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How New Technologies Necessitate Customer Care Collaboration

This post originally appeared on the Call Center Demo and Conference website.

The always-on, connected, emancipated customer of 2013 is a demanding force. Consumers are empowered through technology like never before; enterprises need to be empowered to keep up. And again, technology can help.

Two relatively recent developments mean a disruption to any company that takes customer care seriously (and not doing that is risky these days - for most industries, anyway):

  1. Mobile access to information and data
  2. Mobile access to the opinion and knowledge of others

Mobile truly means anywhere, and anytime. This is what smartphones have brought about. And according to Gartner, smartphones have surpassed worldwide feature phone sales for the first time in Q2 of 2013 (http://www.gartner.com/newsroom/id/2573415) - they are here to stay.

Smartphones allow customers to find product and service descriptions, pricing, availability when shopping, and access to a vast database of solutions and answers when needing help. They also enable access to both customer and business data, via self-service options through the voice or visual channels provided by the business.

The hardware revolution of the modern, touch-enabled smartphone also meant the breakthrough of social networks. Mobile and desktop operating systems now integrate them for convenient and ubiquitous access, so do websites. The availability of social networks through mobile devices enable the mobile customer to get feedback and answers from friends and strangers alike, often instantaneously.

What does all this mean for customer care?

Companies have no choice but to follow the consumerization of IT, something that used to happen the other way around: in the past, technological advancements took place in the enterprise or academia and then made it into mainstream. This has flipped around. Enterprises are well advised to implement what makes everyone's daily life so much easier today: mobility, social networks, and ubiquitous access.

When a customer calls or chats or tweets into a contact center, they expect to talk to a 100% empowered representative - equipped with knowledge of the customer themselves, their purchase and contact history, and the particular problem at hand, but even more so equipped with knowledge of the products and services the customer is calling about. How? Through access to structurally the same resources the customer has: a social network within the enterprise that puts the agent in touch with experts in the company, wherever they are. Absence from the work desk should not equate unavailability.

Even more importantly, though, companies need to break up the organizational silos that exist in every enterprise: IT, Marketing, LOBs, Product Management, Customer Care. Today, "everyone is in customer care". The contact center is no longer just managing phone calls and answering customer questions. The contact center becomes the epicenter of information flow and information exchange with the customer, no matter what the medium or channel is. The contact center engages with the customer on all levels.

This disruption is facilitated by technological advancements:

  • Social networks force marketing closer to customer care
  • Mobile apps bring IT closer to marketing and customer care (customers need a seamless handover from mobile self-service to the contact center)
  • WebRTC (enabling customers to have a phone/video call with an agent through a click of a button, right within a website without the need for a download or a pop-up) will bring IT and marketing closer to customer care

Suddenly, company departments that had clearly defined touch points and delineation of responsibility need to collaborate to jointly improve the customer experience. No new customer care programs can be rolled out in a vacuum anymore. Marketing, IT, and the contact center not talking to each other or not being aligned will create a communication disaster easily uncovered by the emancipated and knowledgable consumer.

To paraphrase Darwin: “It is not the (financially) strongest of the companies that survives, nor the most intelligent (having hired brainpower), but the one most responsive to change.”