In this day and age, it’s easy to think that every business has a contact center. Yet, not only do many businesses not have one, but among those that do, there’s a growing desire to modernize their systems to keep up with changing customer expectations. These are two very different scenarios, but both often face a common obstacle in the way management thinks about the contact center.
While there certainly are contact centers performing at world-class levels, a lot of things have to go right for that to happen, including management buy-in for making the entire business customer-centric. In this post, I’m going to address each of these two scenarios, both in terms of what management’s thinking looks like, and what you can do to change that.
Scenario 1—No Contact Center
This scenario actually has two branches—businesses that have never had a contact center and those that have but for whatever reason chose not to continue it. Each of these warrants deeper analysis, but for now, I’ll focus on two common issues. First is the associated investment, ongoing cost, and technical complexity around having a contact center.
While these issues are valid contact center deterrents, they are based on legacy technology models and don’t reflect the current state of the market. This is particularly relevant for never-before situations, which tend to be smaller businesses having serious IT limitations. They may, in fact, want a contact center, but based on what they know—or think they know—the business simply has higher priorities.
A second common issue would be the belief—primarily from management—that the use case just isn’t there. This could be based on prior results—possibly from experiences at other companies—when the effort simply didn’t translate into happier customers. Whether that may have been the result of poor agent training and/or relying on legacy technology, management has made their decision. A possible supporting factor may be business related: wherein the company has a strong enough market position that a contact center isn’t really warranted. Typical scenarios would be highly regulated markets, captive customer bases, and mature sectors where hardly anything changes.
In 2017, it’s hard to support any of this thinking, and management really needs a reality check. Every sector is vulnerable if customers are taken for granted, and a good starting point is to update management on how technology has evolved—not just for customers, but in the contact center. A related holdback is the language we use around this, namely “call center” or “contact center.”
Given the legacy associations with terrible service experiences, it won’t be enough to talk to management about what’s new without changing the nomenclature. If management associates these terms with bad service, it’s no wonder they won’t be interested. As such, the strategy is to change the narrative and talk instead about “customer care.” That’s the language of 2017, and it doesn’t carry any of the legacy baggage that is holding back these companies.
Scenario 2—Want to Modernize Contact Center
At least these businesses have enough buy-in from management to have a contact center, but they are still being held back by legacy thinking. Given the capital-intensive nature of premise-based systems, many businesses have little choice but to make do with aging technology that puts agents at a stark disadvantage when dealing with tech-savvy customers.
Again, this is a case when management needs to be updated, especially around CCaaS—contact center as a service. All the legacy holdbacks to modernizing the contact center go away with CCaaS, at which point management can begin to think differently about what’s possible. Here too, a narrative built around customer care will help them reframe things around what’s really important—the customer, rather than trying to keep contact center costs down.
Instead of thinking in terms of being a cost center, the emphasis needs to be on empowering agents to have deep engagement with customers. This is how you increase customer satisfaction, reduce turnover, create brand ambassadors, and increase share of wallet. These are the outcomes management understands and values, and that’s what customer care is about.
They may not see any of this if you keep talking about the contact center in legacy terms, so it starts with you. For IT decision makers reading this post, I think you’ll understand what to do, and the same holds for service providers selling hosted services to businesses. You may have access to great technology with CCaaS, but that’s not what management cares about. However, by translating that into business-level benefits, you might be surprised how easily the conversation about modernizing the contact center will turn.
Originally published Apr 27, 2017, updated Sep 09, 2020