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Contact Centers Turning Into Ambassadors

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The business contact center has been evolving and gaining prominence in the past several years. These transformations have largely been attributed to the rapidly changing IT landscape, as people are no longer only using voice to communicate. This basic concept has even changed the name "call center" to "contact center" because of the vast collaborative platforms that are now being used in and outside of the workplace. Meanwhile, the anytime connectivity capabilities that have been presented to consumers through cloud, mobile and social technologies have made contact center operations even more important, as failing to get in contact and resolve issues pertaining to prospective or existing customers on the first try will encourage individuals to go elsewhere for business.

In essence, the contact center has become the business ambassador for most consumers. A recent Jabra report highlighted this trend, noting that decision-makers need to ensure their customer service and communication strategies stay on pace with demand. While this may be an uphill battle, it is essential that companies of all sizes evolve to keep up or they risk losing any potential competitive advantage they may have had.

"We recognize the trend and appreciate the acknowledgment of the significant role of the contact center. We believe that contact center agents are major contributors in safeguarding brand perception and by making this value-add tangible will clearly demonstrate their role as brand ambassadors alongside marketing," said Holger Reisinger, vice president of marketing, products and alliances at Jabra.

In the coming years, company contact centers will become "brand guardians" and shift their focus to emphasize customer experience. This will not only improve client attraction and retention rates, but it will also give enterprises new opportunities to build more robust revenue streams and gain advantages over rival organizations that are not revamping contact center processes.

Focusing On The Right Metrics

When the global economy took a downward turn, the majority of businesses began to prioritize projects that focused on cutting expenses. In the past, many organizations immediately took a look at the contact center, realizing that the use of old phone systems and inefficient technologies were often costing more money to implement than decision-makers would like to admit. By transforming operations within the customer service department, companies thought they would be able to reduce expenditures and improve revenue.

In many cases, executives tried to cut call times in the contact center. While it is true that reducing customer handling time can cut back on expenses, doing so may inadvertently introduce customer dissatisfaction levels, Jabra reported. If clients only temporarily resolve issues, they will either come back for future queries - countering any savings associated with solving problems on the first go - or they will take up the notion that companies do not care about them and take their business elsewhere.

Instead of trying to cut call times at all costs, decision-makers should encourage employees to try to solve issues on the first try.

"What customers want right now is to be helped as fast and effectively as possible. So the agent needs to be effective, efficient and proficient about it - it is not about how long it takes the customer service agent afterwards, but about helping the customer as soon as possible," said Sarah Stealey Reed, content director at International Customer Manager Institute.

A separate Oracle study highlighted how 81 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for a superior customer experience. In fact, 70 percent of people said they stopped doing business with a specific brand because of a bad experience, while another 92 percent admitted to going straight to a competing brand.

The survey also revealed that roughly 82 percent of customers believe their experiences with companies require too much effort, suggesting that contact centers and communications need to prioritize ease-of-use and efficiency if companies want to attract and retain clients.

"Our report has made one thing absolutely clear: getting customer experience right can help increase revenue and win customers away from competing organizations. By creating a consistent and connected experience across all points of customer contact - including the increasingly important social channel - businesses can clearly differentiate themselves and build priceless brand capital," said Dany Rippon, director of CRM business solutions at Oracle.

In the coming years, businesses around the world need to consider updating their contact center operations. In some instances, this will require firms to replace old phone systems with more innovative and up-to-date offerings that meet the needs of today's consumers. Other companies will be able to implement simple training programs to ensure service representatives have the skills to effectively manage incoming queries and resolve issues on the first try in a timely manner.

Because every company is different, executives will find augmenting contact center practices is unique to their organizations. Nevertheless, one thing is for certain: Enterprises need to prioritize customer service.