Contact Center Action Items

8 Action Items For Contact Center Leaders In 2017

If you oversee contact center operations, you know that the transition from caring about customers to delivering for customers requires specific actions.

Here are eight things leaders must do in 2017.

KEEP EMBRACING VOICE. START EMBRACING VOICE.

Yes, you read the header correctly. Self-service and digital channels have gained in prominence, capabilities and value, but they have not at all eliminated the phone conversation. Many customers maintain their preference for calling customer support and speaking to a live agent. Terms like “contact center” and “customer engagement center” may better reflect the multi-channel, all-encompassing nature of today’s customer experience function, but they should not be viewed as confirmation that phone calls are obsolete.

 The role of voice is not, however, limited to live phone conversations. Technological advancements are making voice the centerpiece of engagement in numerous channels. Confident that customers fundamentally like natural conversation, providers are incorporating voice capabilities into a myriad of computerized channels and devices. Mobile applications allow customers to input orders by speaking rather than typing. Connected devices like Amazon Echo not only recognize

Connected devices like Amazon Echo not only recognize voice but adapt to the individual user.

IVR technology, meanwhile, is becoming more intelligent, efficient and resolute. It gives customers a reason to try speaking instead of just pressing zero for a live agent.

Customer-centric organizations must focus on both “voice” dimensions in 2017. They must elevate the quality of live phone conversations while also incorporating natural voice capabilities into their digital channels.

EMBRACE NEXT-GENERATION AGENT DEVELOPMENT

Not simply useful in qualifying and routing customers, modern self-service technology is capable of completely and conveniently resolving most transactional matters.

As self-service platforms begin to handle the bulk of these basic issues, live agents will increasingly focus on deeper, more complex customer interactions.

While intuitive (human agents are, at least right now, better than computers when it comes to grasping the nuance and emotion of complicated calls), the dynamic introduces a key question: can live agents handle these difficult cases?

The bulk of customer interactions are transactional in nature, and agents have historically been trained accordingly. They know how to resolve simple issues, but they may not know how – or at least may not feel empowered– to handle the types of problems they’re more likely to encounter in this new generation of customer engagement. They may not feel comfortable making connections beyond the surface of the transaction.

Leaders must act. They obviously need to educate their agents on the basics, but the crux of talent development should focus on empowering employees to handle difficult, unpredictable issues while making meaningful, “human” connections.

Contact centers won’t necessarily need “customer support representatives” in the future. They will need customer engagement experts.

TRAIN BASED ON THE VOICE OF THE CUSTOMER

In addition to incorporating higher-level training, organizations will need to focus on customer-centric agent development.

It is supposedly the age of customer centricity, yet far too many develop processes and strategies without directly consulting customers and customer feedback. This very frequently applies to training; agents are often coached based on internal standards and contact center conventions rather than the specific intricacies of the customer base. In 2017, leaders must work to correct this issue. They must develop a clearer connection between voice of the customer insights and agent training, engagement and performance management. The best agents are the ones that best engage customers. The best training reflects that.

In 2017, leaders must work to correct this issue. They must develop a clearer connection between voice of the customer insights and agent training, engagement and performance management.

The best agents are the ones that best engage customers. The best training reflects that.

DON’T JUST THINK ABOUT SERVICE

We’re almost all guilty of viewing the customer experience strictly in terms of customer service. We must all commit to remedying this error.

Yes, customer service represents one of the common scenarios in which businesses will connect with customers, but it is not the only forum for engagement. It is not the only “touch point” that will dictate the strength of the relationship between brand and customer.

As you develop strategies for 2017 and beyond, ensure you are considering the entire customer journey – and every direct and indirect action that will happen along the way. The goal, quite simply, should be to make every facet of working with your business more valuable than it was last year – and more valuable than it would be with a competitor.

This “big picture” approach is not merely an imperative for senior leadership. Functional managers and frontline employees must also operate with a cognizance for the entire journey. They cannot view their tasks in isolation.

GET SMART ABOUT ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

Do not make the mistake of assuming the rise of self-service technology coincides with the fall of human engagement. Customers are demanding a more personal, more adaptive, more customized experience even in this age of digital, lower-touch interactions. By elevating agent training, organizations will be able to meet this demand in live, human interactions.

By leveraging artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning technology, they will also be able to do so in self-service environments.

Artificial intelligence adapts to the customer and issue, bringing a natural, human touch into a fundamentally “non-human” platform. Learning technology ensures the self-service experience evolves – and improves – based on insights from actual customer interactions.

In short, this class of technology is perfect for the era of personalized customer experience journeys.

Because the technology, its applications and its potential for alignment with live agents are still being discovered and optimized, some organizations may not be comfortable making a massive AI investment this year. Given its clear ramifications for the engagement experience, no organization can afford to ignore AI this year.

ESTABLISH YOUR CORPORATE IDENTITY

In today’s era of customer centricity and human connections, organizations must possess identities. They must stand for something. No, they do not have to aggressively trumpet their political views (though they certainly can, as the associated stigma is greatly decreasing). They must, however, represent more than an impersonal, inhuman “entity” with which customers execute transactions.

Every element of the organization – from its products, to its marketing message, to its employees, to its customer service practices – must serve as a window into who the company is, what it represents and why it does what it does.

That degree of transparency, honesty and humanity is the key to meaningfully connecting with customers.

Leaders are asking customers to commit loyalty to their businesses. They are asking them to publicly “like” and advocate for their brands on social media.

To make that happen, they will almost certainly need to do more than offer good products at competitive prices. They will need to make customers believe in the company.

BE EXPERIENTIAL

With thought leaders emphasizing “effortless” engagement and interactions increasingly taking place in digital platforms, it is easy to forget that the “experience” remains a powerful competitive differentiator.

Not every interaction warrants an attempt to “dazzle” customers with extravagant services. Few interactions warrant a digression into a lengthy conversation about pets, families and vacations.

All, however, ask the business to provide something special.

Delivering the desired resolution on the customer’s preferred terms prevents customer dissatisfaction, but it does not win their lasting loyalty. To achieve that loftier (and more lucrative) objective, organizations will need to incorporate memorable and unique elements into their experience journeys.

These elements should, no matter the context, let the customer know he or she is valued by the business. It does not simply care about providing information or solving a problem; it cares about the customer.

When designing your agent-assisted and self-service experiences, think about special touches – sometimes dramatic, sometimes minor – that can enhance the engagement beyond the transaction. In the words of Peter Guber, aim your experience at their hearts, not just their wallets.

HELP YOUR ORGANIZATION SAY “YES” – ALWAYS, IN ALL CHANNELS

Few customer experience employees like saying “no” to customers. Most, however, are given no choice.

Whether limited by policy, training or capability, businesses cannot always give customers what they want – even if what they want is straightforward, logical and reasonable.

In 2017, contact center leaders must reinvent their customer experience function as a customer empowerment function.

The goal, always, should be to create value for the customer. Policies and practices should not provide agents with justification for saying “no” to customers; they should provide them with the instruction and capability to say “yes.”

As you evaluate your customer experience functions, identify – and begin to correct – any “no traps.”

These “no traps” may involve not allowing customers to receive support in each channel at a given time. They may involve refusing refunds even when the company is to blame for the issue. They may involve barring agents from issuing make-good compensation even when long-term business is on the line.

Whatever they look like in your organization, they need to be gone in 2017.

Original article by Brian Cantor via CCW Digital.

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