6 November was the date of the annual ITO accessibility conference. One of the speakers at the conference was TNO, who presented their vision on the future of customer service. That would be service in 2017. In the end, I left their presentation feeling somewhat deflated…
ITO had requested that I introduce the results of my preliminary research during the seminar. Carglass also gave a very inspiring story about how they continuously learn from their customers, and particularly measure all their business in terms of customer centricity. At the end of the day, TNO presented their booklet Service. Future. I’m not sure whether they had looked at service trends in general or specifically in the contact center, but I was disappointed not to hear any particularly innovating or stimulating noises. They identified 9 trends, virtually all of which already apply today in my opinion, such as steering customer centricity.
While I’m not interested in criticizing their vision, I was particularly intrigued by my own sense of disappointment. Why should this affect me and disappoint me? I think I’d hoped that the branch would be spurred to take action, as there is so much more to be achieved. In my dialogs with companies participating in the research but also at other companies, I find most of them to have an extremely operational approach to the contact center. At the management level too, the cost center notion tends to outweigh the value center notion, 9 times out of 10. I therefore believe it’s time for a new discussion on the future of the contact center. It’s time for the contact center to claim its role as the starting point of a customer-centric organization!
Contact center takes the lead
In my opinion, any organization which claims it wants to be customer centric (and don’t they all nowadays…) should allow the contact center to function as the starting point for continuous customer-based improvement and design of true customer processes. If there’s one location where the customer’s needs become apparent, it’s there! The contact center manager needs to become more resolute in the management team, and indicate why the department should be leading the total strategy of the customer-centric organization. A bit of muscle flexing never hurt anyone…
The more I write, the more I realize why I’m so motivated by this subject. The contact center plays a crucial role from the customer’s point of view and within the desire to solve the consumer/general public sense of powerlessness (that’s what it takes to get us moving, I fear). Customers are generally already overjoyed if they have effective contact with the contact center, but just imagine the entire organization working from the customer’s perspective! Only then can we truly make the world a better place for consumers and exceed their expectations, as far as I’m concerned.
Positioning the contact center
The first step in this process is to ensure that the contact center as we know it operates optimally, and there’s so much to gain even there. For example, how many organizations can deal with 90% of customer e-mails and/or telephone calls to the customer’s satisfaction, first time around, and simply meet their promises? However, I think it’s essential to now not only focus on improving the current situation but particularly to look ahead and to start positioning the contact center as the strategic starting point of a customer-centric organization.
Yeah, of course it will take a while before we’ve convinced the management team (a formality, ahem..), but I suggest that we start lobbying, preferably today, in order to turn the contact center world upside down well before 2017.