The contact center isn’t just a place for customer complaints; it’s an opportunity to humanize your brand. Whether you’re in an industry where an empathetic human voice is still a necessity, or what you’re selling is still too complex for full digital self-service, contact centers should be building customer loyalty and serving as an important engagement arm of the business.
The contact center—along with the technology that powers excellent CX—can show customers just how much they truly matter to the company. Advisors are the “face” of the brand, and they can help to establish a personal and emotional connection that is invaluable for understanding customers, building trust, driving desired behaviors, and improving retention.
We put together nine ways to ensure that your contact center is better integrated with your business and performing as a critical engagement channel, improving customer value and building customer loyalty.
1. Be strategic when it comes to your contact center
A well-designed and orchestrated CX and contact center capability is a strategic investment and value driver—a “moment of truth” for the organization to prove to its customers that the organization is truly customer-centric. Contact centers are a key part of a holistic CX strategy and shouldn’t be viewed just as a cost center. When done well, they can elevate the brand, driving a significant difference in customer brand perception, satisfaction, advocacy, and retention, all while building customer loyalty.
Leadership needs skin in the game to support contact center goals. A carefully balanced scorecard with a direct line of sight from the boardroom to the contact center goes a long way toward achieving strategic aims. Executives can then gain a better sense of the pulse and sentiment of how customers engage with the brand.
2. Score some goals with smart objectives
There will always be operational performance metrics that determine how efficient the contact center is, but those goals and metrics must be impactful in more ways than one. So, instead of just measuring average handle time, cost per contact, after call worktime, etc., determine the CX impact that reflects business goals and desired outcomes, and measure the value of what is being delivered. This will vary by industry and company, but it could include cross-selling, customer retention, product/program usage, digital engagement, and more.
Find the outcomes that customers care about, for example, measure how many times customers need to contact you more than once because their issue wasn’t resolved the first time, or the promised action was not taken. If there is value in getting a customer to sign up for digital channels, then measure success at digital sign ups.
Senior leadership should have visibility and accountability for achieving those specific outcomes. For example, if the contact center is tasked with achieving a product cross-sell, then senior leadership throughout the company that supports that product should have their individual score cards reflect that goal. This will foster collaboration and make it significantly more likely that the goal will be achieved.
3. Right people for the right vision
As in any customer engagement role, hiring people who enjoy interacting with customers is key. They need to be able to listen, encourage desired behaviors, and be empathetic. Simply put, “we hire people who like people.”
The way that an organization designs experiences across all the customer interaction channels needs to be operationally harmonized with the employee experience to deliver what we call “Customer Experience Continuity,” so the customer does not perceive any organizationally erratic behaviors that would confuse or damage customer trust.
4. Train staff to be true brand ambassadors
Achieving an optimal employee experience and blending that with the best CX requires a human-centered design approach to equip and train your teams to deliver the best experience they can. No advisor feels comfortable when they can’t answer customers’ questions, need to deliver difficult messages to the customer, or don’t have the ability to carry out the customers’ wishes. Training is critical not only to reinforce the mechanics of the job, but also to share what makes the brand unique so that your contact center team can truly be ambassadors for your brand.
5. Supply tools that support effective engagement
Contact center advisors need to have user-friendly tools that enable them to do their jobs more effectively and address customers’ needs. Contact centers devoted to customer retention, for example, should have curated offers that may reduce attrition available to them. These offers should be relevant to the customer, tracked for effectiveness (not only in short-term saves but longer-term retention), and prioritized based on that effectiveness. Scripting and/or guidelines can guide the advisor to improve how they position the offer.
6. Leverage the product and customer lifecycle
You can use knowledge of where the customer is in the product lifecycle to prompt support that increases engagement. For example, during the onboarding phase (which varies product by product), use all customer interaction moments to ensure that the customer is fully comfortable with your product and is aware of all the benefits. Later in the lifecycle, advisors can reinforce targeted benefits, particularly those that the customer has not yet used or ones that others find engaging. If the customer is a member of the brand’s loyalty program, reminders of how to use and reap value from the loyalty program should also be reinforced.
7. Connect the customer journey across channels
It goes without saying that the customers shouldn’t have to repeat themselves with multiple advisors. But there also needs to be connectivity between the contact center and digital channels, so that advisors have insight into the customer journey. All channels should work together to supply a holistic customer experience, regardless of how, when and where a customer chooses to engage. This requires the ability to centralize, connect, and orchestrate customer data at the customer level such that all information and activities related to that customer across all channels are connected and orchestrated.
8. Building customer loyalty with customer insights
Conversational Analytics is an increasingly important aspect of digital transformation. Being able to manage and understand unstructured data across all customer interactions is an untapped capability for most organizations. A contact center conversation can be analyzed through artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) platforms and tools to help learn more about the customer. It can be used for progressive profiling, gathering targeted information, or capturing unsolicited feedback. It can also be used to gain customer perspectives on products, services, solutions, benefits, and experiences.
9. Support profitability through resource allocation
Customers all deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and compassion. However, using data to understand the relative value and importance of customers can help them receive different and proper treatments to drive desired behaviors.
Some contact centers enable this by having contact queues, an escalation center, or a targeted retention center so that the most skilled advisors are handling the highest value customers; others don’t. But regardless, advisors need to have the information available to them to identify customer value (which could be as simple as red/yellow/green) and the right tools/offers to manage customers based on that value.
It’s still important for contact centers to find opportunities to reduce costs by having other channels available for interaction, encouraging self-service for less complex questions, using AI and other means to help customers self-serve. But when a customer contacts you, a well-handled, empathetic advisor can make all the difference between a customer that is satisfied (even delighted!) and one that isn’t.
Senior Principal, Integrated Loyalty Solutions