9 Keys To Success In A Changing Contact Center World

brian
Posted: 06/21/2016

We know “customer centricity” is being declared a way of life – a religion, if you will – for today’s businesses.

What does that mean for contact center strategy?

That was the question the speaking faculty endeavored to answer during the recent Call Center Week Online summit, and answer it they did!

The diverse collection of presenters, which included contact center leaders/practitioners, acclaimed industry thought leaders and solution providers, tackled a diverse array of topics.  Everything from the evolution of customer demands to changes in contact center technology to strategies for agent engagement to the omni-channel world was on the table, and the result was a broad-sweeping, in-depth look at how the contact center must change in a perpetually changing business world.

The session recordings and slides will be made available shortly.  Register now to secure your complimentary access.

In the meantime, here are some key takeaways from the event.

1) Efficacy and Efficiency: Living In Perfect Harmony

In conjunction with the rise of customer centricity, contact center thought leaders have criticized “efficiency” metrics like average handle time.

It is important to put this criticism into context.

While it is true that agents should not feel pressure to end calls too quickly (as in, before the proper resolution has been reached), speed remains very important.  Customers still expect service to be as efficient and effortless as possible; their demand for high-quality, personalized interactions is not tantamount to acceptance of slow, meandering ones.

Efficiency is not the enemy of customer centricity. Since customers demand efficient, effortless care, it is actually a sign that a business cares about its customers.

Efficiency, accordingly, was named the #1 contact center priority in a recent CCIQ study.  And the need to deliver a customer experience that optimally effective and efficient was discussed throughout CCW Online.

2)   Objectives Define Technology, Not Vice Versa

Technology is an instrument – it is not a driver.  It should empower you to achieve your objectives; it should not place limits on what you can achieve.

When sourcing technology for your contact center, ensure it meets the needs and expectations of your customers, agents, and stakeholders.  Monitor and measure technology with attention to the outcomes that matter, including operational efficiency, revenue generation, and customer satisfaction.  Don’t be distracted by impressive features, cool interfaces or even uptime promises; If technology is not working the way you want it to, it is not working.

That is not to say organizations cannot take cues from technological development.  Technology, for instance, has turned concepts like mobile self-service and remote agent training from pipe dreams into organizational necessities.

The key is to remember that these avenues should not be pursued because they are cool, exciting and innovative.  They should be pursued because they can lead to better experiences for customers and agents.

3)      Customer Experience Transformation: It’s A Commitment

You’re unfortunately not going to transform your customer experience – and instill a culture of customer centricity – by flipping a switch.  Customer experience transformation is a long-term commitment.

Businesses attempting such a transformation may face numerous challenges in the short-term, and they may not experience the truest, most quantifiable form of success until the long-term.

To ensure your customer experience efforts are successful, it is important that all relevant players – and all relevant business units – understand this reality from the onset.  All key stakeholders must understand and embrace the long-term nature of the customer experience resolution; they cannot withdraw support the second things get difficult.

4)     Customer Experience:  It’s Valuable

While the customer experience transformation process can be costly and difficult, it is worth it.  The customer experience absolutely is a competitive differentiator; a good one absolutely is your ticket to a better, more lucrative business.

Too often, organizations attempt to view customer centricity and business centricity as contrasting concepts.  That they are not:  they work in tandem.  Good customer experiences improve the business.  Things that hurt the business are often things that hurt the customer experience.

The second your business accepts this glass half-full reality is the second you can truly commit to customer experience transformation.

5) Happiness Is Not All About Smiling

You know “happy agents = happy customers.”  Consequently, you know agent happiness is a key business objective.

Do not let that mislead you.  Agent engagement strategy is not all about creating the most fun, loving environment possible:  it is about creating one that empowers agents to succeed.

That means you must establish the right performance benchmarks.  It means you must develop the most personalized training.  It, sometimes, means you must have difficult conversations with underperforming agents.

The greatest agent happiness comes not from pretending everything is perfect but from putting agents in position to better themselves while improving the business’ experience.  Establishing such an environment requires an optimal mix of smiles and sternness.

6)   The Voice Of The Customer: Your Performance Scoreboard

There are some overarching trends that are standard across most businesses:  the demand for an effortless, personalized, predictive, proactive experience among them.  Day-to-day performance, however, is a context- and business-specific concept.

And when we say it is specific to context, we do not mean it should be predicated on the specific quirks and background of the business’ specific leader.  We mean it should depend on what your business’ specific customers want.

Measure as much as possible – your workflow hinges on a true understanding of how every facet of your operation is functioning.  Manage in accordance with the outcomes that matter most to customers, because those are the ones that dictate your success.

7)    Culture vs. Comfort

When considering agent strategy, you’ll need to address an important question:  do you care about culture or convenience?

To put it another way, is the best contact center culture about the team or the individual?  Or is it about both equally?

This conversation has specific relevance within the context of the “work from home” model.  On the one hand, the model has perks for individual agents.  They can work, comfortably, from the comfort of their own homes.  Factors that get in the way of their enjoyment – getting up slightly earlier, dealing with traffic, putting on business attire – are removed from the equation.

On the other hand, creating a team-wide culture becomes trickier when many of the agents are not in the office.  Conventional side-by-side or classroom training opportunities are no longer on the table.

Make no mistake:  there are ways to achieve both culture and comfort with both models.  Remote training and connectivity options help to bring concepts like productivity and team unity to the at-home model.  Improved workspace design and day-to-day management can bring comfort to the on-site model.

The Call Center Week Online takeaway, therefore, is not about establishing one agent engagement model as superior to another.  Rather, it is to remind you to think thoroughly about team and individual agent culture when building your strategy.  Whichever option you choose must be designed against the backdrop of that discussion.

8)      Customers Can Help Other Customers

Concepts like omni-channel and the customer “journey” are causing us to say goodbye to conventions regarding where interactions take place – and how those interactions should be perceived and measured.

We should also consider saying goodbye to another convention:  the idea that the business and its agents are the ones who provide the service.

Self-service tools are increasingly robust – and increasingly capable of empowering customers to overcome complex challenges.  CCW Online speaker Sean Rivers, meanwhile, shared another revolution in the customer care process:  the fact that customers can successfully serve each other.

Crowd-sourced, community-driven care is cost-efficient and effective.  Data shows customers can actually provide more satisfying experiences than agents.  The right combination of tools and strategies can help a business leverage the benefits of crowd-sourced care without the risks one may assume are associated with a “third-party” approach to support.

9)      Post-Voice Does Not Mean Post-Human

We may be in the post-voice era – one in which customer engagement takes place in digital, automated and self-service channels – but we are still in a human era.  The demand for a human, intuitive, personalized touch may be tempered based on the engagement channel, but it is not outright eliminated.  Customers, no matter where they are interacting, still want to be treated as unique, valuable people.  And they still want platforms that enable them to behave like humans.

When implementing engagement technology, ensure it does not mute the “human” touch.  The omni-channel movement, after all, is a demand for a change of venue.  It is not a pass for a reduction in quality.

brian
Posted: 06/21/2016

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