By Jennifer LeClaire / CIO Today. Updated December 14, 2013.
Your marketing department can create the most impressive campaign, with all the right messaging, reach and frequency to put your message out there. But, in the end, it can be your sales team and contact center staff that make or break the bottom line.
Perhaps the most important key to success is remembering the old adage, "The customer is king," and these days, the voice of the customer resonates louder than ever, thanks to social media. Indeed, every single customer has the ability to spread the word -- whether good or bad -- about their experience with your company. And unfortunately, we all know that disgruntled customers tend to ensure that their voices are heard loud and clear. That's why it's so important to ensure that every customer contact is a positive one -- to the greatest extent possible.
For contact center managers, as well as sales and marketing managers, training your team to really listen to the customer is key. And, it's not just about the voice on the other end of the phone. It's about mining data from online contacts, web forms, and social sites like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, as well as customers reviews from sites like Amazon.com, Yelp, and so many others.
We spoke with some experts in customer service recently for their advice on how to ensure your team is best equipped to provide top-notch customer service, with each and every contact.
Optimize Your Contact Center Technology
With the rise of social and mobile communications channels, brands need to go where the customers go to ensure requests are being taken care of on consumers' channels of choice, says Marty Beard, president and CEO of LiveOps, a leading provider of online customer service agents. Effective customer service requires seamless integration of all available customer communication avenues.
"Aberdeen research shows that brands using integrated agent desktop technology see a 74 percent increase in year-over-year revenue compared to non-users," Beard said.
"By arming customer service agents with access to a multichannel, integrated agent desktop, contact center agents can better manage their workflow and resolve customer inquiries faster and with greater accuracy across all channels. Increased agent productivity increases customer satisfaction, which, in turn, increases revenue."
Leverage Social and Mobile Platforms
Social channels and mobile devices are great tools for reaching out to our customers, said Shana Duthie, VP of marketing and customer experience at MDLIVE, an online company that connects patients with a network of physicians and therapists through secure video, phone or email.
"Many customers have grown very accustomed to using their smartphones and tablets to interact with each other and with companies," Duthie explained.
"When we went looking for a customer service technology provider, it was critical that social and mobile channels were right there next to all of the other channels we use for inbound and outbound communications, in both marketing and customer service. Taking a multichannel approach has allowed MDLIVE to ensure customer requests are being taken care of in a timely manner and on the customers' channel of choice."
Keep an Eye on Analytics
Kelly Weinhold, the product strategist for Angel, told us about one tip that can help with better managing a contact center and ensuring that the voice of the customer is being heard: Keep an eye on analytics that can provide invaluable insights into caller behaviors, attitudes and preferences.
"For example, when a customer calls into an interactive voice response system, a call center manager can use analytics within the platform to monitor how well the caller is navigating through the process," she said. "The business can instantly see when an issue happens and ideally make immediate changes to the call flow, all with the help of analytics. Analytics can drive call centers to make data-driven decisions to consistently improve the customer's experience."
Optimize Your Workforce
Workforce accounts for more than 50 percent of total contact center costs and hence it needs to be optimized, said Iain Regan, executive vice president and global head of sales for CRM at Firstsource.
"Contact centers should have a robust forecasting engine which predicts the correct call volumes, and a best scheduling practice to plan and optimize resources that are sufficient for handling these call volumes," he said. In addition, "call volumes and resource scheduling need to be tracked on a continuous basis for future forecasting."
Last But Not Least: Keep It Fun
Kerry Carstairs, senior vice president of operations for C3, a global business process outsourcing firm that specializes in the operation of customer contact centers on behalf of medium and large companies, has a plethora of quick tips to share.
"Employee engagement -- keep the employees updated with business news, updates, new products, etc. Provide an avenue for employees to give feedback and suggest improvement. Keep it fun," she told us.
"The repetitive nature of contact center work requires a lively, activity packed environment. Provide plenty of options for career progression to keep people engaged and intact. Provide opportunities for employees to give back to the local community."
Ultimately, managing your contact center for maximum profitability and productivity requires a hands-on approach with managing your people as well as your technology, and keeping customer satisfaction always top-of-mind.