Neglect Your Contact Center and You’ll Neglect Your Customers


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Do you fully recognize the critical role that the contact center has within your organization? Far too few companies realize that the contact center is the company to your customers.

The contact center can be a strategic weapon. It has been proven, repeatedly, that service is a differentiator. The contact center is the ultimate service tool. The sales function within every company can easily quantify its contribution to the company by making the cash register ring, so to speak, but how do you gauge the value of the support function?

Executives at a Fortune 500 technology company wanted to do just that. They contracted my firm to guide them in designing and implementing a post-call survey program for both the sales and support centers. Although this company is known as a provider of computing and technology products to consumers and businesses worldwide, the focus of its initial survey program was on American consumers. The company had a single outsource vendor, providing both domestic and international (Indian) support centers. In addition, the company made use of its own internal support center.

Agents in the sales centers were excessively up-selling customers in an effort to meet and exceed revenue-per-order goals.

We conducted immediate post-call surveys for this company with a statistically representative number of callers for each center. At the beginning of their calls, customers and potential customers were alerted that they had been randomly selected to partake in a brief evaluation of their call experience. Following each call with a support center, these customers were transferred into our automated measurement application. The survey focused on identifying customer opinion toward three elements: the company, the call that had just been completed and the representative who handled the call.

The first two months of measurement suggested to the management team that the service support centers were an impediment to a positive customer experience. The various service centers earned customer satisfaction scores well below the industry mean and well within the customer defection ranges. Survey comments such as, “Customer service is obviously not No. 1 with this company,” were not uncommon. Meanwhile, the sales centers were earning unrivalled customer experience scores.

Analytics uncovered the drivers of customer dissatisfaction with the service centers, while scrutinizing survey comments identified the cause of these drivers. Agents in the sales centers were excessively up-selling customers in an effort to meet and exceed revenue-per-order goals. In addition, they were setting unreasonable expectations for order delivery. When products and delivery timelines failed to meet the inflated expectations set by the sales agents, customers were dissatisfied. The sales center was inadvertently sacrificing the long-term customer relationship to meet the short-range sales goals.

Reflecting company culture

The contact center and the experience it provides your customers—your company assets—is the culmination of CRM initiatives. The contact center is a successful service channel because of the company’s CRM culture or, in some cases, in spite of it. On a daily basis, contact centers achieve amazing feats of customer-relationship-enhancing tasks even when virtually prevented from doing so by the CFO.

Customers do not know why the agent has no knowledge of their history, no recommendations for an up-sell and no idea of how to identify and remedy a process failure. What they do recognize is that a company is not customer-centric, is difficult to do business with and not worth the effort.

The overall customer experience with your company should be shaped by the intelligence gathered by the value-add contact center. Nowhere in the organization can customer intelligence be gathered as quickly, as effectively and as inexpensively.

In the contact center, a defective output is an unsatisfactory customer experience. Post-call surveys can identify defective outcomes from the perspective of the customer. When properly designed, analyzed and applied, they can serve as effective tools in pinpointing the elements of a call that contributed to customer dissatisfaction.

Consider the Fortune 500 technology company. With the survey results in hand, the management team re-evaluated the performance model to include more than the total sales per shift. This helped reposition the sales center as the first step in the long-term customer relationship. The balance was achieved by accepting longer call times and by monitoring for compliance to company processes. Changing from “do-whatever-it-takes” to sell to behaviors focused on doing what was right for the customers and the company came from the management team. The new culture was on educating people on the value of repeat customers and positive-word-of-mouth and the cost of dissatisfied callers, along with using metrics to balance sales under an effective customer experience umbrella.

The initiative had a significant impact. By the close of the sixth month of the program, satisfaction scores with the service centers improved dramatically and sales center scores normalized. Once customers were given reasonable expectations on product performance and delivery, there were fewer problem calls, fewer repeat calls and fewer instances in which calls escalated to supervisors.

Most importantly, this new environment allowed agents working within the service environment to step into the role of advisor to callers. This was particularly significant because it allowed the technology company to more than make up the revenue lost in normalizing the up-selling figures during the initial sales process. By allowing the service agents the time and opportunity to diagnose and solve actual customer problems, the service centers became effective revenue-generating centers for warranties and consumables.

Take a stroll down your CRM path that leads to your contact center. The answers to your customer relationship questions lie within the relationship management center. Very few decisions that you make have no effect on the customer experience with your company. Do not be the one who squanders customer intelligence.

Jodie Monger
Jodie Monger, Ph.D. is the president of Customer Relationship Metrics (CRM) and a pioneer in business intelligence for the contact center industry. Dr. Jodie's work at CRM focuses on converting unstructured data into structured data for business action. Her research areas include customer experience, speech and operational analytics. Before founding CRM, she was the founding associate director of Purdue University's Center for Customer-Driven Quality.


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