Off Center
When I came into this industry as an eager young journalist way back in 1994, the call center wasn’t sexy. It wore a frumpy dress, horned-rim glasses and sensible shoes. It was sturdy and reliable, but by and large was overlooked by the rest of the organization. Sure, there were some inbound centers that handled sales in addition to customer service, but few generated enough revenue to get invited to sit and eat at the popular kids’ table.

The call center helped plan the school prom, but rarely if ever got asked to go to it.

That was then. This is now. In today’s ultra-competitive business climate where there exists so much parity in available products and offerings, the differentiating factor is often the service and support the customer receives. Customers have tons of viable choices when it comes to which product to buy, what account to open, what policy to purchase, what airline to fly, and what hotel to sleep in. What typically tips the scales today and keeps these customers loyal for life is not what they see during a television ad, or read in a magazine, or hear on the radio; nor is price alone a determinant factor. No, what turns a potential or existing customer into a company advocate is what they experience when they contact your organization:

·      How long do they have to wait in queue when calling to reach a live agent?
·      How long do they have to wait to receive a response after sending an email or initiating a chat session -- or, gulp, firing off an angry tweet.
·      Once reached, how friendly, empathetic, engaged and knowledgeable is the agent, and how quickly is the agent able to provide the information needed?
·      How easy is it to use your IVR and web self-service apps (when self-service is what the customer chooses)?
·      How personalized is the overall experience when interacting with the agent/application in question?
·      How adept is your company at anticipating the customer’s needs?
·      How accountable is your company when it has made a mistake or fallen short of customer expectations?
·      How much does your company care about the customer?
·      How much does your company care about itself?

As you can see, the contact center – or the call center, or whatever you want to call this place where millions of customers interact with your company – not only has an impact on customer loyalty and overall business success; it has perhaps the biggest impact.

And let’s not forget the impact that the contact center has internally on the rest of the enterprise. No other area in the company has the capability to capture even a fraction of the data, expectations, desires and behavioral trends of customers – who are, in essence, the lifeblood of any organization. Once captured and shared within the enterprise, such invaluable information and insight makes Marketing, Sales, Research & Development and plenty of other departments a collective force to be reckoned with.

And the beauty of it all is that the contact center hasn’t let its increased power and popularity go to its head. It doesn’t strut around talking about its importance and value; rather it works very hard at demonstrating it. And it doesn’t ask for all the credit whenever lilting customer satisfaction is converted into lifetime customer loyalty, nor when revenue shoots through the roof due to highly consistent and positive customer experiences.

No, it doesn’t ask for such recognition; but unlike in years past, it’s starting to get plenty of it.

And deservedly so.

Note: This post was taken from the closing chapter of my book, Full Contact: Contact Center Practices & Strategies that Make an Impact. To learn more about Full Contact, check out the following link:

9/1/2011 11:20:11 pm

I feel sexier already! Thanks, Greg- this was really good.

9/1/2011 11:27:24 pm

My pleasure, Ellen. Way to get your customer care groove back.

Thanks for reading!



9/2/2011 12:45:07 am

Another great GL article combining history, sex appeal, prom memories and the tough questions every company should ask themselves. It takes a tough call center manager to make a tender customer experience!

9/2/2011 01:11:28 am

Thanks, JR. I'm just doing my part to bring sexy back to contact center management. Oh, wait, it never was sexy before.

Then I guess I'm just spreading the word about it's sleek new Fall look.

I appreciate your comments!




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