In 2012, Western Power's contact center beat 1,500 contenders to be named the best medium-sized contact center in the Asia Pacific at the Contact Center World Awards. The facility receives 100,000 calls per month and answers 90 percent of them within 30 seconds. But that’s hardly remarkable in this business.
What’s unique about Western Power is its thinking. Whereas most call centers are just that, this company takes an exemplary approach to customer service. One example: During major events and emergencies, 150 office employees come on board to help with the calls. They also proactively call customers to check about power disruption and restoration, thereby ensuring that field resources are deployed only where necessary.
Although stories of contact center excellence are still few and far between, the tribe of customerized enters, raising the standard of service and experience, is slowly expanding. Think about it. Isn’t it surprising how customer service channels – and I include in this list contact centers – have always functioned as problem fixers, rather than as a medium of service delivery to create customer delight?
Today, it’s not likely that the consumer will continue to stand for this. Look at her – the consumer. There is so much information at her disposal. Her expectations are being shaped by collective experience and social interactions. Her preferences are constantly evolving through a pan-industry expectation spillover. As she discovers newer experiences and conveniences, as a consumer, in one sphere, she expects to enjoy the same or better experience in another. Her logic goes something like this: "If I can choose to pay only a fraction of the cost of my favorite daily to read just the lifestyle section, why can't I buy insurance, at the airport, to cover me only through that one plane journey, instead of investing on comprehensive travel insurance? If FedEx can let me track the status of my delivery in real time, what's keeping my bank from letting me know, in real time, the value of my investments?" Suddenly, every enterprise is up against crisscrossing expectations shaped by consumer experiences in a vertical that it never thought to look at. That’s why consumers are also becoming increasingly demanding with respect to the products and services they consume. And after-sales service is no exception.
If I had to list what differentiates customerized centers from the run of the mill, it would be that they are seamlessly integrated with the other customer service channels; that they are enhanced with self-service features to improve the customer service experience; and that they think and act like a revenue generator – if not a profit center – of the business.
So, why are these important?
First, because today’s customers are channel-mobile. When they’re asked to repeat to a contact center agent a problem that they’ve already narrated in detail on e-mail, it annoys them to no end. Indeed, research says that this is their single biggest source of contact center frustration. Regardless of industry or brand, they prefer a more personalized process when they interact with customer care centers. However, the challenge in delivering this personalized experience is figuring out how agents can gain access to accurate knowledge bases across internal repositories and social media for their customers. Without an efficient and seamless process, customers often experience delayed service and, in turn, dissatisfaction. To improve customer service, agents must have access to the full history of a customer’s prior interactions over all communication channels – voice, chat and e-mail, as well as social channels like Facebook (News - Alert) and Twitter – thereby eliminating the need for a customer to repeat his or her request and personal information. The way around that is to deploy a customer service solution, which can capture and integrate each and every customer interaction on every channel, and present it to the contact center agent in a single window.
Enabling self service on an assisted channel may appear counterintuitive, but isn’t actually so. Customers themselves are all for it; when surveyed, most say that they would willingly use a self-service channel, provided it works. And that’s the key. A little probing reveals that less than half of those customers actually follow through on their intent, because they find these channels both inaccurate and incomplete. Again, that issue can be easily resolved with a customer service solution that sits atop a unified knowledge base, updated in real time with new service scenarios as and when they occur. It is also possible to take the solution’s self-service aspect to a new level by endowing it with social capability.
Enterprises find it hard to justify the long payback period on their contact center investments, often as long as 12 to 21 months. With the right solutions, they can significantly improve customer satisfaction rates, and derivatively, those of right-selling, and bring down time to ROI significantly. But, it’s important to determine that opportune moment to right sell – because no one ever sold more to a dissatisfied customer seeking assistance.
In the not so distant future, I am convinced, these will lay down the foundation that supports the norm for contact centers, not the exception.
Edited by Alisen Downey