Contact centers are the epicenter of CX and company change
What are you doing about it?
The industry I love and have spent more then 20 years in has changed significantly in the last 5 years. I can not put my finger on exactly when, but sometime in the early part of this decade most of the major journals started talking about customer experience. The impact of the C-Suite focusing on the experience has trickled down to the contact center and now the centers have started to gain momentum as the primary focus of how a business can measure and improve overall company success.
Over the last 5 years we have been more heavily focusing on customer journeys and have seen the rise in AI-based technology that is driving us further into the CX world. One of the most important business rules of the modern era is that customer loyalty must be earned and maintained vigorously. It is not always the exceptional experience, but more so the effortless experience that has the greatest impact in the modern world. When I look at a truly effortless experience I can not see a direct path to success without technology, and AI has the most potential for the greatest impact.
The book The Effortless Experience by Mathew Dixon and his co-authors Nick Toman and Rick Delisi, focuses on why exceptional customer service is not the path to loyalty that everyone once thought. (I don’t plug many books, but I highly recommend you get a copy.) I bring up this book because based on their findings it is very clear that the effortless journey has a tremendous impact on customer loyalty – and there is data to prove it.
The bottom line is that in this modern age of instant gratification, products and services delivered to our doorsteps with the click of a button, and mobile-driven interactions, falling behind on your company’s communications tools inside your contact center is simply not an option.
What does this mean for your company?
If you are an executive leading your company’s charge within the contact center or a BPO servicing your customers’ clients, then you need to be driving your technology toward the end goal of an effortless journey.
“But where do I start?” you may ask. Well, that is the million-dollar question for most companies and it has a multi-faceted response. I would say it all depends on where you are at. Your company must be ready to adopt change immediately and I believe you need to start on a couple of fronts.
First, if you haven’t started the move to capture your customer journey digitally, then you are already behind the curve. As I have written in many articles, data is king, and long live the king. What you do not know does hurt you and your ability to drive your business forward.
Second, if you are still rocking those outdated premise-based technologies – and based on industry researcher 70% of you still are – then you’d better start figuring out how to migrate to cloud or hybrid-based models with modern API integrations. Sure, you can apply a band aid by cobbling together a temporary solution, but between heavier data security requirements, compliance requirements and customer demands those band aids are getting ripped off in a hurry.
Third, integrate your data and customer touch points to create a holistic view of your customers’ data and their journey with your organization. This means providing a seamless interaction no matter the channel of communication. It is no longer just a requirement for your millennial customers but for all customers. Sure, the younger demographic more adamantly demands mobile and digital channels, but the rest of us also live in this modern world where we expect our calls, chats, emails and SMS messages to be received by someone who knows who we are and why we are contacting you. The technology to extrapolate our reason for reaching out exists, so utilizing that technology has become an expectation.
Finally, constantly drive your company to improve the journey and be vigilant in your approach to creating and maintaining effortless customer interactions.
What do you do with all of that?
No matter the state of your call center’s current systems, you almost certainly need to bring in some new technology partners to stay competitive in a rapidly evolving industry. But where to begin? The task of selecting the right contact center technology provider from a complex and varied list of options is daunting to say the least. Which technologies do you need to implement? Are there opportunities for improvement that aren’t even on your radar? Which vendor partners will be best for your needs? Which will best suit the demands of your unique vertical? How do you minimize cost without sacrificing value? How can you be certain your short list isn’t missing a key vendor?
These are important questions and valid concerns. As the spotlight on customer experience in the modern business world grows ever brighter, so does the valuation of technology providers. And with money comes the inevitable noise created by fierce competition.
Today’s contact center technology space is a complex battle ground occupied by over two hundred cloud-based contact center technology providers. They all claim to provide the best solutions for their prospective customers, and they know how to spin those claims in a way that’s extremely convincing.
As contact centers begin their evaluation process, they typically head to their favorite search engine to begin researching vendors. They’re met with endless options, but those options represent the companies with the largest advertising budget and most aggressive SEO strategy. Certainly, a large marketing budget shouldn’t automatically exclude a vendor from consideration, but it shouldn’t be the only prerequisite either. These big spenders do not always offer the right solutions, may not work well for your industry or aren’t always cost-effective. Unfortunately, this often becomes clear only in the aftermath of an expensive and time-consuming RFP process. At this point companies are forced to start over or simply go with the best option in an imperfect field.
I highly recommend working with an industry expert to guide you through the selection process. These experts will help you refine your current list of needs, identify additional technological opportunities and provide a curated list of call center software vendors that offer exactly what your company needs. Often, these services come at no additional cost to you.
If you want to go it alone, you can minimize the chances of a futile search by spending more time defining your needs up front, long before you start looking for a vendor. Collect feedback from members throughout your organization in marketing, sales, and customer service. Bring in an analytical corporate leader who can evaluate their input and cut through emotional wants to determine what’s truly needed to create the best possible customer experience.
With these needs clearly defined, you can begin evaluating technology partners based on how they fit your needs and not their predefined marketing agendas. Take the time to understand the provider and their willingness to partner with your teams and be more than a vendor. Otherwise, you may find yourself starting your search over again in a year or two.
Good luck and Godspeed as they say. As usual, I am always interested in your feedback and appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to allow me to share my perspective.
Fred Stacey has been in the contact center industry for over 20 years. He started first as an agent on the phones and moved on to the operations side, starting and recovering failing call centers. During that time, he worked in leadership capacities surrounding technology acquisitions and center build-outs, including ongoing call center management and selection of future leadership. Prior to joining Corey Kotlarz to start Cloud Call Center Search, Fred worked over the past 16 years in executive-level roles in contact center telephony and debt collections software companies. He has managed every aspect of a software company from running operations in Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific to cofounding and participating as the COO in startups. Fred specializes in contact center and debt collections software, selection, business operations and strategy.