5 Pressure Points faced by Contact Centre Leaders

So in my blog last week (consumer trends) I highlighted the trends that are impacting customer behaviours today which are:

  1. Personalised customer interactions
  2. Multi channel everything
  3. Fast increasing customer expectations
  4. A shift from one size fits all
  5. The rise of influencers

With this as the backdrop and ever increasing customer expectations, along with declines in customer satisfaction in the UK, we are significantly behind US brands, according to theNunwood report.

So in summary, customer expectations are increasing, satisfaction is declining, companies have some considerable work to do to improve the end to end experience. We’ve got new challenges being added all the time, with additional channels opening for customers to contact us. With this, then, comes complexity and more and more content. We’re producing content for everything. Yet we live in a world where we’re craving simplicity and much more of an emotional connection with organisations.

So we have insight into the five key trends that are coming through, that are predominantly impacting the customer contact market today.

With this backdrop of Consumer Challenges, what are the specifics that Contact Centre or Customer Service Leaders face today? Through digitisation customers are now used to finding out ‘stuff’ for themselves through self serve channels. Yet we have over 1m people today who work in Contact Centres in the UK. According the latest (dimension data) report ‘driving efficiencies’ is still a key strategic challenge for senior contact leaders followed by optimisation of the experience and benefits.

According the their report, the digital revolution is forcing businesses to ‘adapt or die’.

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So what are the challenges for senior Contact Centre Leaders today?

In a recent poll of over 100 contact centre and customer service leaders, the complexity of the customer experience beyond the contact centre was voted as the top issue (49% cited this), the contact centre is the barometer of the problems caused by the organisation.

25% stated the increasing pressures of data. In particular insight to understand what is driving customer interactions to help better shape the customer experience, along with business intelligence to predict what should or could happen next, to help guide/direct increasing personalisation and proactivity.

More detail about each pressure point is detailed below.

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Contact Centre being the heartbeat of the Organisation

This is certainly one for all senior leaders, whether in customer experience or contact centres, to consider.  A key challenge is the business hierarchy within an organisation – the way it’s structured. In many cases the contact centre is positioned with a substantial gap between the ‘power base’ – and the ‘customer heartbeat’ of the organisation.  This is particularly key for on line only businesses where the only interface with a customer is through the contact centre or digital interface support.

This is further compounded by the way in which the operating model has been designed. Contact centre locations are physically situated far from head office, whilst off-shoring and even outsourcing to a degree, has created additional barriers.  Some contact centres have ended up in a position where the Customer is now three steps removed from the Power Base and the decision makers of the organisation.

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There’s a constant that you see in those organisations that have got higher customer satisfaction and colleague engagement – they have customer contact/experience at the heart of their organisation.

Those organisations have got a different business ecosystem. One that facilitates/enables customer engagement in your brand. You do this by combining the best practice/process/skills in customer service and marketing. Creating an emotional engagement in a brand through Colleagues, should be at the heart of your decision making and a cornerstone of any business and service design.

So those organisations talk around “How are we going to center our design around our people?” Those people being both the colleagues and the customer.

So ask yourself the question “Which side of the chart is your organisation?” Is contact centre on the left side, as you can see in the diagram above or have you got the right business ecosystem in order to put customer and colleague at the heart of your organisation?

Cost Centres to be managed not Value Centres to be leveraged

Contact centres have traditionally been viewed as cost centres, not value centres. Often, in most cases, those challenges are about doing more for less – driving efficiencies – more contacts handled for less cost!  This is reflected in the budget pressures that are placed upon leaders to drive efficiencies, particularly as digital channels are growing and voice channels are declining.  However what additional value could be leveraged?  It is interesting to see that in the dimension data report, that 10% of leaders stated that agents have systemic solutions in place to identify sales opportunities, therefore 90% relying on manual processes and agent knowledge to identify vital sales through service opportunities.  So perhaps more value could be leveraged by serving customers better, providing more choice when contacts are made.

Complexity of the Customer Experience beyond Contact Centres

49% of those surveyed cited this as the no 1. challenge – this is probably not a surprise when we consider that +90% of the contacts coming into contact centres today are actually nothing to do with the contact centre. It’s about issues across the whole end-to-end journey: a supply chain issue; website issues; product features not being displayed properly; billing issues; issues in branches or stores; missing deliveries. So it’s about the ‘not quite joined up’ nature of that whole end-to-end customer journey that results in the contacts that we see in the contact centre today.

Customer Experience is cited as the most important strategic measure, with csat, NPS, customer effort all tracking this post a contact or interaction with the business. So one of the biggest challenges is how the role of the contact centre can help to join that up and how it can help influence and reshape processes, policies and systems to improve the customers experience and prevent un-necessary contact.

Insights and Business Intelligence from the Contact Centre

That leads into, then, the fourth challenge for contact centre leaders today, which is around data and how to turn that into insight and action. Contact centres, traditionally, are awash with data. There is more data than we know what to do with – 25% stated this as their top pressure point.

In most cases, we’ve seen new measures appearing; Net Promoter Score, Customer effort, Customer satisfaction, right first time and so on. Again, in a lot of cases, measures haven’t been taken away, so we’ve not stopped to doing stuff. We’ve actually trying to do more and more and more with more. According to the 2015 Global Contact Centre benchmarking report, 24% of leaders stated that they enjoyed full collaboration with the organisation to reshape process design, whereas 52% do not share intelligence outside of the contact centre. 40% of leaders stating that they don’t even have any analytics tools, and yet this was voted as the top factor to change the shape of the Industry in the next 5 years!

So how do we translate this data into the right insight and then focus in on the really important factors that impact customers the most, to shape action across the enterprise? So the challenge is about aligning insight to the big issues. Understanding the intricacies of individual transactions, as well as the context of customer behaviour over multiple contacts and channels, is paramount. It will help the organisation address customers’ issues, shape their experiences, and enrich the engagement, creating greater value for both parties.

Increasing content, complexity of channels

Then the fifth and final pressure points links to the customer trends in the interactions and contacts. Again, we’re not seeing less. What we’re seeing is more and more channels emerging and customers expecting more and more.

So it was interesting to see a recent article that was posted in Call Centre Helper, where contact centre leaders stated that 58% of contact centres have got between 9 and 20+ applications on a desktop in a contact centre. That’s just staggering! – how we’re expecting people to even perform the role today and answer queries back to a customer when they’re dealing with 20+ applications. In the Contact Centre Benchmarking report 40% of leaders globally stated that IT systems don’t meet current need and 80% citing that they won’t meet future needs. This will be a key differentiator to a seamless experience for Customers, as Voice channel volumes decrease and digital channels increase by upto 87%.

So it’s how do we streamline the right information to the right people at the right time and how do we move on this constant drive for ‘More for Less’ in terms of cost?

So in summary Contact Centre leaders are facing a number of pressure points today, which unless addressed with a robust Strategy supported by the wider business, to leverage the value of customer contact, will result in even more cost cutting pressures and customer satisfaction declining. We can ‘take as given’ that customers will continue to be more demanding, digital channels will grow, the business intelligence will be necessary, a shift in the way technology is leveraged for customers and colleagues will be essential. Good luck to all with your transformation.