Contact Centers Don’t Need To Be Cost Centers: Why Arming Agents with a Full View of Customers is Worth the Effort

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In a recent IDG CIO poll, Customer Experience solutions ranked as the third most important IT investment for 2020, in effort to transform business in an ever-competitive world. Interestingly — yet unsurprisingly — the top priority for the same CIOs was getting a better handle on data and analytics, arguably the most crucial component for delivering CX that moves the needle for organizations of all types.

For many, the CX focus to date has been on the journey to identify, engage and activate customers, but many also silo contact centers, not fully integrating or considering its impact on the customer journey. Historically, contact centers have been a necessary evil for organizations — a catch-all place where customers go to do one of two things: ask questions or complain. It’s viewed mostly as a cost center, with little resources and effort put towards evolving it to become a place where engagement is more positive than negative; more revenue- and opportunity-driven than operational. As we see increased focus on improving customer experience, organizations can’t afford to ignore what the contact center can do to achieve CX-related goals.

The future of CX lives in the ability to integrate the contact center into the CX discussion, and monetize it by allowing data to serve as the foundational layer for all customer-related intelligence so new opportunities for revenue and improved relationships are within reach

By empowering agents with end-to-end customer insights, companies can extend the contact center’s value beyond in-the-moment customer service. Instead, organizations will activate those rare pre- and post-transaction human-to-human interactions to drive loyalty, brand satisfaction, and sales.

How high are the stakes?
Selligent’s recent study indicates that 71% of consumers expect brands to have all the information about them during an escalated brand interaction and 54% report their willingness to abandon a brand after only 2-3 negative experiences. With the majority of a customer’s human interaction happening within the confines of customer service, why aren’t brands maximizing that moment of touch? The most obvious challenge lays within the data, bringing us back to the CIO’s chief challenge and priority.

Data will play an ever-important role in the contact center and up-level its function to bring added value to the overall organization. For true internal and external benefit, contact center operations need to consider which consumer data is valuable, and apply the necessary tech to turn data into customer intelligence.

Surfacing relevant data at the right point of contact
The big question is obviously how and where to get started with agent-friendly data so customer engagements and experience are properly contextualized within the contact center. Looking at where data lives, how systems can communicate and share data is an important first step. Defining data programs in a way that the contact center can take advantage will undoubtedly improve the customer journey and lifetime value by providing a true 360-degree view of the customer. Doing so empowers agents with detailed, action-oriented knowledge: who is the customer, what do they need, what natural next steps do I take to ensure they’re satisfied?

A great example of this is how Coolblue, a fast-growing Dutch retailer, leveraged data to improve the overall customer experience. The company noticed a trend that while revenue numbers were increasing, so was the product return rate. They dug deeper to understand what was driving customer dissatisfaction and it turns out it was an education problem. Customers simply had a hard time figuring out product – anything from not knowing how to install an SSD hard drive to the inability to open the lock on a suitcase — so they just returned the items. Coolblue used this data and additional feedback loops to develop campaigns specifically centered on educating customers on products they purchased, mitigating returns and customer service inquiries by proactively providing relevant content to support recent purchases. This added value to the customer experience led to:
• 90% decrease in returns-related customer service calls
• 30% decrease in return rate
• +2pt improvement in NPS score

Intended and expected outcomes
Working customer insights into the fabric of contact center operations also promotes the idea that CX is an organization-wide responsibility. Nurturing relationships shouldn’t live exclusively within marketing. By activating agents with insightful data, it plays an active role in improving customer satisfaction while giving agents and consumers more positive and progressive interactions. It allows the agent’s time to be spent less on calming a frustrated customer and more in ‘making it right…and then some.’ Agents, with a full 360-degree view of the customer can see what similar products or services the customer would likely be interested in or benefit from — based on historical data — and use that time with them to drive more opportunities and revenue.

From an organizational standpoint, a data-powered contact center promotes the ability to minimize the time and resource constraints of agents by boosting productivity, resolution time and accuracy. This likely will translate to cost reduction for the business and better allotment of resources so everyone succeeds within their business areas.

Leveraging AI as a key component
Of course, artificial intelligence (AI)-driven orchestration plays an important role as well. By utilizing the latest in AI and machine learning to capture data, analyze it in real time, organizations are equipped to offer agents and customers tailored solutions on the right channel, at the right time. For example, when a customer looks on the website for information, which is optimized to compute historical engagement data and serve content that helps them self-troubleshoot, customers get what they need quickly, without ever having to reach out to a human customer service representative. This allows agents to focus on more complex customer inquiries and provide a higher level of value.

Long term benefits for consumers include quick and personalized care, leading to more trust, loyalty and positive perceptions of the organization as a whole. When a customer reaches out, they know they’ll be served to the best of the organization’s ability, and agents can enter each call with the confidence that they have the information needed to truly provide value and a positive CX. Over time, the contact center will be better positioned to evolve from a reactive channel to a predictive one, based on care and experience.

Ultimately, with the right prioritization, the contact center becomes a trusted resource and a place to create future opportunities for revenue, not a point of frustration for both customers and agents. Imagine a world where calling a customer service agent doesn’t start with a groan, and only ends with fast and exact resolution — and a happy customer — every time. It’s possible with the right solutions, the right approach to data, and the right attitude of making CX a priority within the contact center.

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