Improving the customer experience — whether the customers are businesses or consumers — has become an imperative for today’s companies. Yet poor customer experiences deluge the contact center industry, potentially tainting the manufacturer, distributor and other aspects of the product’s supply chain.
The growing global contact center market, which caters to both business and consumer customers, is a US$339.4 billion industry, according to a report by Global Industry Analysts, a San Jose, California-based research firm. Contact center queries and complaints are often an extension of last-mile deliveries gone sour. A disgruntled customer making a contact center call will connect with a representative already standing on the proverbial wrong foot.
Justin Young, an enterprise contact center specialist with Twilio, a global customer engagement software company, equated the initial customer contact center interaction to “entering the front door to the organization.” Speaking during a recent webinar, “Enhancing the Customer Experience,” he added that this first point of contact has an opportunity to gain customer loyalty — or lose it, forever.
During the webinar, he and fellow Twilio associate, Timothy Percoraro, discussed the challenges contact centers face and how they can compromise business brand integrity as well as considerations for companies, including supply management organizations, thinking of setting up internal contact centers or contracting with a third party.
Defining the Disconnect
While the recommended industry standard for contact center wait times is no more than 20 seconds, the reality is far different, said Percoraro. “Long wait times, with no options for callers to hold their spot while waiting or provide a call back option is negatively impactful,” he said. Because data is rarely shared between one contact center agent to the next, he said, customers are forced to repeat their information, creating a sense of not being heard or that they don’t matter.
Many contact centers use automation, Young said, and “using a complicated interactive voice response system can test the caller’s patience, (so such systems) shouldn’t be more than three layers deep.” Once a customer connects with an agent, he said, knowledge about company offerings is important. If agents are untrained, they can’t facilitate customer solutions, he said.
Successful Contact Centers Touch People
Weaving in humanness throughout customer communications is imperative to contact center success, the two said. Most customer engagement is because of an issue the customer wants resolved, Percoraro said.
“It’s all about personalization,” he said. Customization is crucial to customer service success, adding that “contact centers are not one-size-fits-all. Customer demographics can change call to call and, more often, with a global contact center. Culture can dictate differences in behavior, what’s accepted and what’s expected.”
Scalable and autonomous systems that support memorable and dynamic interactions serve businesses and customers best, he said.
Businesses can “own their customer experience roadmap,” Young said, emphasizing the need for agility executed through personalization, system connectivity and data organization, through a well-orchestrated artificial intelligence (AI) platform.
“Having a single-source solution increases brand integrity and customer engagement,” he said. When an agent can access a centralized data hub with individual customer profiles containing prior contact notes and purchase information, these are conversation door openers, he said. “Now problem-solving nurtures customer relationships, building brand trust and additional purchasing power.”
Additionally, when an agent asks about a past product experience, this can provide an upsell opportunity or recommendation. This way, the contact center becomes a profit center, Young and Percoraro said.
Calling on Data-Driven Customer Solutions
The right platform should include scalability for growth and integrated responsiveness when disruption strikes. A “build versus buy” solution is the go-to, Young said, as no off-the-shelf solution caters to every business need.
Without a rapid response solution, the downtime is costly to customer retention, he said.
Data gathering is also useful in discovering customer personas and preferences. With this information, accessible in real time, contact centers can meet customers where they are in their product journeys and anticipate next steps.
Age demographics often align with online user behavior as well as inside the contact center. In building the optimal contact center of the future, Percoraro recommended the use of community forums like Reddit and other social channels that appeal to Generation Z and millennials. He added, “A positive customer experience entails short wait times, sharing and meeting wait time expectations, and consistent platform connectivity and data — accessible from agent to agent.”
By valuing strategic thought and applying it to intuitive systems, Young said, agent communication will become more appropriate, on point and appreciated by customers. “Artificial intelligence and conversational bots enable knowledge-based interaction and responses, improving the customer experience,” he said.