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Bringing it Back Together in 2014: Part 2

It’s hard to believe, but 2014 is already in full swing! The holidays are in the rearview for another year, and that means it’s time to implement on all those great contact center initiatives, resolutions and projects. Not sure where to begin? Perplexed as to where your focus should be? Confused as to which list you should tackle first? Well, perhaps ICMI can help! Last week we rolled out the first three contact center themes of the New Year and today we round out the final ones. Of course these are by no means exhaustive of all the work ahead of us, but hopefully they’ll give you some focused direction!

You can read about the first three themes 1) Creating a Customer Experience Management Culture, 2) The Need for Non-Voice Channels, and 3) Reducing the Data Noise in part one of this article. Throughout 2014 we’ll also be focusing on each of these and their influence on the others.

4. The Impact of Proactive Engagement (The Purpose of Personal Engagement)

Last year I talked about how proactive engagement, whether through automated SMS reminders, outbound calls, or mobile in-app notifications was improving the customer experience, and in some cases reducing inbound volume. Not surprising that these interactions were mostly happening through self-service channels.

In 2014 we are already seeing the subtle shift from proactive service, to anticipatory and personalized service, often by live agents. Essentially it is no longer enough to simply get to the customer before they reach out to you; rather the purpose should be in ‘engaging’ the customer and anticipating their personal needs. As we continue to build out customer journeys and better integrate our customer data with operational insight, those individualized experiences will become more natural for our agents to recognize and produce. As I mentioned earlier, it’s great that self-service can be used to proactively deflect, but now we must train agents to truly complete the engagement cycle.

Bruce Temkin considers anticipatory service one of the Temkin Group’s 14 Customer Experience Trends for 2014.   “Look for companies to route callers to the phone agents who are most likely to help them based on the anticipated reason for the call,” he says.  “Companies will also train front-line employees with different scripts based on anticipating a customer’s needs/interests/emotional style, and will even teach them to proactively recover from service issues before customers can even complain about them by detecting potential changes in customer loyalty.” 

It’s about customer identity and customer personalization in order to create customer engagement.

In an interview I conducted last October with Mariann McDonagh, the CMO of inContact, she expounded on the need for a more personalized customer experience. “As a customer, one personalized proactive experience can completely transform your perception. It transforms the relationship between a brand and the consumer.”

Along with this, I bet we’ll be hearing a lot more about predictive analytics, better CRM systems, and even CTI integrations to aid in these interactions.

ICMI dove into personalizing the customer experience pretty heavily in two recent research reports: A WOW Customer Journey! Actionable Data in Today’s Multichannel Contact Center  and Customer Experience Management in Action! Insight to Differentiate Your Company and Contact Center.

5. Rebalancing the Customer and the Company (Upholding a Unified Experience)

There has been a lot of discussion lately around creating better cohesion between the company and the customer. In 2013 I referred to this as ‘rebalancing’ while in 2014 it’s migrated into ‘unification’. My earlier objective was to arm companies and contact centers with more control than their customers, as oftentimes it was the latter that was dictating how the relationship should function. (The anytime, any-where, any channel mentality.) Instead, let’s consider unifying the experience – for both the agent and the customer. While that’s become more challenging in our multichannel/omni-channel world, it’s also become more imperative.

In 2014, we’ll see a continued trend towards simplified agent desktop systems, unified channel queues and routing, and the merging of agent skills for better forecasting and scheduling. The intention for all of these is to provide a more holistic experience and create consistency for the customer - no matter what the channel, the contact center location, or who the agent is that they are speaking to.

There is also great benefit to the agent! By combining and centralizing services, customer information, technology, and processes, an agent is more empowered to make decisions. As Matt Dixon from CEB says, “this then allows an agent to operate more as a knowledge worker, rather than a factory worker.”

Remember, customers don’t think like us; they don’t think in channels, queues, locations or agent skill groups. Your goal should be to make all those things feel cohesive, and honestly, irrelevant to a customer.

ICMI will focus on the Multichannel Contact Center in May, and specifically drill down into optimization and universal versus simplification. A few of our recent publications also give best practices and insight on managing to a unified experience - the ICMI and HP whitepaper, Master the Multi-Site Contact Cener: A Management Model that Works and the inContact underwritten whitepaper Overcoming Productivity and Efficiency Challenges in the Multichannel Contact Center and the accompanying report, The Multichannel Agent: A 2014 Contact Center Roadmap, Research Report and Best Practices Guide.

6. Making Life Easier on the Agent (The Year of the Employee)

I’d like to once again borrow a phrase from Matthew Storm, NICE’s director of innovation & solutions.  In an interview about his customer service/call center predictions for 2014, Storm said that this year will bring a renewed focus on what it takes to truly engage employees. We couldn’t agree more!

There is a much deeper appreciation in many contact centers on the value of the employee, and specifically of the agent.  Companies are beginning to see the linkages between employee engagement and customer experience. And as we know, happy agents do indeed make happy customers.

Bruce Temkin says that we’ll see more employee surveys, executives developing employee engagement goals and objectives, and managerial training focused on employee engagement. Dixon from CEB takes a different direction in his book, The Effortless Experience and shows that the missing ingredient in most contact centers is their inability to harness the Control Quotient (CQ) of agents. “CQ is the ongoing agent resilience in a fast-paced and stressful environment,” Dixon defines. “They have the ability to take complete ownership in each new customer interaction and continually learn without internalizing customer problems.”

Sounds fabulous doesn’t it? Dixon also says contact centers should continue to source for basic skills, knowledge and emotional intelligence, but more importantly harness and enhance the CQ that already exists in most agents.
Engaged employees do make a positive and differentiating impact on a brand. We’ll talk much more about that in July – Learning & Development and October – Culture & Morale. Dixon will also be our keynote speaker on day two of the upcoming ICMI Contact Center Expo and Conference, and his insight on contact center agent development is not to be missed!

Bringing it Back Together

Well, that rounds out our themes to kickstart 2014! Let us know what you think, what we missed, and what you will be focusing your contact center on!

  1. Creating a Customer Experience Management Culture
  2. The Need for Non-Voice Channels
  3. Reducing the Data Noise
  4. The Purpose of Personal Engagement
  5. Upholding a Unified Experience
  6. The Year of the Employee

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