customers across channels, creating an approach that is positive and proactive, not simply reactive.

Subtract the Traditional Mindset

Just as technology continues to evolve, so does customer behavior. As Mike Hennessy, vice president of marketing at IntelliResponse, highlights, a growing number of customers don't actually want to speak with agents anymore, triggering the widespread need to integrate self-service solutions and create an omnichannel customer service experience. While companies shouldn't abandon their traditional phone support channels, they must reconfigure their own mindset and understand that self-service tools via Web and mobile are typically the "first contact point" with brands for consumers, even when the matter requires escalation.

"Customer contact preference is shifting away from voice to new areas of self-service. But this won't kill the call center-the call center is already dead," Hennessy adds.

According to the Corporate Executive Board's recent survey of more than 75,000 people, 57 percent of customers tried self-service on company websites before calling in to a contact center, while more than 30 percent of those callers were still on the website when on the phone with the contact center agent, emphasizing the fact that companies must adapt technologies and adjust their approach based upon how customers carry out tasks each day.

With non-traditional modes of communication gaining traction, one can see that the traditional contact center no longer exists. Fewer calls mean brands must adjust their budgets to cater to these increasingly popular channels so as to offer the best possible support experience. Today's "reborn" contact center must support customer interaction demands by understanding the customer journey and tracking past interactions. By detecting whether the customer is currently on-site, companies can better align their resolution process, thus freeing up live agents to be more cost effective and do their jobs better by handling customer inquiries that require complex responses and emotional intelligence with efficiency and clarity.

Multiply Agent Involvement

Feedback may be valuable, but such data cannot be used to drive results without the buy-in of the entire organization-especially frontline agents. Every employee should have real-time access to any incoming customer information that's applicable to his or her situation, along with the tools necessary for an adequate response. Big Data offers companies a wealth of customer data, but such insight must be turned into action if the frontline is to handle the issue efficiently.

"If a hotel gets complaints about a dirty lobby after Thursday night happy hour, the housekeeping manager on duty [that night] should get the action to clean up," says Michelle de Haaff, vice president of marketing for Medallia. "The system need to not only recognize the issue among millions of pieces of feedback, but it needs to route the right actions to the right person at the right time. That way, when information comes in, it's automatically routed to the right employee in the company who can take action."

By focusing on sense, not cents, brands can inevitably add value to customer service in order to move from cost center to revenue center, empowering frontline agents in the process. This feeling of control enables the sort of employee intelligence-both practical and emotional-that will transform the contact center from a cost center to profit center. Tools for reporting and analysis help keep the cost of communication down, ultimately offering new capabilities that go beyond cost savings, for they directly support enterprise goals and expand business reach to build new revenue streams. Such integrated systems promote unified organizations, enabling brands to operate with a results-driven contact center at their core.

Download our "What's Your Contact Center IQ?" infographic.