Home // Blog

Contact Centers Play a Strategic Role in Customer Relationships

According to recent research by Customer Management IQ, the top strategic goal for business leaders in 2013 is improving customer relationship management processes, followed closely by increasing customer loyalty. Your contact center is the front-line team that can help your company to reach these goals.

Although 63.5 percent of executives stated they were on track to reach their 2013 goals, the research also found several conflicts that could jeopardize successful outcomes:

41.8 percent of business executives struggle to define a strategic value for the contact center

This response could be due to the traditional view of contact centers as a necessary cost, rather than a valuable asset that drives business. But, with more and more of banking interactions taking place away from the branch in online channels, deposits by mail, and ATMs, your contact center could be the only true “human” interaction that your customers have with your institution in the future.

When you consider that a 3-minute call can make or break a customer relationship, it’s time for business leaders to develop a swift appreciation for the role the contact center plays in achieving business objectives. From onboarding new customers to resolving issues and encouraging the adoption of additional products, contact center agents are instrumental in creating customer satisfaction moments that evolve into increased customer loyalty.

31.9 percent of contact centers do not know, or are not aligned with, their company’s strategic goals

Quite frankly, this response is disappointing given the focus on customer management and the direct relationship that contact centers have with customers. Then again, the survey also found that communications between divisions and across the enterprise were not coalescing well toward overall alignment. If financial services institutions are to delight customers with exceptional experiences, then getting everyone on the same page and aligned around defined business objectives must be a higher priority.

However, when reviewing The State of Customer Experience 2012, research conducted by Forrester, it appears that companies are focusing on the hot trends—mobile and online—more so than improving human interactions that take place in the contact center. The report states, “Despite the number of customers who still call companies to get help (often after bad digital experiences), only 43% of respondents said that they plan to improve the agent experience.” By ignoring the 1-to-1 personalized conversations that create memorable customer experiences, organizations may be unwittingly diminishing customer loyalty.

Customer Relationships Require Investment

Even though the CMIQ study found challenges and conflicts, the top investment that organizations will make to reach their customer-focused goals in 2013 is in people skills and training. In fact, 27.3 percent of survey participants said they’d invest up to 35 percent of budgets in this area. And, overall, 44.5 percent said they’d invest in improving contact center processes. If applied to improve customer relationships in alignment with business objectives, organizations will find an improved ability to meet their top-priority goals.

The nature of customer calls is changing with the proliferation of service channels and their adoption by customers. In other words, the simpler issues are increasingly being solved through self-service options. One executive stated during a leadership roundtable that 60 percent of inbound calls to his contact center are problem calls that are growing in complexity—along with the products his company sells.

Banking products also have high levels of complexity that customers need help to understand. Lines of business should be concerned with enabling contact center agents to do so with higher levels of competence. With agent-driven customer learning comes the confidence that builds better customer relationships.

Making assumptions about what customers want can often miss the mark. Jose Vasquez Mendez, VP and General Manager of World Service Latin America for American Express found just such a situation when the company offered its clientele customer service via email with a 48-hour turnaround. What they thought would answer the need for a digital channel missed the mark with customers who expected either real-time chat or the ability to self-service their needs through a more robust experience on the website. He chose not to eliminate the channel, but to add staff to reduce turnaround time and provide coverage 24/7.

It’s important to realize that, after exhausting all self-serve options, customers turn to the contact center, and not always in the best of spirits. The ability to defuse emotionally charged situations, handle issue resolution and even help customers learn how to solve the issue through another channel in the future plays a growing role in an organization’s ability to satisfy and retain customers.  Contact centers provide the inside track to the voice of the customer; insights that can be used to determine how customer experience impacts business objectives.