Contact centers are like people: We’re all at different stages, chugging along healthily but sometimes faltering along the way.
As we begin to look back at 2018, one thing is becoming clear: Not every contact center is created equal. While some are overhauling and optimizing their entire operations and adapting to the demands of modern consumers, there exist some (even those belonging to notable brands) that lag a step or two behind the speed of change. This is not a criticism – it’s simply the reality, an industry-wide circumstance brought about by the learning curves and rapid technological changes to the customer service space in contemporary times.
All contact centers face barriers, and you certainly know your own intimately. Maybe it’s staffing or high turnover. Maybe it’s the budget. Maybe it’s a knee-jerk reaction to the idea of change, or a fear of letting go of legacy technologies. Whatever your roadblock, it’s good practice for contact center teams and customer service leaders to educate themselves on why, in a broad sense, some contact centers are being held back from reaching their full potential. It may also help us convey to the powers that be what is at stake if we remain static and disconnected from the realities and demands of the future.
Too Many Touch-Points.
Rightfully so, company leadership is looking at one thing with hawk-eyed scrutiny: The bottom line. That’s fair enough, but the almighty bottom line is also affected by customers gained and lost. Along with sub-par products, poor customer service and slow or unresponsive customer support can spell the end of a customer’s journey with your brand. Contact center managers know exactly what resources they need in place to improve the customer and agent experience, but often have to jump through a dozen hoops to get those resources in place (we can all appreciate how company protocol sometimes slows progress down).
In order to move forward, company leadership should invest in a feasibility study of its procedures to ensure that there are not too many silos or touch-points in between contact center managers and decision-makers. Solid company infrastructure should ensure that those working in the customer service space can communicate their successes, failures, needs, and suggestions to the powers that be, and thus vastly improve the contact center experience for customers.
Short on Support.
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a support line, you know that moments of customer frustration can weigh upon you, even years later. Being a contact center agent, particularly if you are in a call center, is mentally taxing work, and can certainly take its toll if support, either managerial or psychological, is unavailable to you. As much as we’d like to have faith in humanity, and customers are entitled to feeling frustrated when ignored or delayed, call centers grapple with constant inappropriate and abusive calls on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, some contact centers still insist on a no-hangup rule (agents are penalized for ending a call) in order to improve or sustain metrics; and they do not offer moral or psychological support to front-line agents who live through some horrific experiences on the job. Just like in many industries, contact centers have their own workplace hazards, and a focus on best practices for dealing with them in a humane way will improve a contact center by leaps and bounds. The problem is so serious and widespread that petitions and movements to bring awareness to the subject have emerged.
Another way contact centers are dragging their heels? The culture in the workplace may be due for an upgrade, including the provision of psychological support resources. Added to this is a concerted effort to make work-life more fun for contact center agents who we know interact with a wide range of customer personalities every day. There are some basic, cost-effective ways of dipping your toes into a cultural change in the office. For instance, gamification has become a popular way of engaging contact center teams while also improving the bottom line.
No Money, Honey.
Contact centers are expensive, it’s true. When you add into the mix contact center wish-list items (more agents, more social media customer support, more analysts, omnichannel capabilities, chatbots and other smart technology capabilities) the bill becomes exorbitant and the hand-wringing ensues. As Richard J. Snow of Ventana writes, “investment budgets are naturally a big issue. My recent research shows that for over three-quarters of companies 90 percent or more of their contact center operating budget is allocated to keep existing processes and systems running.” Overhauling a legacy budget is also a challenge for those resistant to the idea of change, be it technology, investing in an expansion of the contact center workforce, or allocating funds for education and training for agents. But lagging behind the times will eventually frustrate customers, and agent turnover could reach an all-time high (both of which are, in the long run, exorbitantly expensive). For contact centers to move forward, they must do one thing, and soon: Weigh the cost in the present against the cost in the long-run.
At any stage in our lives on this planet, we find opportunities to grow, to better ourselves, especially in the workplace. This certainly applies to those keeping their contact centers buoyed in the larger customer service universe. By identifying and understanding our shortfalls, we can begin the journey of improving, growing, and thriving.