By some estimates, United Airlines shed more than $1 billion in market value in the immediate aftermath of the widely publicized forcible removal of a passenger. While most industry analysts believe the company’s stock price will gradually rebound, the episode is an important reminder that businesses must always be mindful of customer service and public perception. That message is sometimes forgotten in contact center operations.
The contact center is the central point of interaction with customers for most companies. For years, businesses have measured the efficiency of contact center operations with key performance indicators (KPIs) that track how quickly calls are answered, the average duration of calls, agent turnover rate and similar data. While theses metrics provide indispensable operational information, there is a danger in using them as the sole measure of your customer service operations.
Heavy reliance upon these metrics can lead to a disconnect about the ultimate purpose of the contact center. Organizations must be careful not to let their contact center focus shift from customer care to hitting benchmarks that satisfy internal stakeholders.
Often, the solution is just a matter of emphasis. While it is valuable to know average call-handling times, it may be more important to measure customer satisfaction as a KPI. Contact centers typically arrive at a customer satisfaction score by conducting customer surveys and obtaining quality assurance measurements. Regardless of the methodology used to arrive at this measure, it is one that should always be considered when analyzing contact center effectiveness and efficiency.
It’s also important to humanize your contact center agents. While customer service scripts are important, agents should be trained to treat them as guidelines and talking points rather than rigid speeches that must be followed word for word. With guidance and training on overarching corporate policies and expectations, agents can respond to customers with authenticity and understanding.
Advanced contact center solutions such as those offered by ShoreTel enhance your ability to conduct such training in real time. For example, instant messaging integrated into the system enables agents to message a manager or a high-performing colleague for immediate guidance while on a call. Coaching features built into leading contact center solutions enable supervisors to silently monitor calls and coach the agent to deliver appropriate responses — all without the customer being aware.
Additionally, businesses can integrate a CRM into their contact center solution to give agents a 360-degree view of the customer and their previous interactions with the company. Studies show that call resolution improves when agents get the customer’s name, address and account information before picking up the call. It makes onboarding frictionless and reduces irritation when customers don’t have to provide — and repeat — their basic information.
Stronger customer focus can also help convert the contact center from a cost center to a money maker. When customers are satisfied with the help and service they receive during a call, they are far more likely to become repeat customers. What’s more, agent-customer interactions are also potential sales opportunities. With a consultative approach, agents can often demonstrate how an upgrade or a new purchase can better resolve an issue.
The contact center often represents the first interaction customers have with the company, and the success or failure of that initial experience can set the stage for all subsequent interactions. A study by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs found that 80 percent of U.S. consumers would pay more for a product or service to ensure a superior customer service. No matter what type of product or service you provide, customers frequently are won or lost based on the quality of the service they receive.