Insights | By Howard Tiersky

4 New Rules for Contact Centers in a Digital World

Contact centers are more important than ever, but if you keep following the rules of the past you will waste money and annoy customers.

Contact centers are as or more important than ever in today’s digital world but are now driven by four new rules that need to govern their transformation.

RULE #1: MANY TIMES YOUR CUSTOMERS DON'T WANT TO TALK TO YOU

We've done a large number of surveys and market research studies that show that in many scenarios, customers would much rather just log in online and click a few buttons than have to find the number to call, wait for the phone to ring, wait in a queue, identify themselves and then explain their situation, possibly then discovering they aren’t even speaking to the right person. 

Digital self-service is often far, far more convenient.

And of course online interactions are less expensive for the business as well as opposed to the traditional phone support. 

THEREFORE, you need to make sure that your self-service channels are easy to use and the experience is as seamless as possible, both to satisfy customers and to optimize cost.  

But...

RULE #2: SOMETIMES YOUR CUSTOMERS REALLY WANT TO TALK TO YOU, AND YOU SHOULD WANT TO TALK TO THEM

There are scenarios in which connecting a customer with a human being is very important.

These are the situations where speaking to customers in person or giving them human contact will yield a better outcome by either better meeting customers’ needs or driving better business results, or sometimes both. 

Certain products like life insurance tend to benefit and have much higher conversion when you're able to talk to a person. 

When making a major insurance claim, like after a car accident, customers usually wish to speak to a human being.

Or when their car breaks down and customers are stranded by the side of the road, they want to hear an actual person tell them that help is on the way.

Companies need to identify which customer journeys will benefit more from customer self-service and which situations will serve the customer better by providing human interaction and guiding the customer to the right method of contact. 

RULE #3: CHAT ISN'T JUST A CHEAPER CALL CENTER INTERACTION; IT HAS ITS OWN NUANCES, OPPORTUNITIES, STRENGTHS, AND WEAKNESSES

Chat is a very important customer service channel for making sure that there's always someone there waiting to help the customer when people run into a problem.

As previously mentioned, in most situations customers prefer to go down a customer self-service path. 

These types of customers are like people who’d say, “I don't need a guide to take me on this trail through the forest. I just want to go by myself.” 

Great, so we send them down that path. 

But then they walk halfway up, and all of a sudden, they look around, and they don’t know where they are.

They realize they’ve lost the trail, but there's no guide because they said they didn't want one when they started.

Sometimes, customers think they want self-service but then need help.

Part of the opportunity of customer service chats is the ability to join the customer where they are on the trail. 

But make sure that you have that well-integrated into your digital journey, so you don’t have to expect them to bring you up to speed. 

If you have a chat pop up for a user logged in and in the middle of a transaction but still have to ask the customer their order number, email, and other things that you should know already, then that's not very elegant. 

Whereas if instead you say to a customer who has initiated a chat, “Hi Howard, I see that you put a Nikon 24mm camera lens in your cart. Did you have a question about this item?” it makes for a better customer experience. 

RULE #4: YOUR CONTACT CENTER IS A CUSTOMER INSIGHT GOLDMINE- USE IT

Lastly, I want to comment on the value of contact centers for improving digital experiences because they are amazing research environments. 

For example, if we're working on an app meant to handle self-service transactions, we'll want to spend a few days in the call center listening in on calls to get a better sense of customer needs direction and talking to call center reps because they really understand the customer. 

Whether the call center reps talk to customers on the phone or by chat is not so much the point. These are people who interact with your customer all day long.

In his bestseller Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about how people become experts.

Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become outstanding at something, such as a pianist who'd play at Carnegie Hall or a professional soccer player. 

What I would point out is that when you have contact centers, you usually have people who have been interacting with your customers for years and years.

If somebody has been talking full time to your customers via chat or phone 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, that's 2,000 hours a year. 

That means if you have employees doing that for five years, or six years, they’ll meet that threshold of 10,000 hours spent talking to your customers, at least if it's a busy call center.

Those customer service reps are experts, with concert-pianist-level knowledge about your customers.

So, when you're trying to create an experience that meets those customers’ needs, you want to leverage those customer experts, and listen to their interactions with customers.

It's a great and inexpensive research technique because you don't have to recruit those customers.

You can just listen and you can do this with call recordings, too. Most contact centers have huge databases of recorded calls.

What's useful about this is if you're trying to solve a particular problem like confusion about international ordering, this might only account for one percent of your orders. 

But call center logs allow you to pinpoint calls specifically about that one issue, as long as your call center has reasonably modern technology..

By listening to a small percentage of calls, you’ll better understand the challenges and situations your customers are facing.

After all, the contact center is where all the problems go. 

Anyone who can't figure out how to do it online or in your app is calling the call center, so leverage that information to continue to make your digital experiences better.

I actually talk about this at some length in my Wall Street Journal bestselling book, Winning Digital Customers: The Antidote to Irrelevance, along with the proven steps that companies must take to transform and thrive in this digital world. 

Get free access to the first chapter when you click this link https://WinningDigitalCustomers.com.

Get FREE access to the first chapter of FROM`s
Wall Street Journal Best Selling Book

WINNING DIGITAL CUSTOMERS


  • Learn the three patterns of all successful digital brands (including companies like Apple, Netflix and Uber).
  • Understand why many great new products fail, and the formula for building products that won’t.
  • Discover the key reasons companies resist change and how to overcome them.
Get FREE access to the first chapter of FROM's
Wall Street Journal Best Selling Book

WINNING DIGITAL CUSTOMERS


  • Learn the three patterns of all successful digital brands (including companies like Apple, Netflix and Uber).
  • Understand why many great new products fail, and the formula for building products that won’t.
  • Discover the key reasons companies resist change and how to overcome them.