Putting Purpose into Practice

Article Featured Image

Our previous three columns (January’s, April’s, and July’s The Tipping Point) explored what purpose is, how it's defined, and how your organization can activate it. In this article, we bring these concepts full circle by illustrating how purpose can guide one of your company's most critical assets: your contact center.

Purpose-led organizations are clear what they stand for, inspire stakeholders with a long-term vision, and develop trusted relationships with employees and customers. For many companies, the contact center is the entrée into building trust, as it is often the only touch point a customer has with your company. How the contact center delivers on the customer experience tests your entire brand promise.


A customer calls into your contact center. What impression will she have? Is the call answered by a human being or an automated system? Is the caller routed quickly to the right person, or is she put on hold with a long wait ahead?

Once the customer reaches an agent, is he warm and empathic, or curt and rude? Does he express a genuine interest in helping the customer solve her issue, or robotically recite, "I'm sorry, ma'am, that's the policy, there's nothing I can do"?

If the agent can’t solve the customer's problem, is the customer put on hold for another wait? Or does the first agent stay on the line, introduce the customer to a new agent, and get that agent up to speed?

The answers can illuminate how well your company puts purpose into practice and helps customers feel protected, valued, confident, and informed—the key drivers of customer trust.


Having purpose-led employees means that leadership takes responsibility for employees so that they take responsibility for customers. Employees feel respected, accepted, confident, and safe—and understand how their work helps the lives of specific people. The generic "customer" becomes a human being with feelings and needs.

A large national bank, for example, brought in a small-business loan recipient to meet with loan officers and describe how the loan changed her life. Soon after, employee performance dramatically improved because the loan officers had a window into the people they were helping. They moved from being business transactors to customer champions.

Being purpose-led also means measuring employees on metrics that build customer trust. Traditional metrics like average call time and calls per hour measure employees on speed; employee interests are pitted squarely against those of the customer. Purpose-led metrics are aligned with customer outcomes. A large utility company illustrates how. This company created a dashboard that broke out average call time into specific components—talk time, hold time, and after-call work. With this additional detail, managers could coach agents on specific behaviors to improve customer outcomes instead of focusing on reducing a metric. The result? Over four months, the company's internal variable cost per call decreased by 10 percent, producing an annual savings of $3.1 million; at the same time, customer satisfaction increased 15 percent.


How you operate your contact center is integral to shaping the customer experience. A successful approach includes five pillars: (1) a purpose platform that defines what your organization stands for and the values that guide behavior; (2) an organizational structure that empowers people to think and act creatively in solving customer issues; (3) employees who are empathic, highly engaged, and trained to deliver an exceptional customer experience; (4) business processes that encourage consistency while allowing the flexibility to meet specific customer needs; and (5) technology that enables employees to build customer trust, with CRM tools to capture robust data, a dedicated team to analyze data, and integrated systems to provide a single view of the customer.

The foundation of these five pillars is a consistent leadership perspective, one that reinforces the connection between employee engagement and customer engagement. Leaders who take better care of employees can help employees take better care of customers. A purpose-led approach—in your call center and beyond—connects stakeholders to your organization's purpose. You can actualize this connection to keep customers, drive performance, and fuel growth.

Woody Driggs is the global advisory customer leader and a principal in Ernst & Young LLP's Advisory Services Performance Improvement practice. He is based in Washington, D.C. Jeffrey Stier is a principal in the Global Customer practice of Ernst & Young LLP. He is based in New York. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ernst & Young LLP.

CRM Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues