Let’s Get Personal: Is Your Contact Center Ready?

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For years we’ve heard the saying: Hurry up and wait. Mainly it’s been applied to the government or the U.S. Army. Today, however, more consumers than ever are drumming their collective fingers waiting for the organizations they do business with to catch up with them on the personalization and customer segmentation front.

It seems consumers are getting more comfortable interacting with voice response units to get balance information, to find out when a recent payment posted or to turn on a new credit card. Because their comfort levels are increasing, consumers are realizing that they don’t always want—or need—to speak to a live agent because often it just takes too long. As consumers get savvy—becoming increasingly familiar with maneuvering through a contact center voice response system or a telephone decision tree menu—contact centers are being forced to keep up. They often do so by developing new and innovative programs to satisfy customers’ personal needs using a company’s CRM data. And what they’re finding out is often benefiting the bottom line.

Called personalization, these techniques increasingly are seen as the best way to minimize the use of expensive contact center agents, lower phone bills, deliver more accurate “one and done” service and provide customers with better service overall. In many instances, contact centers are learning that by better understanding customer needs, they can make customers happy and, consequently, less costly to manage. In some cases, up-selling is also possible when personalization techniques provide the customer with a valuable product or service.

By using personalization techniques coupled with the customer information held within a corporate CRM database, over 42 percent of contact centers say they are on track to deliver the personalized and segmented services that customers are demanding, according to statistics from Dimension Data’s ninth annual Global Contact Center Benchmarking Report. This is a marked improvement from last year, when only 28 percent of contact centers were delivering personalized service. As a result, the growing number of contact centers and consumers looking toward personalization is starting to have a real impact on the market and on business.

According to the Benchmarking Report, four important areas of personalization are being played out today:

  • Personalization of service has grown dramatically and is now used in about four in 10 centers.
  • Customer segmentation is a key and growing strategy for an increasing number of contact centers.
  • A single view of the customer across channels, customer information, products and services and transaction history is still a challenge for most contact centers.
  • In contact centers, customer satisfaction measurement receives a more mature, balanced approach.

What does this mean at the contact center level? Here are some personalization examples that are currently being deployed successfully.

Customer segmentation techniques are often used within the financial services industry, primarily because of the transactional nature of the business. For example, let’s say you routinely call your credit card company from your boyfriend’s phone—the number for which is not on file at your credit card company. With today’s sophisticated CRM systems hooked into IP contact center technology, the computer will eventually figure out that his number should be associated with your account. If you call to close your account, today’s high-powered database look-ups can do real-time analysis of the value you represent to your credit card company. Accordingly, people worth keeping are routed to a live agent. On the other hand, people who the credit card company doesn’t see as valuable are routed to a voice response system and allowed to quickly close their account. As these options become commonplace, even more sophisticated capabilities are being developed that ensure the flow of information between the customer and the business is constantly being modified and improved.

As these examples show, customers have a wide range of needs that can be balanced with corporate needs. For contact centers, the only way to really offer personalized service is by cost-effectively balancing their internal segmentation model with a customer’s desire to be treated as an individual. Personalization should be at the core of a contact center’s strategy in order to truly be integrated into the business. By investing in a means to understand which channels a customer wants to use to contact a business—and to what extent a channel may be “cannibalized” from other channels in order to provide better, more personalized service—a roadmap can be implemented that will bring the contact center closer to offering mass personalization to all its customers, even if customers move between one category and another.

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