By Terry Rybolt

Your customer service department is essential. So even though it’s a major cost you need a path that allows customers to get in touch after they purchased your products.

But have you ever considered just how much the interaction between brands and customers have changed in recent years and how this evolution might create entirely new opportunities?

The brand engagement shift

Think of the classic customer journey. Your brand pushes advertising or a marketing campaign that generates market awareness. Customers hear about the products and chances are they will have researched online before purchasing. And if they have any doubts or questions after they bought the products they call the contact centre.

That’s easy to understand and it flows from one stage to another. But it’s not how customers interact with brands today. Customers have fundamentally changed it from passive to active engagement. Think about some typical interactions that you can find online, that customers are asking:

  • An airline about the choice of movies on a flight they are catching the next day;
  • A hotel if they know of a nearby Japanese restaurant; and
  • A grocery store for a good mushroom soup recipe.

Any of these customer queries can occur at any time and on any channel. Sometimes a customer will call the contact centre, other times they post a comment on Twitter or Instagram or they might email or use online chat.

But none of these interactions follows the traditional customer journey. A customer doesn’t ask a supermarket a question about mushroom soup because they saw an advertisement.

Redefining contact centre metrics

Typical contact centre metrics used to be focused on how long it took to resolve customers’ questions and whether they were satisfied with their first contacts. But when customers are actively seeking brand engagement these metrics need to be redefined. A customer engaging in a series of tweets with a hotel chain offering dining ideas is likely to be much more satisfied that the brand engaged in a conversation, rather than hoping the conversation was all tied up in the initial response.

Consequently, the customer service function is now far more sophisticated than ever and can offer businesses far more than just a way of recording complaints.

Consider these five ideas:

  1. Business driver analysis. Your contact centre team is engaged on a daily basis with prospective and existing customers. They know the problems and complaints and issues your brand faces. They should be directly offering help to the sales and marketing team so that negative drivers are ironed out and positive business drivers
    are enhanced.
  2. Business process improvement. The contact centre should be encouraged to participate in a process of constant improvement so they can actively improve the way your business interacts with and sells to customers.
  3. Revenue generation. The contact centre isn’t just there for post-sale comments or complaints. Any interaction between the brand and the customer is an opportunity to close a sale. In many cases where the customer initiates the engagement the sales process is only guidance and advisory: no hard sell is required when you know the customer is already interested.
  4. Branding and marketing. How many times have you seen a friend post a screenshot on Facebook saying “Wow, look at this amazing service!” Almost all your customer engagements are now transparent and visible to other customers. They prove that you can offer great service and that becomes a strong part of your marketing story. Customers can even become fans, telling their friends and family about their experiences with your brand: and that’s the kind of advertising that money just can’t buy.
  5. Relationship building and engagement. Customers are engaging more often with brands today. They are expecting connections that are like ongoing relationships rather than transactions. Think about the way that people relate to brands such as Nike, Apple or Harley Davidson. These aren’t just product manufacturers: they have entered into the lifestyles of their customers. These engagements will become increasingly common, even for sectors such as retail and banking.

The customer relationship centre

It has been a few years since many customer service managers tried shifting attitudes so that executives see the contact centre as a potential profit centre, rather than as a cost centre. Most of those early efforts focused on cross-selling and upselling products to customers who were contacting the brand.

But times have changed. The contact centre can certainly be a profitable part of your sales operation, but it can now be so much more. The customer service team is building customer relationships, forming the way that customers think of your brand. They can improve your internal business processes and help to identify and eliminate problems.

The modern customer service function solves customer problems and generates revenue for the business. But it has to evolve to become a “customer relationship centre”. The way that customers communicate with each other has entirely changed in the past few years is it any surprise that the customer to brand relationship has changed? Think about your own customer journey and reconsider exactly what your customer service team can do to improve your business.

Terry Rybolt is CEO of Teleperformance Canada. He has direct responsibility for leading the company’s operations and strategic efforts throughout Canada and the offshore markets it operates in. Terry has over 20 years’ experience, selling, managing and operating technology companies.

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