4 Real Opportunities For Customer Contact Disruption

Brian Cantor

The term “disruption” justifiably spurs eye rolls and groans within the customer contact community.

At its best, it refers to overhyped technologies and strategic best practices.  While not necessarily bad for the customer contact function, these opportunities are rarely innovative or actionable enough to warrant a “disruptive” label.

At its worst, “disruption” simply represents an empty buzzword.  It is a call-to-action -- without any actual insight into the best first step.

There are, however, numerous opportunities for real disruption with the customer contact space.

Such meaningful opportunities for disruption will take center stage at CCW Australia this 28 February - 1 March in Queensland.  The illustrious faculty will not simply be sharing its own wins but will also provide attendees with a roadmap to truly transform their own customer experiences.

Ahead of the event, we have compiled various forms of disruption that all customer contact leaders can pursue.

Disruption Opportunity #1:  Making CX Matter In All Industries

Thought leaders pat themselves on the back for the concept of “competing on the customer experience.”  The simple statement underscores the significant business ramifications of a great customer experience:  organisations that deliver for their customers will gain market share.

There is only one problem:  the notion of “competition” is not applicable in all industries.  Due to factors like natural monopoly, marketplace inertia, frivolity of brand differentiation or insurmountable marketplace penetration, organisations within certain industries are unlikely to lose or gain market share.  No matter how poor or stellar their experience, they will continue to engage with the same customers.

Disruptors within these industries will not, however, focus on that immunity from competition.  They will instead look at the impact on cost and profit.

Bad customer experiences are expensive.  They result in longer, more costly interactions.  They also reduce employee satisfaction, which in turn leads to higher churn and greater recruiting and training costs.  Even if revenue holds steady in these situations, costs clearly increase. As a result, profit clearly falls.

Astute customer contact leaders therefore invest in a great customer experience even when there is little-to-no ability to gain customers as a result.

Disruption Opportunity #2: The “Call Centre”

When speaking about disruption, customer contact thought leaders often focus on digital channels.  They focus on ways to shift the conversation from the traditional “call centre” to more cost-effective, convenient, text-based media.

For long-established organisations, this line of thinking makes sense.  As they already have voice frameworks in place, they should obviously turn their attention to the digital world.

New organisations, however, will benefit from considering the situation in reverse.

As they debuted during the age of web communication, modern startups already have digital frameworks in place.  They leverage live chat and messaging, answer support tickets, and engage via social media.

Falsely believing the “call centre” to be obsolete, they often lack voice capabilities.  Many digital startups do not even grant customers the ability to call. Those that do offer a voice channel typically impose unfortunate restrictions.

Considering 71% of customers still identify “voice” as their preferred option for support, the anti-call centre approach is unacceptable.  An organisation cannot earn a badge of customer centricity without offering a robust voice channel.

This is not necessarily a call for startups to build full-fledged “call centres.”  After all, there are numerous, scalable options for foraying into voice. Organisations can leverage remote agents, outsourcing firms or even “voice automation” solutions like avatars to cost-effectively introduce voice into their journeys.

It is, however, a reminder that the call centre is not dead.

Disruption Opportunity #3: Customer Data

The desire to integrate the customer experience and the rest of the organisation is not a unilateral demand.

As it asks other departments to take the experience more seriously, the customer contact team is also responsible for thinking beyond the realm of “customer engagement.”

One particular concern involves customer data security.

Some customer contact leaders are content to leave customer data issues with their IT or legal teams.  When they withdraw themselves from the conversation, they create significant risks for their function.

For starters, they eliminate the “customer experience” from the conversation.  IT and legal executives know to focus on security. They are far less likely to consider the experiential impact of authentication and fraud prevention mechanisms.  If these measures are too cumbersome, they create slow, frustrating, difficult experiences for customers. These experiences have a deleterious impact on satisfaction.

Customer contact leaders also have a better sense of how customers engage.  Aware of where, when and why they choose to interact with the business, the functional team is more qualified to determine where to deploy particular security instruments.

Customer contact leaders also directly manage the agents who will often be responsible for protecting customer and organisational data.  By investing themselves in the security process, leaders ensure they coach these agents to ask the right questions -- and avoid common traps.

Disruption Opportunity #4: Metrics

For more than a decade, customer contact leaders have debated whether to focus on “efficiency metrics” or “customer metrics.”

That debate only captures one element of performance management landscape.

Moving forward, disruptive leaders will focus on two additional discussions.

  1. Quantifying modern customer contact ambitions.
  2. Using metrics to capture the entire journey.

The first focus asks leaders to develop metrics for concepts like “customer effort,” “sentiment” and “personalisation.”  Although these concepts are fairly broad, nebulous and subjective in theory, they still represent pivotal customer contact objectives.  As a result, great contact centres require a framework for determining whether or not they are providing the requisite experiences.

The second asks organisations to think beyond the interaction itself.  Instead of considering how much time was spent on a particular call, organisations will consider the factors that impacted that handle time.  Did agents have to consult an abundance of screens or knowledge bases to solve the problem? Did the frontline need supervisor approval to formally confirm a resolution?

They will also consider how new channels and processes are (and should be) impacting overall productivity.  If customers increasingly use self-service for simple matters, they will only turn to agents for complex ones.  This will obviously produce higher handle times (and smaller call counts) for agents, even if those are performing as productively as possible.