Advancing Contact Centers to Customer Engagement Centers
By Jennifer LeClaire / CIO Today. Updated July 31, 2013.
When Gartner's team of industry analysts replaced their report on the "Magic Quadrant for CRM Customer Service Contact Centers" with the "Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center" in May, it turned quite a few heads.
Why the change from focusing on "Contact Centers" to focusing on "Customer Engagement Centers"? The experts say it's because there has been a fundamental shift in the way companies interact with their customers, with a far greater emphasis now on engaging customers through different channels, as well as social media.
In response, Gartner chose to focus its 2013 CRM report on vendors who respond to the challenge of "any channel" customer service engagement.
Just Responding Isn't Enough
Gartner VP and distinguished analyst Michael Maoz recently blogged about the genesis of the customer engagement center idea, calling it "evolutionary" much more than revolutionary. While "call centers" ruled the '70s through 1990s, "contact centers" have ruled ever since -- reflecting the fact that customers began making contact online for sales and service, not just by phone.
Nowadays, "just responding to a customer's immediate request for help is grossly insufficient," Maoz writes. "Phone, email, IVR [interactive voice response], and chat are all fab when designed properly. But that is reactive for the most part. Today, [if we can] drop our organizational handcuffs, we have the ability to extend our reach into social media. Is a customer or prospect who posts to Facebook, or to a community site, or out to Twitter, any less deserving of our attention?"
Of course not, and that means that savvy sales and service teams as well as marketing staff need to stay plugged in to social media, where customers as well as new prospects are sharing their feedback -- the good, the bad, and the ugly.
As Maoz sees it, the major transition is from "contact" to "engagement." Still, he predicts it will take most organizations a long time to relinquish the idea that the digital marketing group does the listening, but no one does the responding -- at least not systematically. It is not marketing's job to engage in social media, he argued, but in most organizations it's not customer support's job, either. He also called out a disconnect: There's one set of rules for traditional contact, and another set of quasi-al fresco approaches to social engagement.
Adopting a Hybrid?
Maoz offered a bottom line: Sometimes it's good to stretch one's field of vision. He admitted that the phrase "customer engagement center" may or may not ever enter the common vocabulary of IT or business buyers. He even acknowledged the naysayers who think the change is too big, or that it is much ado about nothing. And, he admitted they may be right.
"Life has a way of self-healing, and the new term may be scabbed over and gone," Maoz said. "Or, something else might happen: organizations [may] start to see that the concept of customer engagement -- the act of treating customers with intent, integrity, consistency and gaining their trust -- is a winning ticket."
We asked Brian Reale, CEO of Colosa, a company specializing in business process management (BPM) software, for his thoughts on the emerging concept of the customer engagement center. He told us it's important to differentiate customer experience management (CEM) and CRM (customer relationship management). The two are closely related, but clearly different.
"True CEM needs to take into account both the flexibility afforded by CRM and the strict process logic enforced by BPM technology," he told us. "In the future, organizations will begin to appreciate more and more what these hybrid systems can offer because of the growing complexity required for successful [customer experience management]."
The Real Take-Away
It's easy to get lost in the acronym soup of CRM vs. CEM and. BPM. The key take-away for those who manage sales and marketing, as well as customer service and support, is this:
Simple call centers have evolved out of necessity into contact centers, and now, they are -- or should be -- making the transition to customer engagement centers, with more of a focus on engaging customers and providing the best possible customer experience.
As usual, success comes down to increasing customer satisfaction and customer loyalty, and then going a step further. By using the business intelligence gained through engaging customers, businesses can more effectively boost their bottom line, and also set a more successful course for the future.