As technology collides with forces of globalization, contact centers and the executives who run them find themselves in the midst of five megatrends.
These trends present unique opportunities for these executives to add strategic value to their business, reposition themselves within their organization, gain visibility and turbocharge their careers. Taking a passive stance or resisting these megatrends is not only futile but can also be a perilous career move!
The smart thing to do is embrace change and align with these trends instead of getting swept away. This article presents a unique front-row view of these megatrends and proven ways of benefiting from them.
Megatrend 1: Customer is Royalty
With globalization and information ubiquity, customers have truly become royalty. They demand suppliers to back up their products with superior customer service, where they want and when they want. They are refusing to be the “glue” across interactions and communication channels, demanding that the supplier provide “no repeat,” context-aware customer service.
What makes this shift in power balance from business to customers even more difficult is the fact that contact center executives must take the customer service experience to new levels while controlling costs at the same time — i.e., they have to do more with less.
Ride the trend:
- Think like customers and design service processes and scenarios from their perspective. Survey customers to learn what they want most in customer service.
- Map out the priority for offering new interaction options based on customers wants, contact center objectives, and your overall business strategy. For example, if customers want more interaction channels, add them but as part of a unified multichannel customer interaction hub (CIH) to deliver distinctive customer experiences within and across those channels.
The hub approach will also increase productivity, while reducing operational costs and the total cost of ownership (TCO) of customer service management systems.
- Make sure you do your “internal marketing” through robust measurement of “before” and “after” metrics for the various phases of your CIH initiative. The metrics should be balanced and aligned with your business strategy.
- Leading contact centers know that the solution to this challenge is not to necessarily hire “genius” agents but to capture their content and process DNA into a knowledgebase for deployment to the broader agent pool. This knowledge-powered “cloning” allows even novice agents to intelligently handle complex customer queries.
- Make sure the knowledge management system supports flexible content access methods to maximize ROI (return on investment) and agent adoption. For example, experienced agents prefer to quickly sort through search hits while novice agents are better off with guided help.
- Implement a common multichannel knowledgebase to improve consistency of customer experience across channels across content and process. Knowledgebase relevance and ROI can be further increased and TCO reduced by leveraging adaptive content management, whereby content maintenance workflows are automatically triggered, based on ongoing knowledgebase performance.
Megatrend 2: Agents Need 20-Pound Brains to Keep Up
Due to relentless innovation and business mergers, contact center agents are wrestling with exponential growth in products and services that they must market, sell or support. Ultimately, product proliferation leads to poor customer experience, followed by agent stress and turnover.
Ride the trend:
Megatrend 3: The Compliance and SLA Buck Stops at Your Desk
Contact center executives are responsible for what their agents say, do and don’t do. This challenge is becoming even more significant in today’s era of rampant outsourcing. Moreover, compliance is growing in importance due to corporate scandals and a wave of new regulations. In addition to in-process regulations around customer conversations, compliance often spans customer interaction archival and SLAs (service level agreement).
Done right, automating compliance adds significant strategic and operational value to a business in the form of customer satisfaction, brand loyalty and cost control, in addition to efficient regulatory conformance.
Ride the trend:
- Embed regulatory and organizational best-practice compliance in workflows as well as interaction guidance, provided by tools such as reasoning engines.
- Implement regulation-related infrastructure capabilities such as interaction archival and security, as they apply to your industry.
- Leverage intelligent routing, business calendars, multichannel knowledge management, back-office integration, collaboration workflows and alarm triggers for fail-safe SLA compliance.
Megatrend 4: Change Is, and Will Be, the Only Constant
Driven by the opportunity to create new markets, improve performance and secure competitive advantage, businesses are being re-architected at a dizzying pace. Customer service executives are expected to drive efficiencies and business differentiation while navigating this sea change. When the “change” tsunami is everywhere, why not exploit it?
Ride the trend:
- Establish the contact center as the performance pace setter with best-in-class service quality, SLA conformance, and customer experience. Continually benchmark your performance, using the results to improve technology, process, and people management. In the event of a merger, this proactive approach will enable you to catapult to the top in the merged organization, instead of being “right-sized.”
- Make sure your customer interaction solution is built on a common CIH, while integrating easily with existing data and content systems. The hub approach facilitates contact center consolidation in a merger by empowering agents with a centralized, multichannel, multi-business, interaction and knowledge repository, while helping control TCO.
Megatrend 5: Show Me Your Value, Says the CEO – on an Ongoing Basis!
Despite the valuable role they play, contact centers are not always considered a “core” part of the business. To get noticed by senior management, you need to market yourself to C-level executives on an ongoing basis.
Ride the trend:
- Set up a multichannel CIH, powered by a common knowledge, interaction, rules and workflow platform, to boost customer experience, service consistency, agent productivity, self-service adoption and process efficiencies, while reducing escalations and overall service costs. This adds to bottom-line cost savings and topline revenue, which you should then market to general management, especially heads of finance, business heads and C-level executives.
- Digitize, automate and constantly optimize key service processes. Set goals and incentives that make agents thrive on change and continuous improvement.
- Multiple studies have shown that it costs far less to expand wallet share with existing customers than acquire new ones. Contact centers are often the only customer touchpoints that businesses have today and can play a pivotal role in expanding wallet share. Market your organization’s strategic value by emphasizing customer retention and loyalty. The key here is putting the right metrics in place to enhance customer loyalty.
- Partner with the marketing organization to implement point-of-service marketing. Contextual cross-sell and up-sell marketing at the point of service boosts the topline and helps you get noticed and rewarded. Moreover, partnering with marketing and sales may make it easier to fund customer service initiatives.
- These five megatrends have created enormous opportunities for contact center executives to become strategic players within their business and take their careers to the next level. Ride them now and reap the rewards!
Ashu Roy is chairman and CEO of eGain Communications.