Does Your Contact Center Drive Customers Away?

    It’s no surprise that many people hate to get trapped in contact center purgatory. A customer might be having trouble – with a product, billing, warranties, upgrades, or any of a number of other questions that could require expertise from an organization. When this happens, customers may find themselves on hold or in a seemingly infinite loop as they try to reach the right person, or are required to give their personal information and passwords over and over. And in a worst-case scenario, they never get their questions answered.

    That’s not because the people in the contact center aren’t trying their best. “A vast majority of the contact center teams are working diligently to make our experiences better and happier,” notes Ritu Maheshwari, Sr. Manager, Cloud Communications Solutions at ShoreTel Inc. Yet sometimes the problem is the technology they’re using. What many customers want and companies need, says Maheshwari, is “a more modern experience,”

    That is more than an inconvenience. It can cost you customers, lead to bad word-of-mouth or online reviews, and stifle growth—and you may not even realize when it’s happening.

    A few years ago, Bain & Co. surveyed executives at hundreds of companies about customer satisfaction. Eighty percent of them boasted that they provided a “superior experience” to their customers. But customers reported that only eight percent of companies were delivering on that promise.

    One big reason for this disconnect is that companies don’t understand their customers as well as they would like to think. “[G]ood relationships are hard to build,” say the authors of the Bain report. “It’s extremely difficult to understand what customers really want, keep the promises you make to them and maintain the right dialogue to ensure that you adjust your propositions according to customers’ changing or increasing needs.” That report found that only 30 percent of companies are organized to deliver superior customer service, and only 30 percent maintain effective customer feedback loops.

    Another problem: companies collect data in such a way that customers become numbers rather than people, and “become deaf to the real voices of real customers.” Further, they fail to recognize the importance of the front line employees that have direct contact with customers. One frustrated contact center manager reported to Bain, “As long as we are treated as second-class citizens in charge of protecting management from ‘pesky customers,’ our company will fail to keep our promises.”

    That is where modern technology can help. Unified Communications (UC) technology makes it easier than ever before to communicate effectively with both employees and customers. When that technology is merged with a company’s contact center, magic can happen.

    Contact center employees get access to the information and experts they need, from supervisors to technical experts. The contact center can be integrated with a CRM solution like Salesforce, providing instant access to all the critical information about that customer.

    Agents can also communicate with customers through phone, email, instant messaging or other methods. They can optimize call routing by service level, skill matching, customer identity, schedules, or caller location. Voicemail and faxes can be routed to individual agents through emails.

    Supervisors can also gain a lot of information about the contact center. Critical conditions can trigger visual and audio alerts, allowing supervisors to track abandoned calls, lower traffic, or idle agents and bring in or take them out of queues. They can monitor specific extensions silently, or join the call or coach agents. Real-time and historical data allows supervisors to better understand trends. They can gain insight about customers, track reasons they are calling, and measure the effectiveness of outbound campaigns.

    All this can turn a contact center from something customers dread into a useful and efficient system that improves customer satisfaction and the performance of the company as a whole. That’s the kind of thing that turns a company into one of the eight percent that customers love.

    Click here for more information on ShoreTel’s new integrated contact center.

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