Measure Twice; Cut Once

Today’s customer wants to feel empowered, not segmented, and wants to be guided quickly to the resource that will provide the answer to his or her request. That means your contact center staff needs to know enough about the caller to route the contact appropriately, but transparently enough not to alienate the caller or provide a memorably unpleasant experience.  Let’s examine the reason we segment contacts in the first place.

A key to a successful customer contact strategy is matching the applications to the business objectives.  Similarly, a successful market segmentation strategy must clearly define customer value to the business.

  • Maximum value is achieved by applying the most cost effective and service effective resource to the contact request.
  • Identifying the value of the contact and the related request gives the needed insight to identify the resource match.
  • Marketing automation applications with increased ties to customer data warehouses and customer analytics give the necessary data for evaluating the contact value.
  • Comprehensive customer profile data helps quantify customer transactions and buying trends, which provides input to use in the evaluation of the contact value.

Since every business has internal or external customers that must be served, every business needs a contact center to answer the customer’s needs. A formalized contact center provides:

  • An enhanced image of your business by putting your most professional foot–and most inviting smile–forward to your customers.
  • An appearance of company stability, which instills confidence in your customers to partner with your business.
  • Improved service levels in terms of performance and consistency of delivery of service
  • Increased efficiency by improved economies of scale and formalized processes. From a cost management standpoint, it is typically much more efficient to have a single group of 100 people working together as opposed to having those same people segregated among separate groups. (In the separation, AT&T Consulting often finds that while employees may have overlapping job functions, they don’t collaborate and/or share information.)

Modern call centers support not only voice calls but customer contacts across multiple access channels (hence the contact center name).  Among those channels are automated voice interactions (both inbound and outbound), email and Web support. Within the contact center, the phone, in particular, remains critical for supporting customers and for providing service.  However, as new technologies, such as smartphones, continue to gain general adoption and as more millennial generation buyers (those born between 1982 and 2001) enter the marketplace, alternative paths for access are expected to increase dramatically.

To have the competitive customer service advantage and develop customer loyalty, call centers must support the contact method of the customer’s choosing.

Today, the contact center acts as the company face to the customer, and in more ways than the phone or webpage.  Consider these recent paradigm-breaking models of customer contact:

Vertical 20th Century Customer Today’s Customer
Banking Local branch teller ATMs, online banking, balance alerts via text
Healthcare Local doctor’s office, hospital or clinic Online triage, voice automated appointment scheduling; text appointment reminders
Insurance Local agent Online sales, smartphone claims service apps
Retail purchase Point of sale Virtually available specialty associates, kiosk ordering (at point of sale and beyond, including airports)
After sale support Point of service Virtualized service reps
Fast food Point of sale Remote order taker at contact center supporting the Drive Thru

Likewise, contact centers are not a single application but incorporate multiple technologies, and involve many variables and interdependencies – known and unknown.  (We’ll talk more about these concepts and functions in subsequent posts). Core applications used for routing in this infrastructure can include:

  • Automatic call distribution (ACD)
  • Multi-site virtual contact routing (VACD)
  • Interactive voice response (IVR or VRU)
  • Automated outbound (aka: preview or predictive) dialing
  • Email management and auto-response
  • Web contact support (chat, click to talk, co-browse)
  • Simple text messaging (SMS)
  • Speech recognition (ASR)
  • Social media management
  • Video interaction (one or two-way)

Peripheral applications used for analyzing and optimizing contact center operations can include:

  • Computer telephony integration (CTI)
  • Workforce management (WFM)
  • Quality assurance digital monitoring and recording (QADR)
  • Data mining for advanced or consolidated reporting
  • Analytics for trend analysis and root cause analysis

Contact centers rely on many additional infrastructures as a foundational requirement for performance, such as Telephony, Network, Security, Data Centers and Operations.  Not only does the contact center rely on these infrastructures to function, but the design and performance of each infrastructure must be heightened to support contact center requirements. AT&T Consulting suggests that each of these areas be included in the planning of a company’s optimized contact center.  AT&T Consulting provides expertise in each of these disciplines.

Due to the complexity of the infrastructure environment, the criticality of the services provided, the combination of resources and considerations involved, and the high risk potential for over-engineering (which leads to overspending), make developing a comprehensive plan for your contact center an important part of your business strategy.

AT&T Consulting has advised several clients to remove applications that were costly to deploy but failed to achieve the desired result, or in some cases, caused extreme customer dissatisfaction. These are very expensive lessons in terms of cost, lost business and image, and illustrate why it is prudent to plan comprehensively, execute carefully, and review judiciously. As my Dad used to say when he was teaching me to be prudent, “Measure twice and cut once.”

In my next post, we’ll discuss best practices for developing a contact center strategy that will serve your business and help to get your initiative funded.

Robert Lamb Consulting Solutions Contact Center Services Director AT&T About Robert