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Q&A: Best Buy on Creating the Call Center of the Future

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Ashutosh Anil

Responsible for engaging customers in an evolving marketplace, the call center also must adapt to the wave of the customer management future.

But for a function that is still struggling to meet the demands of the previous generation of customers, the prospect of anticipating their future expectations could appear frustratingly daunting. If the call center could not rise to the challenges of yesterday, for what reason should it feel confident it can meet the amgibuous needs of tomorrow?

Daunting or not, meeting those future needs is essential. And in this exclusive interview with CCIQ's Shawn Siegel, Best Buy Canada's Ashutosh Anil provides valuable insight and guidance for moving in that scary, yet pivotal direction.

Do you think that the customer service industry is still living in the past or has it adapted to the new world?

I believe we are struggling to adapt to the feverish pace at which our customers are shaping their choices to communicate with us. Our KPIs and drivers that used to be considered "conventional wisdom" and drove most consumer behavior, are rapidly losing validity with the introduction of social media and emerging channels such as click to chat and twitter support. Plus the internet revolution has widened our consumer’s reach and endowed the power of choice. As price-points for products and services converge globally, customer service is fast becoming the single most impactful brand loyalty and relationship hub.

Are customer service agents trained properly for the new channels that companies adopt?

I think there is a heightened need for sensitization of the call center agents into believing in the brand & their own importance in creating world class customer experience. It is also important agents understand the evolution of today’s consumer.

Here are some other thoughts towards creating the training environment that fosters a truly world class customer experience:

Identify the fine line between informal and unprofessional which is a tough issue in today’s age of Facebook, twitter, BBM etc.

  • Understand and mirror our customer’s expectations to build a brand that will have consistent strong customer experience and through it, significantly larger market share.
  • Agents become consultants and brand ambassadors that compliment out of the box customer situations, with out of the box solutions and recommendations without feeling the need to hide behind policy.
  • Collaboration is key – Today’s customer wants to be part of the solution and an equal partner to support resolution. So Let’s include them as a partner!

What type of strategies are there to ensure that multi-channel customer touchpoints are united into one helpful picture?

There are several actionable strategies but the most important pre-requisite is unification of data points. As long as there is a CRM centralizing the customer interaction data for reference, half the battle is won. 90% of today’s social media inadequacy for most brands stems from the fact that each customer remains a mysterious card swipe or unknown, despite extensively transacting with the brand. This creates a big canyon that a customer service rep has to cross before they can make an impact strong enough to last in that customer’s mind. I’d start there…

What type of measures does Best Buy take to ensure that its vendors are performing at a high level?

We analyze universal and focused customer feedback and we retain control of surveying customers post service interaction. We engage in vendor quality control through our own QA program administered through Vendor QAs.We also have ata analytics using Vendor-led reports complimented by our own reporting. Lastly, among other things, we monitor social chatter to stay aware of any challenges.

In your opinion, what will a cutting-edge contact center look like 10 years from now?

I would see it as a nerve center of a brand where every single point of interaction between each individual customer and a brand converge(regardless of whether sales, retention or general commentary via social media to name a few typical verticals). This convergence will create enterprise customer profiles that will then become basis of customer service pro-activeness (rather than the 100% reactive state we are in today & wait for our customer to tell us what’s wrong). It would be like a trusted personal banker coming to "your" home to show you potential for your money to do better, while minimizing cost and effort on your part (Just to keep you with their Institution and even before you think of seeking out the competition).