There's Value in Documenting Your Contact Center's Value

Even today, with a focus on customer service, too many contact centers are considered cost centers. Senior executives still don't understand their value.

Contact centers are, in fact, the heart of the company and interact with more customers than any other department. However, executives fail to see their importance. One of the reasons is that contact center value is not formally documented. The value of contact centers that do not have a sales or ordering function become even more blurred. C-Suite executives see customer service as a nice thing to have, but they will cut the department without a thought when revenue is soft.

Companies often look to artificial intelligence as the solution; the belief is that costs will be reduced. But with so much information available on the internet, if the customer does reach out to the contact center, the issue is most likely complicated and does not lend itself to being solved by a bot. The result is a frustrated consumer who is in danger of being lost to the competition.

One way to resolve this issue while avoiding budget cuts is to document the department's worth. Every call center must be responsible for documenting its worth. Think about the following question when calculating your department's value and offer executives the opportunity to see just how crucial the customer service department is.

How does the interaction between the customer and the contact center representative affect future purchases? There are four possibilities:

  1. The contact INCREASES customer loyalty and/or sales. It is possible that the customer might purchase more of a particular product because something new was learned during the interaction. It is also possible that the representative built a relationship with the customer and created trust, which in turn promotes loyalty. This obviously has a positive impact on your department's value.
  2. The contact persuades the customer to stay despite a negative product experience. The customer purchased a product and was not pleased with its performance. The customer called the company to complain. The representative listened, and the issue was resolved quickly and satisfactorily. The customer remained loyal to the brand; the customer was saved. This also has a positive impact on your department's value.
  3. The contact does not resolve the issue, and the customer is dissatisfied. Customers might stop purchasing the brand if they feel they are not treated appropriately by the company representative or do not like the company's policies. The customer now purchases from a competitor. This scenario clearly has a negative impact on your department's value.
  4. The contact has no effect on the customer. An interaction between the customer and the representative might not affect the purchasing behavior of the customer. It is possible that the customer is loyal, no matter how a call is handled. This scenario produces no change in your department's value.

How should the above data be collected to calculate the contact centers value? The most effective method of collecting data is to survey a representative sample of customers who communicate with your contact center five to 10 days after the interaction. With this information, a company can establish the effect of the transaction on the customer's purchasing behavior. It is important to wait at least five days before conducting the survey, though, because customers cannot truly reflect upon their experience immediately after their interaction with the customer service department. This is especially true when the customer expects fulfillment or other information that will resolve an issue or answer a question and that action occurs a number of days after the contact.

How does word-of-mouth affect the worth of the department? It is also a critical component of the department's value. While the dollar value of word-of-mouth is difficult to accurately assess, a company can uncover the percentage of customers who told others about their experiences with the company. It can also ascertain whom they told and which medium was used. Waiting at least five days to conduct this type of research is necessary, though, to give customers time to spread the word. If your department primarily collects satisfaction and loyalty data immediately after the contact, a big piece of the puzzle is missed that could significantly raise the perceived perception of your department's impact on the bottom-line.

A majority of contact centers do not take the time to compute their value by determining how their department's support and service affect the future purchase behaviors of their customers. This data can provide your department with an important tool to wield during budget negotiations and when requesting additional money for staffing, training and technology.

Every department has a value, do you know yours?

Richard Shapiro is founder and president of the Center for Client Retention.