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5 Ways to Make the Contact Center a Strategic Growth Engine

Despite persistent uncertainty in the broader economy, smart CIOs and executives are making critical long-term investment in customer experience because satisfied, loyal customers are a critical corporate asset and an engine for revenue growth. A recent survey by Accenture found that two out of three consumers switched companies as a result of poor customer service in 2011 – even as their satisfaction with the services provided by those companies rose.

The most recent American Express Global Customer Service Barometer reported that 75 percent of US consumers have spent more with a company because of a history of positive customer service experiences, and the average US consumer is willing to spend 13 percent more with a company that provides excellent service. With these realities in mind, executives should consider their contact center to be a long-term, sustainable investment in the current and future growth of their company. The reality of this hyper-competitive environment brings both challenges and opportunities for companies that are serious about improving their engagement with customers, their most valuable asset. What follows are five customer experience actions that leaders can make to turn their contact center from a cost center to a revenue driver.

1. Understand the Customer’s Point of View

Do not treat every experience as being of equal impact or value to your customers; it’s a matter of aligning your priorities with your customers. One of the biggest mistakes that companies make is looking to automate what’s painful for the company instead of looking at what is painful for the customers. Learn what the customers really care about, and remember that they demand the same experience regardless of what channel (phone call, social media, chat, etc.) they use. Companies that map their processes—across channels—to their customers “emotional” interests will gain competitive advantage.

2. Focus on Customer Trust

While wait times and speed of service are important metrics in measuring customer satisfaction, companies who want to achieve long-term growth understand that quality of customer experience is paramount. Rather than focusing solely on resolving issues quickly, contact center agents should be trained to identify and seize opportunities to build customer trust. Every contact— whether a call, email, chat, or social interaction—represents a “moment of truth” that can either help to build rapport with a customer or destroy it.

At a minimum, customers expect companies to understand their individual preferences and history. They also expect companies to resolve every interaction not just rapidly, but also personally and positively. Beyond that, customers also expect companies to take all of this knowledge about them to drive new and meaningful value into their ongoing relationships. As the contact center increasingly represents the face of a company in its interactions with customers, it is rapidly becoming the ambassador of the trust relationship.

3. Remember That All Customers Are Not Created Equal

Differentiating your service by customer type and value is critical to maintaining competitive advantage and long term success for companies – it’s good for your customers and good for your future growth. A recent Accenture study found that companies that have optimized their customer support channels to differentiate service by customer value have increased revenues by two percent while reducing their operating costs by eight percent.

If you’re serious about improving your top and bottom lines, you need to maximize the lifetime value of your customers while simultaneously minimizing the cost of each interaction. When considering the value of your customers and how to tailor service accordingly, keep in mind that recent studies have shown that multi-channel customers in a variety of industries are substantially more profitable than single-channel customers.

4. Establish and Maintain a Coaching Program

The challenge that most companies face is not a lack of coaching, but rather ineffective and inconsistent coaching. It is important to teach appropriate coaching techniques through an organized, structured training program in which all employees participate. The most effective training programs should encompass coaching, performance management and communications and ultimately be customer-focused. Take advantage of your customer data—both positive and negative—to provide immediate feedback by initiating coaching events based on actual customer sentiment. An effective coaching program is a key ingredient that can reduce attrition costs, enhance customer satisfaction, and drive bottom-line revenue.

5. Move to the Cloud

Businesses around the world—from small to international enterprises—are turning to the cloud to cost-effectively address critical service initiatives that they could not solve with their existing, expensive and inflexible premise–based solutions. In these days with reduced capital budgets and customers with more voice, choice, and expectations than ever before, every fiscally responsible and growth-minded leader should consider the benefits of the cloud, particularly when it comes to financial returns. In fact, recent research from Frost and Sullivan demonstrates that you can reduce your contact center’s total cost of ownership by as much as 58 percent with the cloud. As you move more contact center and CRM apps to the cloud, the greater the cost savings you realize become.