The fact that customers still regularly have bad experiences with contact centers can seem like a head-scratcher. Everyone, including contact center directors, has had to deal with long holds, frustrating transfers, and the pain of having to repeat information over and over again to different representatives. If the people in charge of contact centers also dislike dealing with frustrating contact centers, why don’t they just make theirs work better?
The reason: implementing an efficient contact center strategy requires a significant investment of resources and buy-in from many different parts of an organization.
But revamping your contact center strategy isn’t as insurmountable as it might seem. By addressing a handful of key challenges, many organizations can end the cycle of poor service experiences. In doing so, they can transform their contact centers into departments that offer value to their customers and their bottom line.
So what can you do to improve your strategy?
Adopt Multichannel and Omnichannel Technology
Organizations that receive high marks for customer service all have one thing in common—they let customers contact them in whatever way they choose, rather than forcing them to use one channel.
Many customers can’t get away during business hours to make a call, and many more simply prefer text-based communication. In addition, not every service issue requires a phone call to solve. By implementing channels like live chat, SMS, email, and even social media, contact centers can reduce hold times and serve more customers.
Providing multiple channels of communication is great, but implementing an omnichannel approach to customer service is even better. For contact centers, an omnichannel strategy involves keeping a centralized record of communications with a given customer, so that no matter how they choose to contact you, your representative will have a complete picture of the relationship you’ve built.
Leverage Remote Solutions
For many businesses, maintaining an “in-house” contact center is a point of pride. This communicates a specific message to customers—when you call us, you’ll be speaking to an actual employee that works in the same building as the rest of our staff.
There’s nothing wrong with the desire to keep your communications in-house. However, limiting your contact center to on-premise-only solutions can actually be worse for your customers.
Migrating to a cloud-based infrastructure enables contact centers to leverage remote agents. These agents can be made available after-hours, or during spikes in call volume. In addition, a cloud-based contact center has the ability to mobilize and minimize downtime in the event of a power outage, natural disaster, or any other major service interruption.
Prioritize People and Processes Over Technology
Advancements in technology have changed the way organizations do business across nearly every department, and contact centers are no exception. From workforce optimization software to AI chatbots, there’s no shortage of high-tech solutions to common contact center problems.
In many cases, these technologies can streamline operations and improve your relationship with customers. However, contact center directors need to avoid falling into the trap of seeing technology as a cure-all. Technology can make an efficient contact center operate even more efficiently, but it can’t solve significant underlying personnel or policy issues.
Before investing in new tools, consider whether there are any urgent human problems that might need your attention. Implementing new training programs or revamping outdated procedures are some of the best ways to improve contact center effectiveness.
Empower Agents to do More Than Read from a Script
The concept of regulating customer service conversations using pre-written scripts works well on paper. If every representative handles a situation the same way, you can achieve consistent results. In addition, reliance on scripts reduces the risk of individual agents promising outcomes that aren’t achievable or behaving inappropriately toward customers.
In practice, however, customer service scripts have been revealed to do more harm than good. “One of the greatest dangers of scripting is that it can lead to an institutionalized inability of the frontline to think on its feet,” according to a report from Strategy&. In addition, scripts become outdated quickly as policies and product offerings change, requiring expensive and time-consuming re-writing.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that contact center representatives should be allowed to say whatever they want. The use of strong, well-thought-out guidelines is considered a best practice. However, it is important to understand that each caller has individual needs, and allowing for individual responses to those needs will help your team serve customers better.
View Your Contact Center as a Profit Center
For too long, contact centers have been viewed as a necessary evil. Many organizations look at these departments and see high operating costs and a series of complaints from angry customers. What they fail to see is the possibility for a contact center to return huge value to the organization.
“In the past, customer service focused on “getting the screen green”—closing one call and moving on to the next one as quickly as possible,” according to a report from Booz&Co. This is an example of a reactive strategy—in other words, putting out fires as they arise. The trick to transitioning from a cost center to a profit center is to adopt a proactive strategy.
Use the opportunity of speaking with a customer to engage them with your organization, upsell them on new and different offers, and differentiate yourself from competitors whose contact centers are still stuck in the past.
Revamping your contact center strategy is going to take significant time and energy. However, a good strategy will start paying dividends almost immediately.