Digital Channels Are Slowly Making Call Centers Obsolete for Some Adobe Customers

At the Adobe Summit in Salt Lake City this week, marketing in the traditional sense of the word took a backseat to customer experience. Adobe executives were adamant about emphasizing that creating outstanding brand experiences for customers is a responsibility that falls into the laps of not only marketing or sales teams, but support and service agents too.

The concept of "product" is becoming increasingly blurred, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen said, explaining that a support call or a chat session is as much of a representation of a brand's product as is a marketing message. As a result, customers' interactions with brands are becoming blurred as well, with an overwhelming number of customers opting for brands that provide effortlessly consistent cross-channel experiences. For some brands, however, most of these experiences no longer include the call center.

For the National Australia Bank, more than 90 percent of customer interactions are through digital channels, and 65 percent of those are through mobile devices specifically. "Maintaining a consistent experience is key across channels.... We have multiple touch points for customers to interact with us...and when we look at those multiple paths to engagement, we have to ensure we have consistency," Todd Copeland, general manager of digital at the National Australia Bank, said. When the company fails to create a seamless experience at some point, that's where the call center comes in: if the experience becomes disjointed and "too hard," he said, customers take to Twitter and the financial institution's call center to give representatives an earful.

Other Adobe clients also view customers reaching out to a call center as an indication of a lacking customer experience, and strive to build support tools that cut down the number of call center interactions. "We have a complementary relationship with our contact centers and work closely with marketing, product, and technology teams, so it's a four-way link," Rob Roy, Time Warner Cable head of e-commerce and digital marketing, said. Still, Roy emphasized that one of the company's central KPIs is based on how many customers troubleshoot issues on their own and don't contact the call center.

One of the main reasons that companies want their customers to avoid contact centers is time, Copeland said. "Time is the currency of experience," he explained, and when customers have to call customer support, they lose time. In an era where customers can find the answer to most questions with a few taps on a sophisticated support app, call centers can't compete.

But call centers are not done yet, and Adobe introduced a number of enhancements to the solutions within its Marketing Cloud that promise to better incorporate call centers into the cross-channel customer experience, and invigorate the slowing channel. Adobe Campaign, for example, is now equipped with a more far-reaching real-time interaction management tool that can target customers as soon as they call the contact center, providing contact center agents with more relevant customer context and history, and giving them better opportunities to not only resolve the issue, but also upsell or cross-sell.

"Companies are having to think about experience as one continuous process. They can't think about marketing, sales, and support as separate entities, because customers won't stand for the kind of experience that a disconnected approach creates," Kerry Reilly, director of product marketing for Adobe Campaign, said.

For the time being, the call center is still an important channel, so even while companies work to create digital experiences that might soon make the contact center obsolete, it's crucial to ensure it continues to function within the experience ecosystem. After all, regardless of channel, "the true ROI is customer satisfaction," Roy summed up.

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