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The Contact Center's Emerging Role

If you walk into an Amazon.com contact center, you may notice that some desks are turned sideways so that Fire tablet support agents have a neutral background for video calls (one way, agent-to-customer). If you visit the General Motors contact center floor that is focused on social media channels, you’re more likely to hear the clickity-clack of keys than voices—this team engages with customers through over 120 automotive forums, and via 15 twitter handles. Moen is a manufacturer of faucets and specialty plumbing supplies, and in their contact center you’ll see job-site pictures coming in from contractors who enjoy immediate assistance with specs and installations. The airline KLM is handling service through twitter, and displays an updated wait-time estimate on their twitter page.

There are so many ways to interact with customers. These and many other examples underscore the contact center’s emerging role as hub of communication—and the evolving expectations customers have of service.

Evolving Role of Call Center

The channel mix that is right for other organizations isn’t necessarily the one that’s best for yours. Even so, every organization needs at least a basic presence in four key areas: traditional (phone and email), self-service (web-based, online videos, and others), social channels (particularly the top few that your customers gravitate towards), and mobile support (providing access to agents through mobile doorways, e.g., text, apps, phone, or even video—a channel Barclays Bank has been rolling out.

What is propelling the contact center’s role as hub of communication? In years past, organizations deployed service and technology improvements that, over time, changed the nature of service delivery: ACD routing systems in the 1970s; workforce management and quality tools in the 1980s; Web browsers and Internet-based services in the 1990s; and more recently, the capabilities around multimedia, cloud, analytics and more. We are now, however, seeing a fundamental shift: developments on the customers’ side—social, mobile, ubiquitous connectivity, and others—are the primary drivers of service innovation. Someone, something in the organization has to bring all of this together, or risk service spiraling into an asymmetrical nightmare. Voilà, contact centers are (once again) rediscovered for their ability to engage with customers and (if managed well) meet evolving demands.

The contact center’s impact has also been developing from the inside. Beyond delivering service effectively and (when interactions are handled well) boosting the loyalty of those customers, organizations are continuing to discover the contact center’s strategic value. Customer-facing services provide immediate visibility on the effectiveness of the organization’s products, services and processes, and when captured and shared, this intelligence can boost innovation and help every part of the organization improve. Examples include an insurance company’s redesigned marketing campaign, a tech company’s new suite of accounting software, and the hotel chain that redesigned rooms and lobby areas—all based directly on customer feedback.

Providing a great customer experience is the result of an organization-wide approach, with the contact center being central to these efforts. Commitment from the top is essential to establishing the right mindset, ensuring service areas effectively capture and communicate voice of the customer, and encouraging business functions to use the input for ongoing improvement.

The returns for organizations who embrace the contact center’s potential—and cultivate the right services—can be significant and include benefits such as:

  • Heightened customer loyalty
  • Improved cost efficiencies (right channel for the right purpose)
  • Customer driven innovation
  • Improved market share
  • Additional sales and revenue
  • Better brand recognition and more (positive) word of mouth

Of course, as the contact center evolves, the nature of contact center work is also changing. Contact center managers must be proficient in many different roles and agent jobs require ever-more complex analysis, human know-how, and empowerment. Quality criteria are evolving and interactions involve multiple channels and serve customers who are increasingly diverse in their needs and expectations.

In short: The contact center is more important than ever as the role of communications hub takes hold.