Which Department Should Handle Digital Interactions?
The short answer to the question posed above: All inquiries should be handled by the contact center (which can encompass customer service, inbound sales, or similar functions), regardless of the channel in which they arrive. An inquiry is an inquiry, and it should be managed by the employees best trained to meet each customer’s needs. Customers expect to have their question answered or issue resolved quickly, accurately, and professionally. The channel should be irrelevant, as it’s just a convenient delivery vehicle to them.
Currently, companies are addressing customer inquiries and interactions sent via digital channels in a number of ways. In many, separate groups have been created within the contact center to respond to digital outreach. In others, the marketing department is responsible for handling some or all of the contacts that arrive via digital channels, although email may still be part of a contact center’s responsibility. And there are several other unique approaches for managing digital conversations, including the most common, which is to limit the channels in which customers can interact with an organization.
Since companies are struggling to resolve what should be a simple issue, there must be more to the story. The debate over who handles customer inquiries was decided decades ago when organizations chose to set up a centralized department, typically referred to as a contact center. Just because additional channels are being used doesn’t mean that new groups should be set up to manage them.
If companies are giving responsibility for digital channels to other departments, it’s likely because they are not satisfied with the quality of service their contact centers deliver to their customers. When this is the case, it reflects a much more serious concern that should be carefully investigated and solved.
IS IT TIME TO REINVENT CONTACT CENTERS?
This seems to be the crux of the matter. Neither customers nor company executives are pleased with contact center performance, as the growing volume of consumer complaints reflects a declining quality of service. Sure, it’s much easier for customers to complain and have their voices heard in the social media era, but this is frequently an excuse for organizations that have not made the right changes to people, process, and technology in their contact centers. Companies have spent millions to improve the customer experience (CX), and while some investments are achieving their goals by making incremental improvements in specific activities, they have not been able to ignite a movement to greatly enhance the overall performance and perception of their contact centers.
CONTACT CENTERS NEED TO BE DIGITALLY TRANSFORMED
The fact that a large percentage of companies do not want their contact centers handling digital channel inquiries is very telling. It’s a vote of no confidence for their contact centers (whether they are customer service departments, inbound sales operations, or other functions), and that fact should be taken very seriously by contact center leaders. Executives want substantial change instead of the usual incremental small improvements they’ve seen from contact centers for many years, and they are using the rise of digital channels to push for something they think will be better. Contact center leaders need to listen and come up with new and enhanced ways to deliver service, since the current approaches are clearly not working as well as they should.
It’s well past time for companies to undergo a metamorphosis and transform into true omnichannel and digital-first support organizations, where fully resolving customer inquiries (preferably during the first contact), not traditional containment, becomes the priority. To accomplish this, companies need to reconsider what it means and what it takes to deliver a great CX and design a strategy and tactics to deliver a totally reimagined contact center. The introduction of digital channels should not break contact centers; instead, it should be an opportunity to uncover long-standing issues that need to be resolved so that they can deliver a great CX.
Donna Fluss, founder and president of DMG Consulting, provides a unique and unparalleled understanding of the people, processes, and technology that drive the strategic direction of the dynamic and rapidly transforming contact center and back-office markets. Fluss can be reached at email@example.com.
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