As the world moved from face to face to phone based engagement through the 90’s and 00’s the large majority, typically over 90% of all customer contact for an organisation took place in their contact centres.
But things have changed. In 2015 they are now crisis centres.
While this transition has been happening for around 2 years, and will continue for the next few, call / contact centres now for most industries (there are obvious exceptions like emergency services and other real time services) calling and speaking to someone is the last resort for the customer.
They try the web, a mobile app, some even try friends and family, before they call into a call centre.
I remember the days of customers complaining about losing branch offices and that they were “stuck” talking to a faceless machine or person. They resisted the shift to call centres. But they haven’t resisted the shift to digital. I don’t hear people asking “gees I wish I could talk to an agent rather than having to open the app on my phone to get what I need”.
Contact centres are a relic of the shareholder driven business models of the 80’s and 90’s. These business models focussed on scalable efficiency (as defined by John Hagel and John Seely-Brown in the Power of Pull). It was all about scaling up customer service with the lowest possible cost. Outsourcing en masse didn’t help the reputation of contact centre being mostly in the companies interest and less about the customers interest.
So here we are in 2015, less than 50 years after the first commercial, on scale, call/contact centres were built. Whilst contact centres still take over 50% of customer interactions globally today, the percentage is dropping rapidly. In fact studies show that overall total volume of customer interactions along their entire customer journey with a company are growing at all time highs. Customers are interacting with companies more than ever before. But not through the contact centre.
Even when I ask a group of industry professionals, people who live, breath and sleep contact centres, what would you prefer, a simple app on your phone or talk to an agent, they pick the app every time.
Customer value driven business models require us to re-think the role of the contact centre. It doesn’t mean shutting it down, it remains a critical component of the customer experience paradigm. Starting with the customers jobs to be done and working backwards, will nearly always result in the contact centre being thelast resort for customer service and support.
In past the contact centre was the first point on contact in customer interaction now it’s the last.
Again data supports this. 10 years ago the average of contact centre AHT was low. In most centres globally it was in the 3-5 min mark per call (depending on industry). Now it’s in the 10-15 min mark per call. Why? all the easy and simple interactions have gone digital, been automated, or in fact been completely removed through process improvement and productivity gains by companies. Only the very complex remain, and only the very complex end up in a contact centre.
Understanding this can help with the leadership, skills, development, structure and engagement models that your organisation can apply to it’s contact centre. This is the place to go the extra mile, to do the extraordinary, to solve the customer problem by empowering staff to act with the power to deliver. In short customer want their problems fixed easily and painlessly. This just released IDC Experiences study on what customer expect points vividly to this.
Traditional metrics / KPI’s used to “manage” contact centres are now woefully invalid. The shareholder value driven scalable efficiency KPI’s are at odds with the customers perception of why the contact centre now exists.
When they get to the contact centre agent, they’ve tried everything else, now they just want the problem, need, goal, fixed by an empowered empathetic, capable person who cares.
New measures, behaviours and processes are required.
Ask yourself this…..
Do you have a shareholder value driven scalably efficient contact centre that is at odds with your customers needs
Do you have a crisis centre that is skilled and managed by professionals focused on the customer via a customer outcome driven business model ?
Your customers are likely in transition. But unlike the resistance of change from face to face to contact centre, there is no resistance to digital, they crave it. So the good news is you have time to transition your centre.
It’s up to you to re-think the role of your contact centre and to innovate and evolve it’s role in your customers journey.