The Changing Contact Center: From Cost Center to Profit Center (Part 1)
Many businesses operate their contact center today as a place to solve an issue rather than an opportunity to build a good customer relationship. Often, they miss the opportunity to see it as a continuum of the customer experience journey with their brand. While there is a lot of focus on digital channels (like websites or apps), the same cannot be said for a contact center. Customers often experience long wait times, a scripted interaction, repeating the same information repeatedly, being passed from one department to another — all centered on automation that is not aligned with customer expectations, but instead focused on internal processes. This is a huge opportunity that is lost.
Consumers have come to expect that brands and organizations will meet them where they are, and they will get the same service in the store, online or with a call center. And they have a lot of choices. Digital disruptors have upped the stakes by creating higher standards. The cost of switching brands is lower than ever before. And the pandemic only accelerated these changes.
Frequently when customers reach out to a contact center, they are vulnerable, require assistance and are likely anxious and looking for answers in real time. This is a chance to build a deeper connection that will lead to brand loyalty.
Pivot from Support to Engagement
The contact center is an opportunity center. It’s not only an opportunity to hear directly from customers to identify and correct problems; it’s about improving the entire customer experience and reducing costs over time. Here are some ways your business can pivot its contact center from support to engagement:
- Understand the Customer
Good experiences begin with understanding customers and their journey from acquisition to retention. Consider every touchpoint the customer has with your brand from an omnichannel perspective. Thinking of customers just in broad segments is no longer enough. Customers expect a higher level of personalization in their interactions.
- Put Empathy at the Center
Customer service agents must have empathy to create personal relationships with customers. Empower agents to decide on certain incentives — like providing a one-time offer, giving a certain discount percentage, extending the due date of pay, etc. — with predetermined guardrails to bring an emotive connection with your brand. There is a good chance of convincing a customer who is calling to cancel a credit card or a loyalty program to remain loyal by patiently hearing about their concerns, explaining the benefits in a clear way or extending an offer.
- Meet the Customer at their Channel of Choice
Meeting customers where they are is a great way to facilitate connection to the brand. Customer preference has changed quite dramatically after the pandemic with email, applications, text messaging and chatbots taking a more predominant role. Just think about the amount of discussion surrounding ChatGPT across every industry. Leveraging these channels, you can stay connected with your customers and increase customer lifetime value.
- Proactively Reach Out to Customers
Targeted outbound campaigns with a personalized touch can help you stay relevant to the customer while also qualifying prospects or closing more sales. These campaigns may be a cold campaign based on their social media activity or a warm lead campaign for those who have made a purchase, visited a store or browsed your website. Campaigns should cater to the customer channel of choice like email, phone or text message and be backed by analytics to mine customer profiles and segment the market. They need to be supported by efficient agents who are trained with the skills required to provide positive experiences.
- Improve Digital Sales
Some predict that by 2025, online shopping revenue in the U.S. will exceed $1.3 trillion. Customers shopping online may need help for various reasons, like issues with payment or questions about the product. Proactively monitoring the engagements and reaching out to customers can close sales immediately. Customers who are reaching out to contact centers for service requests are a prime opportunity for agents to cross-sell and upsell, improving conversion rates and order sizes.
- Empower Agents
The contact center agent's job is very stressful. They are an organization's first point of contact, and any quality deficiencies or burnouts directly impact the bottom line. Providing the right tools, content, training, technology, KPIs and environment can help them become brand representatives, thus driving customer sales and loyalty. Most companies already track metrics like average handling time (AHT), first call resolution (FCR), conversation to close, customer surveys, service levels and many more. But rewarding agents for the revenue they made by cross-selling and upselling would motivate them to perform beyond their current monotonous work.
A call center is an opportunity to enhance brand loyalty by creating moments that matter. But many organizations are falling short in how they consider and manage their call centers. In addition to realigning their strategies, operations and people organization to pivot the contact center from support to engagement — or from cost center to profit center — companies should consider how emerging technologies, like generative AI, can improve the customer experience. We’ll explore this in part two of our blog series.