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Six (Not so Obvious) Ways Contact Centers Will Transform in 2014

We can agree that several customer experience trends, such as the rapid use of mobile applications; SMS for customer service; and leveraging unstructured data for predictive insights are all being implemented as we enter into 2014.  However, there are some controversial points worth considering when building strategies to improve the customer experience as they are debated within your organization.

The 4 P’s are becoming irrelevant!

While consumers still determine value from the 4 P’s (product, price, place and promotion), their purchasing decision is now influenced by the context of the experience associated with buying and using the service.  Most importantly, this experience is largely shaped and magnified through the voices of the public’s shared perception.

For example, the price and product features of a cell phone may draw your initial interest but those features become far less influential when an online rating community evaluates the value for your brand based on personal experiences. Rating engines aggregate and publicly amplify perceived value now based more on intangible experiences, like ordering ease and the quality of the customer service, rather than price to feature ratios.  If you are like the 80% of American’s surveyed, an anonymous reviewer from the other side of the country has influenced a change in your purchase decision 1.

It’s because of this shift in the decision making process, and the technology that makes it easy to intensify the public opinion, that the contact center is changing as well. Once seen as a cost of doing business, the contact center is now a significant competitive differentiator.  Providing remarkable customer service is no longer a subtle advantage but a critical component of your brand’s viability.

Measure Experience vs. Cost

In 2014, contact centers will change the way success is measured as the metrics evolve from merely satisfying a customer to “Wowing” a customer.  This will mean focusing less on the average handle time of an interaction and more on the quality of experience delivered. The focus will be on turning consumers into raving fans rather than counting the minutes it takes to complete an interaction.  With this quality process shift, there will be a domino effect, changing  the recruiting process, culture and knowledge transfers.

A high-quality contact center has become a valuable asset  with the growing responsibility to create a share-worthy customer experiences. By exceeding expectations, the customer is more likely to share a positive review of their experience, creating a trusted digital advertisement for your brand.  Key indicators such as feedback, online sentiment, organic revenue and even phone silence are some measurements that should be on your radar to determine if you are on the right path.

Conquest via Social

Customer experiences, good or bad, are not all about you.  Your brand is constantly being compared to competitors, or even worse, not being thought of at all.

In 2014, there will be a major shift in how brands use social media to sway customers. Companies will use social technology to collect data, potentially leveraging competitor errors or gaps to their advantage.  For example, let’s say you are a high-end hotel chain and you uncover an influential tweeter mentioning a poor experience with your competitor. Why not send this customer an incentive to stay at your hotel?

By connecting in new social channels, you can acknowledge dissatisfied customers and start to build new relationships, giving them have a chance to try out what you have to offer.

Focus on an Empowered Culture vs. Efficiencies

Striving for a sustainable customer-centric experience requires a deep dive into a supporting company culture.  The simple fact is you cannot sustain a remarkable customer experience unless it is embedded into your leadership and reward structure. In 2014, a dramatic exchange from a low-cost contact center environment to a high-value, engagement center will take place, disrupting the traditional perception of the outsourcer.

A shift from militant driven efficiency metrics to a vision/purpose driven environment that rewards ideal outcomes begins with recruiting the right people through the training of your leaders.  Team leaders and executives have a primary responsibility to remove any roadblocks that deter front line team members from providing a memorable experience to the customer. This ensures that the needs of the highest priority, the customer, are being served.  With empowered representatives, the focus is no longer on strategies to keep costs low, but to simplify processes, going above and beyond and provide an engaging experience.

Shift Advertising Budget to Customer Service Budget

Customer experience isn’t just something that impacts your brand but it now is your brand. Some of the most successful brands, like Zappos and Starbucks, grew their brand with very little traditional advertising.  Now they are a few of the most profitable and respected companies, best known for their customer-centric culture and service success stories.

Fewer than 50% of people surveyed in a recent Nielson study still said they find paid traditional advertising credible.  Those numbers however are down 24% since 20092. Compare that to 92% that trust recommendations from friends and family, which is up 18%. So 9 out of every 10 global consumers seek out a non-biased recommendation from their networks. The intriguing part is that it is not just Facebook.  There are over 250 million blogs, forums and review sites that make it easy to share experiences within minutes of a positive or negative engagement.

With companies needing to make resource-allocation decisions, I foresee advertising budgets reallocated into the customer experience department. While there is no formula for success in word-of mouth marketing, supporting a high quality, customer service department that can quickly resolve issues, build a relationship, and make the customer happy, will earn a customer’s recommendation and positive review over a billboard ad.

Mass Adoption of Predictive Analytics for Intelligent Call Routing

The way the customer identifies with what your company values, the more loyal they will become. As leading brands revolutionize new technologies to personalize the experience, the market has become more demanding for personalized experiences.

Being able to understand how to effectively use third party and enterprise data will enable your brand to put predictive analytics into action. Moving into 2014, the contact center will place value on mining big data into useful pieces of information. This will give tremendous potential for companies to create a more personalized and intimate relationship with the customer, increasing brand loyalty.  This marks a fundamental shift in how your customers expect to be served.

The customer experience has, and will, continue to grow as a top strategic priority.  This investment and focus makes the contact center more valuable as new and controversial paths shape the expectations and needs of the customer.

In what ways will your business change its customer service strategy in 2014?

  1. Reed,F. (Aug 2011) 80 Percent of Shoppers Change Purchase Decision. Marketing Pilgrim. Retrieved 11/26/13. From http://www.marketingpilgrim.com/2011/08/80-percent-of-shoppers-change-purchase-decision-based-on-negative-reviews-research.html
  2. A Nielsen Report. (April 2012) Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messaging. Nielsen Report. Retrieved 12/17/13. From http://www.rewardstream.com/92-of-consumers-trust-word-of-mouth/

Published by

Pete Schmitt

Peter Schmitt is the Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer of Dialog Direct, where he provides strategy formulation and execution across multiple business units. Pete has a passion for leading ideas through to commercialization, which led him to achieve a successful track record for growing start-ups, managing turnarounds and leading large corporate transformations.

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