Given their experiences with them, customers may believe (or at least hope) that call centers are a thing of the past. When asked to describe call center experiences, many customers share stories about rudeness, unhelpful attendants or employees who sounded like they were about to die of boredom right there on the phone. It’s a rare occasion when someone tells a story about an insightful employee who took ownership of the problem and went above and beyond to resolve the issue. (A medal may have even been awarded by the caller.)
However, with a greater focus on customer experience, the companies that provide call centers are even rethinking how they interact with customers. Combining technology with an overall evolution in understanding how to engage with customers has led to a new approach that’s revamping the call center image.
Start with solving problems....
Both customers and call centers themselves looked at their relationship as revolving around solving some type of issue that came up. This resulted in an environment in which customer call center reps were trained to deal with “difficult” customers and provided some basic scripts on how to handle this often contentious situation. The result, of course, was always an overriding sense that a customer would be difficult.
Likewise, the customer calling in to the call center most often assumed that the person on the other end really didn’t care and was just regurgitating standard responses. There would be no personal experience or enjoyment. The reality is that customers want to quickly resolve their issues without having to work through multiple auto attendants to find the right person to help. The businesses that call centers support improve the customer experience when they look at the customer as someone they are helping instead of a problem to solve.
The problem was that this approach rarely happened until this most recent evolution in thinking and technology.
To increase customer engagement.
Some call center companies realized the value in changing this relationship and turning the relationship into a way to build the business. Avoiding a reactionary approach could enable them to adopt a proactive mindset that welcomed customers rather than “handled” them. This could be an opportunity to make a great impression on the customer, help him, and then benefit by earning future purchases or, even better, recommendations to his peers about the brand.
Yes, call centers have become part of the marketing and customer engagement process. That’s why, for example, global leader in customer experience as a service TeleTech now refers to its locations as “contact centers.” That invokes the idea of personal touch and dialogue because it can include not just the traditional call-in method, but also live chat functionality.
Technology deepens customer engagement.
TeleTech recommends the addition of technology to any company’s contact center strategy because it provides the ability to focus more on the customer and less on the work involved in maintaining this aspect of a business.
First, technology can provide a way to speed up the wait time for customers. One of the ways it can do this is by offering online content that addresses some of the most typical issues customers reach out to the center for help with. Live chat functionality is another option that prevents customers from being on hold.
Second, technology can also automate part of the customer contact process through the addition of artificial intelligence and can provide new insights that improve how the contact representative approaches each customer. AI has been a driving factor of innovation for many industries, and it has increased companies’ abilities to take full advantage of the torrent of data available today.
TeleTech Chief Revenue Officer Judi Hand explains, “Companies live in a world of data overdrive, with access to thousands of data points at their disposal. Viewed on their own, each point means little to nothing. When you can connect the dots to understand the intent, brands can take immediate action and become exponentially more effective at finding, reaching, and selling to the right audience in a fraction of the time.”
This capability not only makes the customer feel he’s had an exceptional experience, but it also solidifies the brand attributes in his mind and deepens that loyalty every brand wants.
Adding customer experience management tools.
Customer experience management, known as CEM, is a means of monitoring and analyzing customer interaction. While many call center companies have yet to truly leverage analytics, those that have strong relationships with their customers have used these types of tools to assess their customer interaction processes and look for ways to improve the experiences.
These CEM tools can provide ways to analyze conversations, including word choice and customer reactions to a call center representative’s tone and delivery. Monitoring these calls can help to identify patterns that should be the focus of performance improvement. In this way, training becomes a much more efficient and effective process that helps your customer service agents understand how to interact in the way that yields the best experience.
Understanding the benefits before implementing customer engagement strategies.
TeleTech advises that any of the aforementioned technologies be integrated thoughtfully. Understanding both the positive aspects and potential pitfalls of any new technology is an essential step — one that’s often overlooked in favor of rushed implementation. Call center companies are now transforming themselves into customer experience experts and learning to balance automation with the human touch for engaging and satisfying customer experiences.
To do this in your own business, TeleTech recommends seeking a partner who can provide the technology and framework to help you analyze your customer needs and identify key engagement opportunities. Implement technology solutions that allow you to maximize the return on these opportunities while targeting the most important aspects of performance.
Calling people to ask for help in solving a problem will likely never make anyone’s list of favorite things to do. By adding technology to their arsenals and putting the focus on improving the customer experience, however, companies can find themselves making people’s short list of positive contact center experiences. That means more repeat customers -- and maybe even a customer medal or two.