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Four Critical Questions Chief Customer Officers Should Ask

As global business shift operations due to COVID-19, customer care leaders face several challenges, especially for those who serve customers via contact centers and back office sites.  

Looking at the speed at which global restrictions and lockdowns were imposed across many organizations in March 2020 come many questions which spur strategic shifts. Here are four key questions a Chief Customer Officer (CCO) should seek answers to in the face of continuing disruption. 

Question 1: How Should We Interact with Our Customers Going Forward? 

Customers reach companies through multiple channels and typically a disruption to a physical site is easily directed elsewhere – phone, website, apps, etc. And in the case of contact center disruptionthe solution is to mitigate through routing to another site. But what happens when the traditional alternatives are disrupted all at once?  

Then you’re faced with long hold times, rescheduled appointments, or the same message asking customers to wait.  

We suggest the CCO consider how to diversify contact channels forever. With a fully diversified contact portfolio in place, companies can tap multiple resources to maintain service channels. For example, replace disrupted calls with chats, closed brick-and-mortar with online contacts, deploy self-service mechanisms via an app, website or device, or handle repeatable processes with automation over live contact – such as travel booking cancellations, event refunds, etc. 

Question 2: From Where Should We Serve Our Customers? 

This second question is especially important in the context of contact and business process centers. Over the past 25 years, many companies have moved millions of jobs and operations to overseas locations, getting both a cost and effectiveness advantage. They have also adopted work-at-home service channels but more conservatively in comparison.  

However, the question CCO’s should be asking is are we overly dependent upon one specific geography or overly reliant on bricks and mortar? 

What we’re observing today makes it clear that companies need to implement a balance between physical sites with proper work at home solutions, and between a variety of locations versus a single geography.  

Many of my clients are talking about rebalancing their global footprint and a significant number are planning to keep a significant percentage of their contacts in a work at home capacity. 

Question 3: Who Should Be Serving Our Customers? 

Over the past 30 years, we’ve seen a dynamic growth of the customer care service industry, yet many contact center and business services jobs are still held internally within the company.  

At a seminar earlier this year I asked a CCO expert panel, “Why use an outsourcer to help serve your customers?” The panel consensus was: 1) their expertise; 2) ability to scale; 3) capacity to serve; and 4) flexibility. The COVID-19 situation highlights those answers requiring the CCO to ask, “What proportion of do we keep internaand how much do we outsource?” 

There are distinct advantages to using third party suppliersgeographic diversity, large interconnected networks, a suite of service channels and solutions, and the ability to offer rapid response for business continuity. Companies that I’ve spoken with feel now is the time to establish the right balance between internal and external and are preparing to adjust their percentages accordingly. 

Question 4: What Do Need in My Service Provider Partner? 

As organizations evaluate all parts of their supply chain for the future, my focus is specific to the contact center and business process partnerships as it’s my area of practice. With that, it’s common for companies to use a blend of large and small outsourcers to help handle customer servicebut these current events will help the CCO truly understand what to look for in any variation of a post-crisis world.  

While single solution or smaller partners have their place, many of these will struggle and fail to withstand looming financial challenges or lack a diverse suite of solutions to avoid breakage. And the provider landscape we’ve seen historically, will change significantly over the course of 2020 as outsourcers thrive or disappear depending on their financial strength and their solution sets.  

The CCO should consider several key questions when selecting or growing with a partner going forward 

  1. Are they financially viable? 
  2. Do they have a diverse portfolio of services to offer, including engagement services, self-service capability, data and analytics to measure customer experiences, or critical intelligent automation capability to balance those things humans need to do?  
  3. Are they geographic diverse with a wide, interconnected global footprint? 
  4. Is there well-designed, process driven and properly established work at home long-term solution versus the rapid deployment of temporary ones all companies had to put in place in March 2020? 

Just a note here, converting to a more permanent work at home delivery model will require an experienced player. 

Now is the time for CCO’s to question the direction of customer service even with rolling evolutions ahead of us. The key point is that the future of customer care requires balance – in how your company uses channels, locations, capabilities and in finding the right partner. 

About the Author 

Jim Farnsworth has been helping companies around the world create outstanding customer experiences for nearly three decades and currently serves as Executive Vice President for SYKES. He can be reached via LinkedIn direct message. 

The original format of this article appeared on LinkedIn.