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Customer Experience and the Call Center

Designing Service with Intent

Time and again, I hear “we feel like the best customer experience is to provide a live human voice on the other end of the line.” Rewind thirty years and think of what the airline ticketing process was like in 1984. For those too young to remember, you couldn’t book your own tickets, you couldn’t check in at midnight, and you couldn’t select or upgrade your own seat. Everything was handled through a travel agent or, at best, directly over the phone with an airline agent. Ask anyone today if they would prefer to talk to an agent over the phone or to take care of their own booking needs and the lion’s share would certainly opt to do it themselves. Don’t always assume that a live voice is the preferred medium to solving customer needs. We simply didn’t know what we were missing in 1984. Live agents have a place in delivering great experiences; it’s important to know when and for whom.
“ Building a successful customer service experience for the customers of today – and tomorrow – requires you to think hard about an uncomfortable subject: where human employees are helpful to customers, and where they just get in the way.” (Forbes, Micah Solomon, 12/19/14)
Your call center employees may be your most valuable customer relationship asset. They think, feel, and can dynamically adapt to a variety of real-time scenarios. Where it makes sense, leverage them to enhance your customer experience. Providing a human voice who is strictly graded and compensated on adherence to company policy, schedule, and talk time requirements may not always represent the optimal utilization of your most valuable asset.
If you’re like most companies, your customer contact needs have ballooned from a few dozen employees handling customer contacts to 300 agents handling everything from escalations and marketing responses to product troubleshooting. When our job is to adapt and overcome, it’s easy to get caught up in merely trying to keep pace. At some point, it’s critical to collect your thoughts, collect some data and, from the outside-in, observe the design of your current customer experience. Ask yourself some questions like:


  • Where do live agents enhance your customer experience?
  • What other mediums serve as touchpoints for your customers?
  • Do you have a help site? Is it dynamic or static?
    • Do you know why customers visit it?
    • Do you offer live chat? 
      • Is it proactive or reactive?
      • Do you accept emails?
        • For all customer needs, or only certain ones?
        • Do you use web forms, or do you provide an open email address to which anyone can send a free-form email?
        • Do you have storefronts where customers can walk in and get help?
        • How are those touchpoints tracked and added to your customer’s story?
        • Is your social presence managed as a customer touchpoint, or as an event separate from your customer experience ecosystem?
        • Can you see the full customer experience across multiple channels so they don’t have to repeat themselves when they reach a live agent?

        Call Reasoning/Customer Effort

        • Do you have a real-time source for call reasoning all contact types?
        • Can you provide call reasons on all contact types consistently, or is there a different list and different system for each contact type?
        • You know your average handle time, but do you know your customer’s handle time?
        • Do you know what effort customers put forth prior to contacting you?

        Analytics/Customer Insight

        • Is your call reasoning intelligence closely guarded, or do all internal stakeholders understand why customers contact you?
        • If such intelligence were shared, would there be more willingness to develop the enablement tools your customers need and want?
        • Would there be more openness to modifying outdated policies that require unnecessary customer effort and contact cost? Perhaps.

        At one time, urgency to implement may have trumped customer experience design. Take the time to design your customer service experience with intent. Find your customer’s “moments that matter”. Find the right places to insert knowledgebase, voice automation, and live employees. Use your desktop as an intelligence warehouse to be leveraged by everyone from Operations to Product, Legal, Marketing, Quality, and Training.
                  "Treat people as royalty and technology as a slave." (Bill McGowan)
        Put your people first. Put them in moments that matter.