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The Customer-Centric Contact Center

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Last week I attended Frost & Sullivan’s Contact Center West conference in Tucson, Arizona. The conference was a great opportunity to share insights, ideas and best practices among the industry’s top vendors and experts.

A central theme this year was the customer experience and how we should all “rethink, reinvest and revitalize” this experience. As my peers and I discussed this topic throughout the week, it became apparent that, while making the customer experience is – and should continue to be – a top priority, contact centers are still too focused on operational efficiencies and not focused nearly enough on business outcomes, including the less tangible aspects of how we engage with our customers.

The main issue with a contact center that focuses strictly on promoting operational efficiencies and cutting costs, for example, is that it starts to function much like a twentieth century assembly line. Since worth is determined by a worker’s productivity and compliance, there is little to no incentive to go beyond the ask. If a worker does not meet the set quota, he or she is considered a failure. The same is true for today’s contact center agents whose metrics are built around average handle time, service level, abandon rate, speed of answer and first call resolutions.

While an emphasis on operational and productivity metrics works in practice, it forces agents in two different directions. On one hand, agents are instructed to deliver an optimized customer experience and represent the company positively. On the other, agents feel the pressure to meet the operational demands and productivity requirements coming down from their senior management team. The latter can cause agents to rush calls, not take time to truly understand the customer needs and offer the optimal solution, not just the fastest or easiest.

This conflict of the customer experience versus operational focus is a challenge that the contact center industry as a whole has not yet fully addressed. The challenge itself has surfaced at every conference I’ve attended in recent years. But with the exception of a few companies like Zappos, which prides itself in customer delight and whose stories of just how far they will go to make a customer happy are legendary, few are able to master the necessary balance.

To drive strategic change we need to focus on maximizing the business outcomes; sales, technical issue resolution, customer satisfaction with customer engagement analytics and do it in a way that provides a good customer experience. For example, what is the sum total of activities the customer needed to take to achieve the desired business outcome? Did they “self service” unsuccessfully in the IVR and if so, how many times? Did they spend time researching their need on the website? Does their current interaction relate to their last interaction in a positive or negative way in terms of their overall experience?

This is why we strive to develop solutions that give companies holistic, customer-centric information to improve overall business performance as well as operations. These insights help to see what it is like to do business with
you as your customer does. By capturing this level of insights, companies will thrive through their ability to bridge the gap between customer experience, business outcomes and operational efficiencies.

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