As technology continues to infiltrate and streamline business processes, companies across the spectrum of services are flooded with solutions that enable efficiencies and deliver increased value for their clients. From cloud-based platforms to customer service providers and technology consultants, the list of available support services runs deep and, at times, can become overwhelming for company leadership.
Now more than ever, it is imperative that contact centers demonstrate their value beyond the traditional scope of customer service and telephonic communications to include the growing array of business solutions their clients require and their infrastructure supports. Expanding the services provided by a contact center helps position it as a “one-stop shop” for clients, whose needs may range from disaster recovery and data management to large-volume mailings and product recalls.
The following is a road map for contact center leadership who want to increase value for their clients by expanding their business solutions.
Potential Business Solutions
There is no shortage of services and solutions that a contact center’s infrastructure can support. Its sophisticated security procedures, robust training programs, customer service expertise and consistent quality assurance protocols underpin its capacity to expand beyond traditional inbound and outbound calls and electronic communications to deliver the following business solutions to existing clients while expanding visibility in new markets.
Disaster Recovery: The contact center should be an integral part of any organization’s disaster recovery plan. Centers that launch emergency call center services, and subsequently counsel their clients on the importance of investing in those capabilities proactively, position themselves as a multidisciplinary partner and trusted advisor.
Data Management & Protection: Contact centers are already known for their highly sophisticated data protection mechanisms. With the right team and training, that data security expertise can be offered as a standalone business solution, enabling clients to keep both their data protection and customer services needs under one roof, creating efficiencies with minimal effort.
Payment Distribution: When companies are faced with legal settlements or make mistakes that negatively impact their customers financially, contact centers have the expertise to both identify potential class members through traditional and digital methods and process consumer payments quickly and across a diverse geography.
Printing & Mailing: With the right combination of infrastructure and vendor networks, contact center leadership can utilize their space and communications expertise to fulfill large-scale print orders and conduct sizable mail or email campaigns, becoming a go-to resource for clients, regardless of industry.
Food and Product Recalls: When a matter of widespread consumer health and safety arises, rapid response is often needed. Contact centers have the built-in bandwidth to ramp up quickly, reach large and diverse audiences, and respond to an influx of customer inquiries accurately and in real time.
While existing contact center infrastructure may suffice to get some business solutions off the ground, other programs will require unique considerations, particularly those launched for clients in the legal or financial spaces, whose programs often necessitate strict security measures. Those and other concerns should be addressed prior to launching a new business solution.
Technology: Before introducing any new, client-facing service, contact centers must ensure their own technology networks are secure and up-to-date. In-house technology should include both digital and analog communications channels and be capable of connecting physical operations to satellite locations, ensuring business continuity in the event of natural disasters or other threats. Likewise, proven protocols for backing up and storing critical company and client data, both digitally and offsite, should be current and tested routinely.
Physical Space: Leadership must consider how space is utilized in the center and whether it enhances or impedes security and accessibility. Are computers facing exterior windows? Are work stations free from clutter, writing utensils, and electronic devices? Can work areas be soloed to limit access in the case of a high-security matter? Answering these questions will put you ahead of your clients, whose sensitive programs may include specific space and security requirements.
Security: With security and data protection top of mind for every business leader, contact center leaders must ensure their centers operate at the forefront of security. Leadership should assess whether existing security protocols are ironclad and enforced uniformly across the board, if unused work stations and printers are locked and monitored, and, above all, if agents understand the company’s security expectations for their actions both at work and in personal time. Equally important are the mechanisms in place to protect employees in the workplace, which may range in nature from video surveillance to onsite security staff.
Contact centers that deliver a consistent, scalable and repeatable customer experience across all business solutions will not only set themselves apart from their competitors, but will more effectively serve and retain the new clients they secure.
Compliance: Prior to launching new services, industry-specific certifications that underpin your center’s expertise should be sought. Data management clients, for example, may require independent verification of internal processes by organizations such as the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, while healthcare organizations may look for validation that HIPAA protocols are respected at all levels of operations. Securing those certifications in advance will set you up for a successful launch while later enhancing your marketing efforts.
Training: Many emerging contact center services require a unique approach to customer service and, subsequently, a unique approach to agent training. For example, agents staffing emergency response programs may benefit from ongoing empathy training, while those staffing food and product recalls may need supplemental, industry-specific instruction. Identify the knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) that will make agents successful in the programs you plan to launch, and design customized training programs to achieve those KSAs. Take care, however, not to overlook the fundamentals—it is equally important to train on the basics of a new industry within which your contact center is working so agents have the confidence that comes with a 360-degree understanding of their roles and responsibilities.
Quality Assurance: There is more than one way to address quality assurance in the contact center, particularly as service capabilities expand and new clients are engaged. Build flexibility into your QA processes by offering several options that enable a varied level of client involvement. This may include a hands-on approach to the development and refinement of KPIs for some clients, and a less collaborative approach for others, who may prefer daily or weekly reports prepared by QA teams.
Marketing any new business service can pose challenges for business development teams, but a customized and participative approach will convert existing contact center customers into long-term business partners and help grow your network of clients.
Existing clients: When expanding into a new service, existing clients of the contact center represent an enormous business development opportunity. These customers know your people, your capabilities and your ability to deliver results, so they are more likely than new clients to turn over business from another provider to your contact center. Engage them first, and consider tailoring a new service to meet their specific needs.
Contracts: New clients, more so than repeat partners, require flexibility when working with a service provider for the first time, especially if that provider has recently launched a specific service or solution. Consider offering a month-to-month contract option or building a 30-day cancellation into the agreement, giving new clients an added incentive to work with your organization and providing your organization the chance to showcase its value.
Sensitivities: In this viral age, the last thing you want to do is become susceptible to criticism for how your contact center markets its solutions, particularly those that are sensitive, such as a crisis management or emergency response programs. Assemble a task force composed of members from different work teams and levels within the organization to weigh in on marketing materials and messaging. When in doubt, leverage data above emotionally driven content to avoid appearing self-serving.
Position the Center as a Go-To Resource
In today’s digital world, industries are shifting and business needs are in a state of constant change and evolution. The contact center is no exception.
The one thing that remains consistent is the need for experienced communications professionals to liaise between companies and their customers, an area in which the contact center has demonstrated expertise for several decades. There has never been a better time for contact center leadership to explore expanded business solutions that will position their companies as trusted advisors and go-to resources for clients across an array of business needs and functions. A detailed review of and investment in the contact center’s infrastructure, operations, people and marketing will pay dividends in the long run, both for the contact center and its customers.