Neglecting Your Contact Centre
Thoughts on how brands treat their contact centres
For better or worse ‘Customer Experience’ has become one of the most talked about fads in business circles. For those on the periphery of this subject, it can be annoying. And for those like me who specialise in the subject, it’s often teeth-clenchingly frustrating because of the drivel that is spoken. However, the upside is that there’s no faster way to spread the benefits and advantages of CX than through word of mouth, so in one sense, long live the discussion!
“Why would any brand not include the contact centre in a CX program when the contact centre is almost invariably supporting every other touchpoint?”Brownell O'Connor
The challenge, however, is that many people have not only closed their minds to what CX is and how it should be implemented, but also feel the need to saturate the digital space with what they believe to be insightful information, when in reality, it’s unhelpful disinformation. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it fake news, but some consultancies and technology providers are seriously neglecting the holistic perspective in favour of pushing their particular slant on the CX revolution.
The apparent struggle to understand, master and leverage CX for positive business benefits is perhaps no more evident than in the contact centre. It is still not unusual, for example, for well-known brands to engage in an all-encompassing Customer Experience program with all the bells and whistles imaginable, and yet choose to leave the contact centre out of the effort - focussing entirely on the more ‘visible’ touchpoints such as online, retail etc. This sort of thinking has to beg the question: why would any brand not include the contact centre in a CX program when the contact centre is almost invariably supporting every other touchpoint? If you want the leaves to grow, you cannot ignore the roots.
In many cases, the problem is still that contact centres are seen as cost–centres and therefore management become obsessed with their efficiency. The primary focus for inbound contact centres is often the service level achieved, perhaps followed by Average Handle Time, Adherence or other measures of productivity and performance. NONE of these metrics instils a ‘customer experience’ mind-set. It is at best a box-ticking exercise, and at worst, an energy-sapping environment for the poor agents who work there.
Some operations have evolved beyond mere efficiency and, having understood the potential impact on things like customer satisfaction and renewal, have chosen to focus on effectiveness with metrics like sales and First Contact Resolution (FCR). FCR, as a metric, is often founded on procedural success as defined by the organisation (the customer gets transferred to another department so problem solved!) as opposed to emotional success (I got my problem completely sorted) as might be considered by the customer.
So while channels like retail and online are surging ahead with better understanding of how to leverage customers’ emotionally-driven behaviours, the majority of contact centres are left out in the cold - struggling to meet legacy efficiency and effectiveness targets and devoid of anything that could be described as an engaging customer experience. Of course, there are exceptions. First Direct continues to win plaudits in the UK as does Zappos in the US.
As these exceptional brands know, true customer experience in the contact centre works exactly the same as any other touchpoint. It requires making it easy for the customer to engage with the brand and then ensuring that when they do, the touchpoint delivers an emotionally satisfying experience that is aligned with the brand purpose or promise. It then requires using clever analytics to measure the process, the experience and not just the costs. Customer Experience in the contact centre is actually a combination of Efficiency, Effectiveness and Experience designed to maximise value for the organisation AND the customer.
When it’s Done Well…
Recently, I needed to contact my health insurance company (Laya), who always deliver a great experience. I used their online GP service but my prescription never made it to the pharmacist. I was then locked out of my online access. In addition to this, the doctor who had been working the night shift had logged out for the day. I was potentially left high and dry. I won’t bother you with the details but the fact is that the contact centre was the only channel left who could help, and they were truly fantastic. They took my situation on board and went well above and beyond mere ‘First Contact Resolution’ to be sure that everything was sorted and in order. They even called the pharmacy and checked that they had the medicine packed up and ready for collection before I got there. This is an insurance company delivering a BRANDED contact centre experience with the customer at the very heart of it.
In 2016, we at Smith+Co teamed up with Clarabridge to author an ebook and deliver a workshop to illustrate why contact centres need to become “customer experience centres”. The ebook and the associated workshop was packed full of case studies and tools to help participants turn their contact centres into experience centres. As a result of the very positive feedback, Smith+Co and Clarabridge have teamed up again this year.
The focus on the new upcoming ebook and workshop is IMPLEMENTATION. This year’s program will be a more in-depth, operational view of how a traditional, efficiency/effectiveness focused contact centre can be turned into a customer-value-driving experience centre and how the ROI can be analysed and reported.