Can CS and CX Come Together?

Contact centers provide customer service.Contact centers are large organizations; typically, the contact center will employ about 10 percent of a company's workforce. Most contact centers focus on customer service, answering customer questions or helping customers solve problems. Some contact centers focus on supporting the sales process, either by making outbound calls to talk to prospects about their offerings or taking inbound interactions when customers have product questions or need help buying something online. Contact centers are generally focused on performance and efficiency, trying to get the best value out of their agents' time.

The customer experience team is charged with getting inside customerss heads. This covers every aspect of customers' relationships with the company, including sales, customer service, the experience in a store, on the web, or in the mobile app, and the experience with a product or service, including the user interface of a software offering, the thread counts of the sheets in a hotel room, or the ability of a toy to withstand the wear and tear of life with a three-year-old. The CX team is typically small, working as an overlay to other groups in the organization. Surveys are their primary tool they use to take the pulse of customers, and this information is then used to share with the rest of the organization to ensure that customer experience is on the forefront of every group.

In the customer service world, vendors have been taking on the moniker of customer experience more and more. Typically, they use the term incorrectly only to describe the experience with customer service. More advanced vendors are starting to look at ways to monitor interactions on the web or in a mobile app to find things that happen that could escalate to customer service or could provide intel that could make the customer service process better for the customer and more cost-effective for the company.

The Insight Intersection

The bread-and-butter capabilities of a contact center vendor: making agents more efficient to drive down costs, is certainly not of interest to the CX team that spends its time trying to better understand what customers want. But what happens in the contact center should be very interesting to the CX team, as this is the largest component of the customer experience at most companies and customers spend their days telling contact center agents exactly what they think of the company in detail.

All contact centers report on why people reached out and if their problems were solved. This insight is gold to the CX team, but few gather or use this intel.

Thankfully, that's starting to change. The value of the contact center to the CX team is growing fast; artificial intelligence is expanding what can be gathered from the contact center, taking all of the conversations that happen with agents and turning that mass of bits and bytes into actual information that can be categorized and quantified.

This is a real value where two teams can work together to gain new insights into customer sentiment that can help companies serve their customers better than ever before, something straightforward that can make a difference.

The Full Customer Journey

Understanding the full customer journey also holds the promise of great value, but it is a much less straightforward  problem to solve. Vendors in the contact center space are starting to talk about orchestrating the entire customer journey. They are good at understanding customer intent and providing the right resource to answer a question or solve a problem. This can be useful beyond the contact center. It is interesting to the CX team, and it is of great value to marketing or sales. It can be very helpful for the contact center to better understand what prospects are doing on the web, and it can greatly impact how a customer is approached if marketing and sales can know customers' history of support issues.

Marketing, of course, has been looking at the presales portion of the customer journey for years. The line between what they provide and what the CS vendors are proposing is anything but clear. The overlap is messy, and the companies that sell products to the CX team for gathering customer feedback are getting into the contact center to help better understand the feedback that customers provide. Sorting out which solutions should solve which parts of the problem is going to be a major challenge.

A Big Collision Is Coming

There is plenty of technology to gather the various insights that can help marketing, CX, and CS; too much technology from too many sources. Vendors are going to start getting in each other's way. Companies are going to start buying capabilities in silos that overlap and work against one another. The path to a good solution is anything but clear.

Companies need to take a wholistic approach to their customer journeys and customer service. While that is easy for me to say here, it is a huge challenge for the company to build a corporate structure where all this can be accomplished efficiently. It's going to take customer obsession. It's going to take some visionary leaders at a variety of companies to force their organizations to work across silos and make some big decisions on how to best serve customers across the board.

We are going to see companies with five solutions to the same problem, and we will see others that have an organized approach to understanding what they can do and use this to differentiate discovery, sales, service, and the rest of the customer journey.

Here's to the brave who will step forward and chart that path.

Max Ball is a principal analyst at Forrester Research.