It's no longer enough to deliver an outstanding customer experience, something too few organizations do anyway. Contact centers that want to remain relevant must transform from slow-moving, reactive organizations into real-time, proactive departments that are a step ahead of customer needs.
The following warning signs may alert you that your contact center is at risk of being marginalized.
- You provide only customer service.
- You support only calls, emails, and text/chat sessions.
- Peer organizations, such as marketing and sales, as well as senior executives, refuse to meet with you to understand trends and customer sentiment.
- Your budget is cut annually. You are asked to "do more with less."
- It's extremely difficult to get approval for a system upgrade or new investment.
- Your contact center has been outsourced to an offshore location, or outsourcing discussions are underway.
More than half of the customer service–oriented contact centers in the United States are at risk. Many senior executives would gladly eliminate their support organization if they could do it without alienating their customers.
Changing Your Destiny
If your organization is at risk based on the criteria above, it's time for change, and it's up to your contact center manager to lead the charge. This may stir up trouble, but doing nothing will result in far greater trouble. While downsizing will reduce operating costs in the short term, the long-term impact to the company's bottom line will be negative, as evidenced by examples like Dell and United. Senior executives have a responsibility to improve the profitability of their companies, and too many have already shown a willingness to make radical changes to enhance their short-term financial position.
The steps for contact center transformation may vary, but the following guidelines lay the foundation for change. Each contact center should implement changes that best position it to become relevant within its organization, so that senior management sees it as an important contributor to the company's bottom line. Here are three high-value approaches to consider:
1. Transform the contact center into a revenue-generating profit center.
- Work with sales and marketing to make a plan to change your contact center from a cost center to a revenue-generating organization.
a) Reach out to sales and marketing and ask for their support in transitioning the contact center into a sales organization.
b) Establish realistic departmental sales goals.
c) Keep start-up costs low and prove your ability to meet them before asking for major investment dollars.
- Retrain agents so that they can identify sales opportunities and close them successfully.
2. Assume responsibility for handling social media interactions.
- Work with marketing to take over the responsibility for handling social media interactions.
- Draft new policies and procedures jointly with marketing and legal departments.
- Establish rules of engagement for consistently representing your brand in a professional manner.
- Define social media metrics for measuring the performance of the service organization.
- Train staff or train new agents to handle social media.
- Establish social media service levels to set appropriate response time objectives for each social media channel.
3. Take on back-office processing.
- Identify tasks that can be handled by contact center agents during slow periods.
- Set a plan for distributing and managing new work.
- Train agents to handle the back-office tasks.
For all of these initiatives, contact center leaders will need to modify their key performance indicators and quality assurance, agent evaluation, and rewards and recognition programs to support the new contact center mission.
Contact centers must do more than deliver an outstanding customer experience. Contact center leaders must implement the changes necessary to make their department relevant to their enterprise. There are many ways to achieve this goal, but the best is to transform into a revenue-generating profit center that builds lasting relationships with customers in their channel of choice.
Donna Fluss is founder and president of DMG Consulting, a provider of contact center and analytics research, marketing analysis, and consulting.