How to Boost Your Contact Center's Value to the Organization



Contact centers have enormous potential to provide departments across the organization with valuable insight and support. This can include input on customers, products, services, and processes—information that, when captured and used, can transform your organization's ability to innovate, meet customer expectations, and provide great experiences.

The benefits to the broader organization can be significant and varied. Consider the value to functional areas (and the potential return on investment) when the contact center does the following:

  • Helps operational areas or manufacturing units pinpoint and fix quality problems, which boosts customer satisfaction and repeat purchases, reduces costs associated with warranties and repairs, and prevents unnecessary contacts to the organization. (A related benefit of this effort is that you'll discover how your contact center is annoying customers and ways to fix them.)
  • Assists marketing in developing more effective campaigns. For example, having a better understanding of what customers need and want can improve personalization and response rates, reduce relative marketing costs, and help the organization boost market share.
  • Serves as an early warning system for potential legal troubles. Product defects, reactions to food or prescription drugs, security holes in an app or website, inaccuracies in warranty statements or customer invoices—the list can go on and on, and the contact center is often first to hear of these issues. Having strong, collaborative ties to other areas of the organization is a prerequisite to handling them quickly and effectively.
  • Helps research and development identify customer needs and the organization's competitive advantages. In many ways, focus groups, market research and traditional broad-based surveys are no match for the insight the contact center can capture through interactions with hundreds or even thousands of prospects and customers. This input helps the organization provide better products and services, favorably influencing costs, revenue, market share, and the organization's reputation. And it's often a big boost to employee engagement.
  • Enables the organization to improve self-service and knowledge management based on the assistance the contact center provides to customers who opt out of or need help with systems or apps. This improves and lowers the costs of providing service, boosts customer satisfaction, and ensures that the center can focus on issues that really require or benefit from agent involvement.

Don't miss these opportunities! To the degree your contact center management team has an eye on the larger implications of quality and innovation, you will have a positive impact on the entire organization's workload, productivity and quality.

If this is new territory, you can start small. I once worked with a consumer product company's contact center that was widely viewed as a low-value cost center. With little to lose, the contact center began analyzing contact types and soon discovered that 11 percent of the contacts it received regarding one of the company's cleaning products had to do with the fact that the childproof cap was hard to remove—forcing it would often break off the spray nozzle. The company shared this data with its packaging supplier, who redesigned the cap. Those calls went away, and, of course, customers were happier with the product from the start. In the months that followed, the contact center identified marketing ideas, distribution opportunities, and even some new product lines. The contact center's value became legendary within the broader organization.

Here's a checklist—a conversation starter—of potential benefits by functional area within organizations.

Sales and Marketing

  • Provides detailed information on customer demographics;
  • Tracks trends (purchases, service and support issues) and response rates;
  • Enables permission-based targeted sales and marketing;
  • Supports segmentation, branding, and personalization;
  • Provides customer input on competitors; and
  • Provides customer surveys and feedback.

Financial

  • Captures cost and revenue information by customer segment;
  • Contributes to the control of overall costs;
  • Serves as an early warning system (positive and negative);
  • Is essential to successful mergers and acquisitions;
  • Contributes to shareholder value through strategic value contributions; and
  • Is essential in establishing budgetary strategy and priorities.

HR/Training

  • Contributes to recruiting and hiring initiatives;
  • Contributes to skill and career path development;
  • Contributes to coaching and mentoring processes and expertise;
  • Helps foster a learning organization (e.g., through systems, processes, and pooled expertise on products and customers); and
  • Contributes to training and HR expertise and processes.

Manufacturing/Operations

  • Pinpoints quality and production problems;
  • Provides input on products' and services' usability and clarity;
  • Contributes to product documentation and procedures;
  • Highlights distribution problems and opportunities; and
  • Facilitates communication related to capacity or production problems.

Research and Development (R&D)/Design

  • Provides information on competitive direction and trends;
  • Highlights product compatibility issues and opportunities;
  • Provides customer feedback on usability;
  • Differentiates between features and benefits from the customer's perspective; and
  • Identifies product and service differentiation opportunities.

IT/Telecom

  • Furthers organizationwide infrastructure development;
  • Furthers self-service usage and system design;
  • Provides a concentrated technology learning ground;
  • Provides the essential human bridge between diverse processes and systems; and
  • Drives innovation in IT/Telecom advancements.

Legal

  • Enables consistent and accurate customer communications and policies;
  • Serves as an early warning system for quality problems;
  • Identifies and addresses impending customer problems;
  • Provides a rapid response to news/media reports;
  • Contributes to internal communication; and
  • Serves as a training ground for customer service policies.

Brad Cleveland is a customer service consultant, specializing in contact centers, support desks, and other customer-facing environments. One of the two original partners in the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), Brad acquired ICMI outright in 1996 and served as its president and CEO from 1996 to 2008. Today, Brad consults and speaks to a broad range of organizations and associations and serves as a senior advisor to ICMI. He is author/editor of eight books, including Call Center Management on Fast Forward. His current research is focused on the future of customer access management and the impact of social media; his blog can be followed atwww.bradcleveland.com/blog.