To prosper, brands must transform themselves digitally, leveraging the power of data—exponentially improved by the new data tech—to become a truly responsive enterprise. But where inside their business should they focus? Contact centers are exceptionally fertile ground for data to produce significant gains.
Why? First, there’s a lot of opportunity for improvement. Contact centers facilitate and manage a high-volume of transactions, so they have myriad opportunities to make incremental improvements that add up to significant change for the business.
Second, contact centers have a lot of data. They have multiple systems—frequently several disparate systems—that collectively capture a mountain of data in an effort to record and measure every touchpoint of every customer journey.
Perhaps more importantly, contact centers have the potential to become productive sales channels. Direct sales are already on the decline. As indirect and digital sales channels continue to erode direct sales, contact centers are poised to be the primary point of contact with the customer.
The Efficiency Problem
Historically, many of the digital initiatives inside contact centers have been efficiency plays aimed at reducing the cost to serve customers and sell to them. Fewer are focused on improving customer experience, satisfaction, and loyalty.
For example, online self-service—web content that informs and educates customers—was introduced so enterprises could divert customers to a low-cost channel in order to reduce company expenses like agent payroll, phone services, rental costs that can erode margins.
It’s not that customers haven’t benefitted from these digital cost-cutting initiatives. Initiatives to improve a contact center’s operational efficiency can be, and sometimes are, win-wins where the business save money and customers are better served. For example, many customers do prefer to have some of their questions answered through the company’s online self-service content, assuming the content is high-quality and convenient to find.
And it’s not as though cost-cutting doesn’t matter. It matters very much given that contact centers are frequently huge cost centers for an enterprise.
But focusing digital, and data, narrowly on the problem of cost-reduction leaves a customer-centric perspective behind, which is highly problematic for the future prosperity of contact centers, considering the state of the modern customer.
A recent Detecon report on customers and digital transformation describes this state in grave terms:
“Customers, encouraged by the fierce competition for their favor, are by no means reluctant to look into their neighbor’s garden. Thanks to the transparency in today’s world, the grass on the other side of the fence appears greener than ever before. Because of the flood of alluring offers, customer loyalty has become such a fragile value that any measurement cannot be regarded as more than a snapshot of a momentary situation. This is confirmed by the steady levels of churn tendencies and the significantly greater reluctance of customers to remain committed to any specific products or companies.”
Customers everywhere are growing more demanding and more disloyal. So contact centers, like the enterprise at large, are under the same pressure to switch the focus of digital from cost cutting to customer experience to, survive, let alone win.
Creating Frictionless Touchpoints
What makes the best customer experience—the experience most likely to lead to retention, loyalty, and purchases? Many experts argue it’s the experience that requires the least customer effort possible, a theory that’s well-argued in a noteworthy Harvard Business Review article.
So to improve customer experience, contact centers must reduce customer effort as much as possible. This means creating frictionless customer touchpoints by giving every single customer exactly what they need—the solutions, offers, channels—all the time, proactively, before they even have a chance to ask for it.
If you contact centers can do this, they’ll delight their customers, and keep them loyal so they don’t look “over the fence” at the competition. Luckily, this is a challenge that data—and the new data tech—is uniquely able to solve.