Before managers can tackle primary goals, obstacles must be overcome.
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After more than 30 years of treating contact centers as "call-handling departments," enterprise senior managers are beginning to appreciate the range of contributions that these customer service organizations can make to the greater enterprise. In fact, in the next five to 10 years, contact centers will become, in many enterprises, one of the most important revenue-generating departments.
Contact center managers will be expected to deliver on three primary goals in 2008: improve productivity by reducing expenses; provide an outstanding customer experience; and generate incremental revenue.
The first goal -- productivity -- is standard for all people-intensive organizations, such as contact centers, where staff expenses account for a large percentage of the budget. The other two goals exemplify the contact center's growing role, as opportunities derived from customer contacts are increasingly benefiting the entire enterprise.
Contact center managers are also facing the following 10 business challenges in 2008:
- Increasing productivity and reducing costs. This is typically the primary goal for contact center managers; outside of North America, it is often the only significant goal.
- Providing an outstanding customer experience. This is an enterprise goal, of course, but it's also essential for the success of every contact center. Unhappy customers create an unpleasant atmosphere in the contact center, as no one likes to be berated constantly. Likewise, unhappy agents tend to share these feelings with customers, resulting in a cycle of unpleasant experiences for all involved, and often leading to very high agent- and customer-attrition rates, poor quality scores, high training costs, etc.
- Retaining customers. Contact centers are an instrumental part of customer-retention efforts, and companies need to invest in initiatives to optimize their influence over the current customer base. Too many customers expect bad service from rude agents -- a little effort from the contact center goes a long way.
- Increasing revenue. Contact centers know more about customer needs than other departments, because callers freely share this information. Managers need best practices to enable agents to convert this wealth of insights into revenue.
- Handling virtual environments. Market dynamics and globalization are altering corporate structure, creating complex operating environments across multiple locations, and presenting new challenges: It's even harder for managers to supervise staff that they cannot see.
- Reducing agent attrition. While not a popular topic of discussion in the industry, this is one of the most common challenges confronting all contact center managers.
- Identifying the reasons for calls. As contact centers grow in size, complexity, and geographies, managers no longer have direct knowledge of why customers call. This makes it essential to employ technologies and best practices that reveal the underlying issues that generate calls.
- Improving relationships with peers. Enterprise goals that impact many departments make it increasingly important to interact effectively and positively with peers in sales, marketing, operations, the executive suite, etc.
- Preventing outsourcing. North American contact centers of all sizes are struggling to justify to senior management why their centers should remain in-house and not be outsourced to seemingly more cost-effective locations.
- Getting promoted. After more than 30 years of struggle, contact center managers are finally beginning to get the recognition they deserve, resulting in new and expanded career opportunities within the enterprise.
Some of these challenges have been around as long as there have been contact centers. A few are relatively new, brought about by changes in the world economy and technological innovation. It's clear, though, that a major transition is under way, as contact centers are expected to deliver benefits to customers, enterprises, agents, and contact center management. This year is just the beginning, and contact center managers and staff must prepare for a challenging yet exciting future.
Donna Fluss is founder and president of DMG Consulting LLC
(www.dmgconsult.com), the leading provider of contact center and analytics research, market analysis, and consulting. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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