The Objectives & Behaviors of Best In Class Contact Centers

Kate Leggett

Thought Leader Kate Leggett In Her Own Words

In this podcast discussion, Forrester's Kate Leggett discusses the characteristics of best in class contact centers, the factors causing an evolution from CRM to Customer Experience Management (CXM), and many of the disruptive technologies making their way into contact centers—including cloud systems, social CRM, voice of the customer programs, speech analytics and mobile.

"Forrester data shows that two-thirds of the time customers don't get the service that they expect. And they are very quick to voice their disappointment, and in the world of social media which we live in, this disappointment gets amplified."

—Kate Leggett

Key take away points in the discussion with Kate Leggett:

  • Kate identifies best in class contact centers as being able to align people, process and technology in order to deliver a consistent customer experience across all communication channels—including voice, text (chat, email, SMS) and social channels. From a process and technology perspective, the customer wants to receive the same data, information and content across channels and irrespective of time of day or particular agent contacted. The customer wants to begin a conversation on one channel and later continue that conversation on another channel without having to restart the conversation. From a people perspective, best in class contact centers have all the managers or leaders of each customer communication channel report to the same executive. This is critical in order to ensure consistent performance and success metrics are applied to all communication channels and those success metrics are aligned with the company's business strategy and value proposition.
  • Contact centers have the perpetual challenge of balancing customer expectations with cost-effective services delivery. These oftentimes contradicting dimensions are constantly in flux with changing environmental conditions—such as increasing customer expectations, new communication channels such as mobile and the exploding number of new social networks.
  • While expectations vary, every customer has an expectation for good customer service. Customers expect a good experience with every interaction over any and all channels. However, Forrester data shows that two-thirds of the time customers do not get the service that they expect, which can lead to public complaints or rants across highly visible social networks that impact company reputation and are shown to actually erode the brand. However, while companies recognize the criticality of meeting customer expectations they are similarly mindful of a challenged economic environment that demands vigilance with cost control measures. To meet these contrasting objectives businesses are seeking alternate methods and implementing new customer service technologies such as text based customer support, proactive communications which deflect inbound inquiries, web-based self service and even peer to peer customer support communities—tools which are all proving successful in walking the fine line that balances cost and customer satisfaction.
  • In understanding which contact center metrics are the most strategic, salient or helpful, Kate first advises that there is no single metric that demonstrates success by itself or universally applies to all contact centers. Consider the analogy of flying an airplane, whereby a pilot would be making a fatal mistake to only view speed, as altitude and other measures are necessary for maintaining flight. In terms of contact center measurement, business leaders will need to take a balanced scorecard approach to first identify the most strategic dimensions such as customer satisfaction, costs, revenues or (internal and/or regulatory) compliance measures. To decipher and craft the specific performance metrics, begin with your company's brand and value proposition. For example, to achieve your company's brand and competitive advantage do you compete on customer experience or on cost? If you're competing on customer experience, your contact center metrics will favor measures such as First Contact Resolution (FCR) and de-emphasize metrics such as Average Handle Time and Average Speed of Answer. It's essential that the operating metrics measured on a daily basis are in alignment with the company's brand and directly support the company's value proposition.
  • In terms of contact center cloud systems adoption, small and midsize businesses (SMBs)—and particularly start-ups—are adopting cloud contact center solutions at an accelerated pace. However, larger enterprises are not acquiring contact center cloud solutions at the same rate in large part because of their substantive investments in on-premise legacy applications. These enterprises are procuring cloud solutions in a more incremental approach where they can either purchase innovative cloud solutions that address a specific pain point or move a performance needle, or where they can replace an on-premise application with a cloud system as part of their normal technology refresh cycle.
  • Social media and social CRM tools and technologies are beginning to advance from marketing departments into contact centers. Many times this intra-company social evolution occurs as companies recognize that social CRM is less about using social channels as additional marketing broadcast venues and more about using social media to engage customers. Contact centers are key in customer engagement and often begin their social media adoption by using social technologies to listen and monitor customer sentiment over social networks and then implement the processes to capture, route and act upon that customer sentiment. Many forward thinking organizations are also using social networks as additional channels to proactively engage customers for processes such as new product feedback, crowd sourcing and customer support. While contact center benefits from CRM are clear, demonstrating social technologies ROI from the contact center or elsewhere remains an elusive process which slows or stalls social CRM and social technologies adoption.
  • Voice of the Customer (VOC) programs use various tools, such as Enterprise Feedback Management (EFM) systems to systemically collect and analyze customer feedback over multiple channels in real time. These tools are receiving some new found attention in part because of their overlap with social monitoring or social listening tools and their consolidation into broader CRM systems. When VOC, EFM or social listening tools are acquired by or tightly integrated with broader contact center solutions or CRM software suites, they are able to consolidate and link customer feedback with customer profiles (such as purchase history, sale opportunities, open incidents, known customer preferences, customer demographics, etc.) which greatly empowers Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) to personalize the customer interaction with the most relevant information from the customers' perspective—and which in turn directly correlates with customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy.
  • Despite a clear vision for these tools and their capabilities, the software vendors remain ahead of customer adoption and the VOC and EFM tools tend to remain fragmented among multiple departments. In fact these tools tend to still be used more for marketing and brand management purposes than contact center customer engagement objectives; although the flow of these applications is beginning to increase toward contact centers.
  • There's a transition underway by CRM software vendors who are migrating their messaging away from "CRM" and toward Customer Experience Management (CX or CXM). CRM has historically incurred inherit limitations and ongoing challenges—such as a focus on data management (customer records, marketing campaigns, sale opportunities, service incidents, etc.) and not customers, objectives which generally included increased revenues and/or operating efficiencies with little regard for customer satisfaction, a tendency to deploy CRM by department resulting in operational silos and the frequently cited implementation failure rate that is no stranger to large IT deployments of all types.
  • After more than two decades of CRM adoption, CRM hasn't delivered meaningful value for the customer. Several factors are now combining to drive the next evolution—including maturing CRM software, increased customer-centric organizational strategies, the emergence of social customers who congregate in very large numbers on social networks, and of course the lessons of CRM's past. CXM is emerging as a broader strategy than CRM and one that is focused on the needs of customers in tandem with the company's objectives, and which supports consistent customer experiences from across internal departments and external channels over the lifetime of the customer relationship.
  • Speech analytics systems can analyze tone and sentiment of voice and talk/silence patterns to gauge emotion and satisfaction, tie detection of user-defined phrases to specific agent actions—or in short, help identify and prioritize customer incidents with resolutions. If you monitor agents' interactions with customers, for example, you can also easily ferret out which agents aren't being proactive, or which are not succeeding in satisfying customers. You can then pull that call center agent aside for education or training in order to improve agent performance. If you identify from your speech analysis that certain types of calls are difficult for agents to handle, you can segment those calls and implement specific business processes, or otherwise treat them differently.
  • It sounds like a powerful technology tool – but relatively few contact centers actually use the tool. In reality, despite the fact that speech analytics have been around a long time, the technology is tough to implement and continues to require a lot of effort such as constant tuning and frequent maintenance. To facilitate increased ease of use and adoption, several speech analytics vendors are moving toward managed services offerings.
  • Kate notes the use of mobile devices by users to interact with contact centers is becoming absolutely huge. She advises contact centers to perform a deep dive into their customer bases and understand the mobile and communication devices customers are using to engage contact centers. With this information, contact center leaders can craft customer service solutions that leverage or take advantage of mobile devices and technologies. Be careful not to simply port website capabilities to mobile channels, but instead tap into the native capabilities of mobile devices to add new value to existing or new processes.
  • Looking forward, Kate expects the contact center technology market to incur significant consolidation, particularly the roll-up of best of breed products into broader end-to-end business software suites. The pace of M&A among contact center technology suppliers has accelerated over the last few years, and signs suggest this M&A activity will continue.

The next podcast discussion is with Rebecca Wettemann, VP and founding partner of Nucleus Research.