By: Andrew Gilliam
Imagine what the world will be like after you've checked off every box on your customer experience to-do list. Pre-purchase anxiety no longer exists, thanks to careful messaging and word of mouth. Product issues are eliminated at their root-cause, before goods leave the factory. Service failures are anticipated, and recovery is automatic. Customer journeys are frictionless and fault-tolerant, because they were meticulously studied, optimized, and fortified. Contact centers played a vital role in bringing your organization to this paradise, but will they still relevant? Yes, more than ever!
This article explores the contribution of contact centers towards the end of an organization's customer experience journey. Their mission, methods, and role within a company will change dramatically, but important work will continue to happen in the contact center. These fives ways are just the beginning of how tomorrow's contact centers will continue to drive value.
Today's contact center mission is painfully reactive. Customers experience a problem, and they call. Customers have a question, and they chat. Customers are overwhelmed, and they tweet at us. With so many customers to help, it's hard to imagine making more work for ourselves. In the future, that's exactly what we'll do. As companies perfect the customer journey, the problems, questions, and uncertainty that contact centers mitigate will disappear. Instead, they'll focus on a more noble purpose: engagement. Contact centers will be freed up for post-purchase check-ins and follow-ups that nurture relationships instead of repairing broken ones. Contact centers will always be the face of the organization they serve, but tomorrow's contact centers will be friends instead of repairmen.
Online support communities are nothing new; they originally promised to reduce support costs by relying on customers to help each-other. Many companies have online forums, but most have become ghost-towns where pleas for help go to die. Ubiquiti Networks' community-driven success demonstrates the full potential of customer communities. They don't provide traditional phone or chat support for most of their enterprise networking products, which helps them to offer disruptively low prices. Instead, customers go to the online support forum for help, where they interact with other customers and senior Ubiquiti engineers (who actually built the products in question). Ubiquiti representatives also have a strong presence in third-party communities and on social media. They're not there to sell, Ubiquiti's existing customers take care of that.
As customer journeys are refined, root-causes are solved, and automation steps in, the mission of tomorrow's contact center will shift away from near-term resolutions to long-term relationship building. With their day job out of the way, contact center professionals will refocus their creativity and skills towards building strong customer communities.
Harnessing Unstructured Feedback
Through engagement and community building activities, there's no doubt that tomorrow's contact center professionals will be exposed to an abundance of feedback. The unstructured feedback gathered from these activities will prove to be some of the organization's most valuable knowledge, provided it's leveraged effectively. Capturing, structuring, and applying these lessons learned will largely fall on contact center leaders close to the front-line. Unlike traditional market research, companies will gain insight into how products actually perform in wild, uncontrolled environments.
Contact center professionals have always had to be experts in the products, services, and markets they support. In the future, smart organizations will use the in-house expertise from their contact center to design, refine, and promote their products. Not only will the contact center be an invaluable test bed, but they'll be the inspiration for future product and service offerings. Front-line contact center employees are closest to market demand, they interact with it daily. Solutions generated in the contact center will be at the forefront of the product lineup.
Content generation is currently relegated to a few artsy interns in the marketing department. It can be an effective way to share a message and build a reputation, but it's time consuming and won't always hit the mark with customers. Worse, it can come across as being too "on-message" or lacking in personality. As demand for content increases, tomorrow's contact centers will step up to the challenge with renewed passion. Contact center professionals often have untapped talents and creativity. Paired with their deep knowledge about customer needs and challenges, they'll create content faster and more effectively while making sure customers have a laugh along the way.
Andrew Gilliam is a passionate customer experience innovator and change agent. He’s developed new employee portals, created effective surveys, and built silo-busting escalation systems. Andrew’s background in Information Technology put him on the front-lines of customer service as an IT Support Center Analyst. His vision: deliver Amazing Customer Service and Technical Support™.
Learn more at andytg.com, follow @ndytg on Twitter, and connect on LinkedIn.