Our final installment of the differentiator series is perhaps the most important for customer service leadership. Our topic is selling and promoting the contact center. This activity starts at the highest levels, and the objective is to help all key decision-makers understand how valuable a contact center is to a successful enterprise.
Getting to this point starts with two related facts:
- Many organizations do not automatically consider customer service operations to be highly valued.
- To be a high-performing contact center, it is absolutely crucial to be highly valued by the enterprise.
The importance of being valued by the enterprise lies in the ability to enable critical success factors. Want a stable, high-functioning team of agents? The contact center has to be highly valued by the enterprise in order to provide the culture and compensation that attracts and holds on to the best available staff. Want great technology? The enterprise will only invest in projects that can generate the greatest payback. Want a voice in building long-term corporate strategy? Seats at this table are reserved for those with a proven track record in delivering where it matters most. For these and other reasons, it becomes imperative to demonstrate that the contact center is one of the places within the enterprise that matters most.
Ask anyone in the C-wing if they want high customer satisfaction scores, and you will hear a resounding “yes.” Ask each executive how much he or she is willing to invest to get there, and the answers will vary greatly. Some organizational leaders are fully bought into the long-term benefits of satisfied customers, but others need proof.
Step one for demonstrating value addresses this from an analytical perspective, making sure that the connection between satisfaction ratings and other highly prized metrics is clear and strong. For instance, consider:
- How much do highly satisfied customers spend each year compared to those only nominally satisfied (or unsatisfied)?
- How much longer do the highly satisfied remain customers?
- How much advocacy do those customers provide on social media sites?
The goal here is to link a data point whose value is subjective (customer satisfaction score) with ones that are firmly established and accepted as critical within the organization. The analysis takes some time and effort, but the end result should be verifiable links that can be headlined into clear, easy-to-repeat sound bites: “Highly satisfied customers spend, on average, $237 more per year,” or “Typical customers stay with us 2.4 years, while highly satisfied customers last 5.7.” Those types of relationships are both memorable and irrefutable.
Demonstrating Value, Step 2: Provide Real-Life Examples
The analytics in Step 1 are necessary, but they still leave unanswered the question of what it takes, in terms of people, process and technology, to deliver those impressive metrics. The second step in demonstrating value is to bring the customer into the discussion to provide real-life examples of the current state of service. The focus here is on providing a view of what happens when the right ingredients are not in place, and no one is in a better position to express this than the customer.
Since nearly every contact center records calls, and nearly every enterprise has a social media presence, it is relatively easy to get the voice of the customer injected into high-level meetings. Some critical testimonials are helpful, especially when they are well-written and detailed enough to provide specific insights. But even more impactful are call recordings. Hearing the frustration in a customer’s voice sends a powerful message that lingers in the minds of executives.
Of course, no one in the C-Wing has the time to sit there listening to call upon call waiting for a nugget of wisdom to appear. Contact center leaders have to do their homework in order to make the most of available time. Snippets of call recordings, organized by topic, can be one of the most valuable resources for exerting influence. The topics should be tightly aligned with improvements needed in the center. Some examples include:
- Recordings of natural language errors that support the need to upgrade an IVR
- Clips of agents trying to fill time because computer response time is so slow
- Complaints from customers related to a pricing or return policy
Common to the above examples is the reality that the contact center can only get so far with the current people, process and technology. This busts the myth that you can reach the highest levels of satisfaction without investing in change.
It’s simply not enough to get executives to agree that customer satisfaction is important. To differentiate yourself, enterprise leaders have to understand how important it is, and what it takes to consistently deliver success in a contact center. Maintaining an appropriate investment in customer service is the best sign that the center is valued, and while being highly valued does not guarantee success, the lack of it is an obstacle that guarantees mediocrity.
This concludes our five-part series on the factors that differentiate the greatest contact centers from the “also-rans.” With so many industries converging in terms of product and pricing, the ability to deliver exceptional service will continue to receive more attention in the future. The differentiators in this series—balanced analytics, engaged agents, optimized exceptions, properly ordered priorities and a valued contact center—all require some ramp-up time. There is no time better than the present to get started.