How to Make Your Contact Center a Customer Success Engine

Every business owner knows that more customers equal more growth. Yet, customer acquisition is only one part of the equation. When you calculate the value of your customers over their entire lifespans, it's clear that customer retention is where the true money is. For businesses that interact with customers via phone or email, optimizing the contact center and field service delivery is a direct path to successful customer experiences.

Customer success is a critically important driver for growth, as a recent report from consulting firm McKinsey points out. Simply put, companies with strong levels of customer success grow faster. It's easy to measure customer success: The higher your retention rates, the more successful your operation. Contact centers touch the customer directly, and investments in training, technology, and processes can deliver significant ROI, particularly when measured over customer lifetime value (CLV). There are plenty of contact center CRM technology options available today; here are some basic recommendations for optimizing your contact center to reduce churn, and some ideas to bring it and your field service support up to the next level.

Integrate, integrate, integrate.

Your contact center is not an isolated department. It is a part of your business ecosystem and should connect your front and back offices. It is crucial to integrate your contact center CRM with your business applications for two reasons: some integrations improve the customer experience, and some improve business operations. Your screen pops should deliver every relevant piece of information you have to your agents, which would then improve the customer experience. And your ERP should get direct feeds from products sold, warranty support delivered, and any other revenue- or operations-based information the call generates. It's crucial for your contact center CRM to integrate with those plus your parts management, dispatch, payments, and other systems.

Become cloud-based and built to scale.

Many of today's contact center technologies are cloud-based. Your contact center CRM should be, too. Scale up or down, deploy quickly, and know your system is continually updated. Cloud is the way to go, whether it's a private or public offering.

Segment data.

Some internally centralized customer support operations manage multiple clients, as do most outsourced contact centers. That means multiple sets of data. Make sure your CRM can manage operations while keeping all data segmented for each client or internal division.

Go multichannel all the time.

Customers increasingly demand support when and how they want it, and that means being able to accommodate them via phone, email, webforms, social, and web chat. Don't force your customers into a funnel, and make sure your contact center CRM can handle contact the way the customer wants it and can integrate with best-in-class solutions in these areas.

Encourage self-service, too.

Sometimes customers don't want to reach you at all. They want to fix it on their own. Self-service portals are a must-have for today's contact centers, as they give customers another option to get information, track requests, and research prior tickets. Make sure your system can give them what they want.

With the above basics in place, it's time to deploy technology that can bring your contact center to the next level for customer success. These features are designed to improve the customer experience directly as well as to deliver the information you need to create services and update processes that will keep customers on board for more.

Data capture.

Your contact center CRM can capture basic information about calls, from type of incident to time to respond and resolve. Your customers deliver a wealth of information to agents on every interaction simply by providing details about the reasons for their calls, including product usage. Why not work with your agents to capture more? With the right system in place, it's easy to prompt agents to ask a contextual question that can provide valuable insight. Choose a contact center CRM system that can capture information that drives business, marketing, pricing, performance, and product design issues. High-level reporting goes hand-in-hand with data; choose a system that delivers these insights when you need them and in a format that you can tailor for maximum insight.

Be the best, automatically.

There are many ways to handle customer queries, and some of them are just better than others. With the right system in place, there's no reason every agent can't be a super agent. Find a contact center CRM that enables you to develop business process workflows and embed them into the agent routine. These enable your team to deliver consistent support that is demonstrated to drive the right results. Once you find your winners, make sure your system enables you to tailor and re-use them across channels and segments.

Elevate the level of service.

Agent turnover is an issue for most contact centers, so contextual help is a crucial part of a contact center CRM system. But for centers that want to go to the next level, that means delivering advanced services to customers. Think about customers who call a home services firm because water is flowing from their air conditioning unit. Agents have to ask the right questions to know whether to send a plumber, an electrician, an HVAC specialist, or someone who has all three skills. Get it wrong, and you make the customer suffer through multiple service calls. Go overboard, and (assuming you even have enough techs with the superset of skills) you lose money on every call. In the past, agents needed rigorous training to be able to effectively diagnose customer issues. Today, with the right contact center CRM, you can build in workflows with decision trees that guide agents through each interaction. Customers love this level of support because they immediately know they are in competent hands, that someone cares about their issue, and that the company is going to do what it takes to get what they need. This type of service can go beyond reactive repair. Think about how to implement these types of interactions to bring customer relationships to the next level with your company. It can be done, and your contact center CRM technology can help you make it happen.

Complex case and entitlement management.

Some centers handle quick calls; for those that have complex customer requirements, including warranties and entitlements, the right technology solution is a must. The correlation between a complex service relationship and a high-value one is almost directly related: If you need to manage complex customer calls, you better get them right if you want to keep the relationship.

Again, there is good news on this front: The right contact center technology solution can help you track entitlements, even to very granular levels. Information is transparent to agents, who can communicate with confidence to the customer about what services they can receive. No fumbling for contracts or records in a database; agents have details on their screens. Customers do not like to hear "I don't know" when a multimillion-dollar piece of equipment isn't working. They want to know what steps you are taking to fix it, how that fits within the parameters of their contracts, and when it will be done.

If your business model includes field service support, do you know which technician or third-party group has the correct skills, parts, availability, and location to provide the best outcome for your customer? Field service is the last touchpoint with your customers, and sometimes it is the best touchpoint. Field technicians have a unique opportunity, as they quite often have the customers' focused attention. Seamless support from contact center to the field can be your differentiator. Make sure you have the technology in place to nurture these high-level and complex relationships.

The contact center industry has become a dynamic part of building customer relationships. With each step forward, it gains relevance. To keep building on their influence, centers must make sure they are doing everything with the customer in mind. The right technology can deliver the support you need to turn your contact center into a customer success engine!

Kris Brannock is executive vice president at Vertical Solutions (VSI), where she tracks the customer service and support landscape to discover ways to match technology with clients' needs. She has more than 20 years experience in CRM, contact center, field service, and customer experience.

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