4 Reasons Customers Still Love Contact Centers

A Zappos customer service representative recently spent almost 11 hours on a call with a customer, all because the company’s CEO Tony Hsieh encourages agents to stay on service calls for as long as necessary. As brands increasingly strive to provide self-service options for customers to solve straightforward problems quickly and efficiently, contact centers are taking on new roles, becoming an extension of the brand. Below are four reasons why customers still love—and need—contact centers.

1. Customer Service Representatives Humanize Brands

The appeal of self-service is clear—a customer can quickly diagnose his or her problem and solve it independently, either by finding the answer on the website, glancing at an FAQ section, or starting a conversation with a chat bot. But every one of those interactions, while quick, is cold and automated. "An emotional connection is key for successful brands. As humans, we want to feel like we're dealing with another person, even if it's just a person speaking on behalf of a brand," says Chip Bell, author and customer service expert. "If you look at top performing brands, they've all built that emotional bond with their customers. People can deliver emotion; self-service can't," he adds.

2. Call Centers Are an Opportunity to Deliver on the Brand Promise

Zappos's customer service mantra urges agents to "get a little weird." It's part of the company's brand promise, and agent Steven Weinstein, who spoke to a customer for 10 hours and 43 minutes, was doing exactly that. Logos and branding can only take a brand so far, Bell points out. It's the people, products, and personalized experiences that a brand delivers that differentiate ordinary brands from brands that people love. As customers increasingly shop online and through mobile devices, call centers are becoming some of the only interactions that customers have with brand representatives, making them more valuable than ever when it comes to delivering on the brand promise. "It's the closest that brands get to 'face time' with a customer," Bell says.

3. Brands Can Upsell During a Call

During a self-service interaction with a brand, customers are unlikely to browse and explore other, related products and services. They want to get in, solve the problem, and get out. During a phone call, however, brands can leverage the interaction to make offers. A customer might call their cell service provider with an unrelated question, but the agent may use the call to suggest that customer switches to a larger data plan, noticing that the customer is consistently paying for overages. "Customers don't mind being upsold if it ends up being beneficial to them," Bell says.

4. Complex Problems Are Easier to Solve via Phone

Self-service may be on the rise, but that doesn't mean contact centers are on their way out, according to Bell. Rather, contact centers are evolving and skill set demands are growing. "Customers can solve basic problems on their own," Bell says. "It's those complex problems, the ones that require intuitive solutions, that still require phone assistance," he explains. That's why demand for highly skilled agents and sophisticated customer service software solutions is growing. Furthermore, when a customer has a complex problem that they've been unable to solve on their own, chances are he is frustrated by the time he calls a contact center. "This is another reason why contact centers are valuable—only humans can deliver empathy, be that in the form of a discount, a special offer for a future purchase, or a simple 'I'm sorry,'" he says.

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Posted December 07, 2018