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The evolution of Customer Contact Centres into Customer Experience Labs

Neeraj Pratap 0

Customer Contact Centres are undergoing a transformation globally. I wonder why they have taken such a long time to evolve, maybe because it was a process thing. For marketing teams, it is not as fashionable as going on a shoot, meeting Google folks, digital folks, MarTech folks, OTT folks etc. I have always believed that it is at the Contact Centre that you are most likely to get the pulse of the customer and what they think about the brand and service. A fancy term for that is the Voice of the Customer and Sentiment Analysis which also factors in the overrated social media feedback. The contact centres for most organisations are perceived to be cost centres and everybody just keeps discussing the per seat cost. Organisations do acknowledge that quality is important but strangely put them in buckets like rural, urban, premium and ultra-premium. This is like looking at the situation from the wrong end of the stick. The emphasis must be on customer satisfaction, rather than reducing costs. The focus should not only be on a daily metrics but also on winning long-term customer loyalty.
Spend a day at the Contact Centre and one will realise how stressful and strenuous the job. The poor contact agent lady is supposed to be an expert on everything under the sun and is expected to have ready responses! Most of the time, what the customer is saying is either garbled, not clear, confused, a different dialect (even with English, there are as many dialects of English as there are languages in India!). Organisations need to acknowledge that the Contact Centres are complex and they have the potential to give a huge competitive advantage and can become a shining beacon for customer experience. After all, this is where the rubber meets the road.
Some tenets on which successful contact centres are built:

  1. People:

We all know that the Contact Centre business is people centric, so the key focus must always be on recruiting the right people. When you are dealing with 1000+ people and a attrition rate of 30-40% this sounds like a huge and insurmountable challenge. Thorough screening processes need to be put in place to get the right people on board. When I say right people, I mean people with the right attitude. Contact Centre employees come from diverse backgrounds but one thing they all have in common – the desire for a respectable life and the need to be acknowledged. HR teams need to feed on this and guide and nurture employees. They also need to focus on emotional intelligence, problem solving ability and the empathy quotient. The other important piece is to show the employees a career path. This has a multiplier effect on their confidence and desire to progress fast. The need of the hour is a career path, right training, supervision and incentives.

  1. Processes:

Systems and processes need to be absolutely in place. There is no way a contact centre executive can function optimally and successfully without the systems and processes being in place. Right from having all the customer information on a single screen to most of the standard information queried for being readily available. It’s a drill that needs to be followed religiously, day after day.

  1. Technology:

Contact Centres need to start using technology much more effectively to drive efficiencies and provide customer delight. Nowhere is real time, context and content more relevant than at contact centre.

  1. Integrated systems:

Contact centres use multiple technology solutions and the greatest challenge is to integrate these systems. Integration is a must to ensure that the customer data is consistent and up to date. If the systems aren’t integrated the agents will keep switching between multiple systems increasing lag, blank air and tat during customer conversations. This is not only bad for productivity and efficiency, but it also hurts the overall experience. It goes without saying that making your agents navigate among several systems will hurt both your team’s productivity and your customer experience. Integrating the contact centre software with the CRM platform, inventory management systems and/or dealer management systems, facebook, Google, chatbots and other digital channels using APIs will be a key driver for enabling a seamless customer experience.

  1. Intelligent systems:

Contact centres for most organisations are a huge repository for dark data in my mind. They have all the latest customer info and feedback. How this is translated into meaningful business insights is critical, especially at the time of a new launch, a product or service failure or some mega promotions. And all of this needs to be done on a daily basis. The ability to find the right tech platforms and identifying or tagging the appropriate ‘key’ words that capture the essence of the conversation and hence the issue or opportunity is something very few contact centres are equipped to do. How the contact centres utilise data analytics, lead management systems, social command centres in a collaborative manner is the key to the future.
The starting point for this is a mindset change at both ends, Organisations and Service providers. The conceptual shift that I am advocating is to rechristen the contact centre as customer relationship and experience centre. Once this is done the unlearning and retraining process must commence with the leadership teams to drive this idea home.
The Customer relationship/experience centre of the future will integrate the following to provide a superlative experience:

  1. CRM platforms: Understand which of the multiple campaigns targeting different data sets are driving inbound calls that turn into enquiries and retail.
  2. Marketing Automation: Merge digital and phone interactions by integrating call analytics.
  3. Web optimisation and analytics: Understand the path to purchase, online and offline both using web analytics to drive greater engagement and efficiencies
  4. Bid management and Search: Understand which key/power words are driving phone traffic by integrating these solutions.
  5. Measure Attribution: The final frontier is attribution. There is always a huge debate on whom to attribute the sale to. Sharply define the attribution metrics and implement them with alignment of marketing, sales and distribution/dealer teams.