It's Monday morning, and you're ready to take on the day. During the past few months, your contact center has made significant strides in improving customer satisfaction, increasing employee engagement, and delivering on your key performance indicators. You're certain that this Monday will be a great one. You get out of your car with a spring in your step, head to the front doors of your building, and before your second foot crosses the threshold of the contact center you bear witness to complete pandemonium.
It is immediately clear to you that any existing forecast is now completely useless as every able-bodied individual is frantically attempting to resolve a queue of inquiries with no foreseeable end. There's not an agent, supervisor, or even custodian to be found, as they're all responding to the immediate requirements of this workload. With desperation in your eyes, you pace the floor of the center with the expectancy of a new father. "What is happening to us," you mouth to individuals who are clearly distracted, overwhelmed, and in need of rescue. Within moments, you discover the source of the problem. Unbeknownst to you, a new product promotion was announced this morning and there, on the front page of USA Today was the 1-800 number for your organization. You had no idea.
When this happened in one of my contact centers, we realized that we had a major problem. Our company made a promise to customers, but when it came time for my team to keep the promise, we fell significantly short, not because we lacked the ability, skill, or desire to do so, but because we were left out from a critical part of the planning process. Through a form of benign neglect, where one part of the organization makes a promise without considering the impact on the part of the organization responsible for keeping the promise, we were set up to fall flat. It forced us to ask some hard, honest questions as a company, and it might be time for you and your team to ask the same questions.
Have you ever thought about all of the promises that your company makes? Whether it's an expectation of quality, performance, service, or the like, your organization is probably a great promise-maker. As a result of those promises, your customers have a reasonable expectation that you'll keep your promises. Therein lies the problem that leads to most customer problems: We can be pretty lousy promise-keepers. While it's by no means intentional (recent headlines of scandals by rogue former executives aside), it's causing preventable damages to our brand reputations.
Here are three questions that you must ask of yourself and your organization if you want to prevent yourself from falling into the trap of these broken promises.
- Is providing a good customer service experience truly an organization-wide priority? Many organizations say they care about the customer experience, but they make decisions based on other competing priorities (costs, market value, executive pressure, or any number of variables that can distract and degrade their ability to deliver good customer service.) Remember, whatever you treat as most important will become the priority. Don't make short-sighted decisions at the sake of long-term opportunities.
- Who owns the customer experience? Everyone owns the customer experience is a popular belief in many organizations, but it is fundamentally flawed. When everyone owns the experience without a defined leader, no one owns the customer experience because there is no direction, no accountability, and no vision for the future. For some organizations, this leader might be a chief customer officer, for others, it's a director of consumer experience, yet for others, it might be the contact center director. The important piece here is that there needs to be a defined leader, and that person must leverage a collaborative network of the key customer touchpoints.
- How can the contact center gain a bigger share of voice in planning the organization's customer experience strategy? The contact center was built to deliver so much more value than what so many of them are providing today. Fundamentally, contact centers were built for efficiency—to do more with less, and this led to the perception that many are cost centers. Increasingly, organizations are recognizing the contact center's ability to deliver on customer satisfaction and loyalty. The contact center is often the promise-keeper as the frontline for so many customer actions. The real opportunity to gain a bigger share of voice and deliver more value, however, is through the strategic insights that the contact center can provide to the rest of the organization. From providing detailed customer demographics to sales or marketing and pinpointing quality or production problems to manufacturing or operations, to a plethora of other ways, the contact center has arguably more business intelligence than any other part of the organization. Imagine the possibilities of a contact center that becomes an indispensable source of critical information for virtually every business unit in the company. It's not only possible, it's how some of the world's leading organizations manage to be innovative, progressive, and at the top of their industries.
It all begins with a decision to make the customer experience a priority and the recognition that the contact center holds the great responsibility of being the promise-keeper. It all begins by asking three clarifying questions that lay the foundation for consistently delivering good service that's simply built on the commitment to keep every promise that your company makes.
So imagine, it's Monday morning, and you're ready to take on the day. Over the past few months, your contact center has made significant strides in improving customer satisfaction, increasing employee engagement, and delivering on your key performance indicators. You're certain that this Monday will be a great one. You get out of your car with a spring in your step, head to the front doors of your building and before your second foot crosses the threshold of the contact center you remember that today your 1-800 number will appear on the front page of USA Today. You take a deep breath, look around your center in confidence, and rejoice in your team's ability to keep the promise that your company so boldly made.
Justin Robbins is group content director at the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) and HDI.