Last time around, the column ended with my appeal that the time is right for contact centers to take a quantum leap. And I don’t think they should wait too long before springing into action. Any organization doing it now will have a considerable head start over those companies who still apply the more traditional, mostly operational focus. But to do so successfully, the rest of the organization will also need to be mobilized
What customers want
As I explained in the previous column, customers are no longer really interested in elements such as waiting times, accessibility, selection menus, etc. Reliability and attention are much higher up their individual lists. Making sure that customers do not feel like numbers, but rather feel they are acknowledged by the organization. Their end-to-end experience with the organization is what counts, and not their experience with all kinds of sub departments which means nothing to them. The reason why customers no longer attach great importance to this, is that most organizations nowadays have such processes sufficiently under control. Of course it’s important to keep an eye on these operational elements, as they mustn’t drop below a certain acceptable level. After all, they would then once again gain significance. The so-called dissatisfiers, as it were.
Claim your role
However, monitoring them is completely different to designing your total strategy and steering around them. The strategy needs to change, away from the operational focus within the contact center alone. Away from the solely cost efficiency focus. Efficiency becomes a naturally occurring phenomenon when the focus is truly on customer centricity. It’s time for the contact center to claim the role which gives structural added value. A role in which the contact center looks beyond its own doors. A role which no other department can fulfill at present, namely management of the end-to-end customer experience.
At most companies nowadays, everyone simply manages their own ‘island’. The contact center manages the contacts, the purchasing department the purchasing, sales only sales, marketing only marketing, etc. But now that everyone is extolling the importance of customer centricity, the time really has come to start steering the end-to-end customer journey around all these islands. After all, the customer’s experience is with the company and not with the marketing, sales or service departments. For those companies who are ready to take customer centricity seriously rather than simply following the herd and bleating (still all too common, as you no doubt guessed), it’s crucial to start thinking from the customer’s perspective, following the steps taken by the customer with the organization.
The contact center is the ideal department to take on this proactive, customer-centric function. After all, if there’s any location within the organization where the customer’s voice is heard 24 hours a day, it’s in the contact center. If any department can identify the improvements required all over the company in order to render the total organization more customer centric, then it’s the contact center. The contact center therefore needs to approach the other departments much more proactively with all the information received from the customers, to discover how to make both the customer and the organization happy. And it really isn’t about the most brilliant customer experiences, but rather generally the basics: getting things done effectively and efficiently. That’s a good place to start.
Who dares, wins
It may prove to be a challenge for the current contact center manager. Does he/she has the courage to take the leap? Is he/she comfortable on the podium, convincing the management and other departments of the added value for the complete organization? Does he/she has the energy to withstand the (initial) resistance and to mobilize and encourage the organization? Will he/she dare to start the process from within the own ranks – using all the valuable information already available there – to prove the added value via small pilots in the short term.
For those willing to take the lead in this way (and for anyone else who is interested…), I’ll introduce a concept next time, with which this quantum leap can be started…