Companies are constantly examining what game changers could affect business, and how to maximise opportunities and reduce risks. Shifts in how customers prefer to do business are creating the need to adapt what is on offer, as well as how to present this to customers. Two factors have become increasingly important as considerations:
Previously, the contact centre was often driven as an entirely separate business unit. Indeed, it was simply known as the “call centre”. With the customer gaining an increased voice with the advent of channel options – social media, chat, email, voice and mobile, companies must ensure that their contact centres offer what customers demand: fast, efficient service and a positive customer experience. Breaking down the channel silos that isolate information helps to ensure that seamless communication takes place across multiple touch points, so that the customer journey isn’t adversely interrupted.
Support, sales or debt collection departments in smaller businesses face exactly the same challenges when it comes to servicing or interacting with customers, yet their resources and access to technology can thwart attempts to deliver the kind of service that their customers expect. For this reason, selecting, prioritizing, and integrating customer interaction channels is a key priority for businesses. After all, one of the central contributors to service excellence beyond the human element (training, product knowledge etc.) is efficiency - something which effective channel management and consolidation plays a significant role in driving.
Customer Experience first
According to the International Customer Management Institute, when polling contact centres about their number one priority for 2017, 59% stated “improving Customer Experience”.
What the customer experiences when contacting a company is important. The demand for improved Customer Experience is growing – and the most effective way of achieving this is to ensure that every single process the customer encounters runs smoothly and seamlessly. However, rather than efficiency being the primary focus, customer experience improvements should be the outcome of a well-executed and operated business solution.
For example, if contact centre agents are able to improve first call resolution (i.e. resolve a customer query at the first point of contact) as a result of more efficient processes or workflows, this means that they can be more productive, and potentially reduce the overall cost of service. This provides enormous benefits to both the company (cost savings) and the customer (improved Customer Experience) – a win-win.
However, another example could include the introduction of auto attendant technology in a contact centre to route calls more efficiently. This is essentially a telephony menu that enables identification, segmentation and routing of calls (e.g. a voice could ask the caller to “press ‘1’” to direct their call to the accounts department). In theory, this should help customers reach the right department and resolve their query quicker. However, lengthy and arbitrary segmentation used in voice menus could also increase frustration and cause further resolution delays. Sometimes the most efficient solution for a business isn’t the most desirable for the customer, and ultimately the customer experience suffers.
Since CX is about the quality of an interaction or a series of interactions, it’s not simply a case of improving efficiencies and productivity to reach operational or service level targets. Rather, it’s about ensuring that the engagement with each contact, for whatever reason, is conducted well, and to the level of expectation as determined by the customer. Well-trained, skilled, and readily available staff also play a pivotal role in dictating service levels and customer satisfaction – a consideration that should never be ignored.
This is the age of the customer in South Africa and, indeed, across the continent; companies are realising that the contact centre must be closely aligned to all business objectives, and that customers, more than ever, want their preferences to be heard and acknowledged through meaningful action.