Contact Centers-3 Questions for Future Strategies (1,421 words)
Contact Centers: Keep the Hub Humming
Three strategic questions every customer contact center manager must answer.
By Curt Barry
No doubt your catalog's customer contact center has changed dramatically in the past five years.
Your employees probably now support e-commerce initiatives, respond to e-mailed correspondence, track outbound customer shipments, access digital product images via the Internet or terminal-based systems, and much more.
Before you plot your contact center's future strategies, answer these three basic questions:
1. How are you defining, measuring and improving customer service? Every cataloger preaches the gospel of customer service, but how does your corporate culture uniquely deliver it?
2. With your increased use of technology, have your productivity levels also risen? In many companies, productivity rates — as measured in calls per hour or sales per employee — have not markedly improved during the past five years, mostly because labor rates also have increased.
3. How can your contact center help increase your company's overall sales? Your customer service representatives (CSRs) already have relationships with your customers. The challenge is to determine how you can proactively leverage those relationships to increase sales.
Appropriate strategies to answer these questions will vary depending on your average order value, profitability, and overall business plans and objectives. Sometimes to strategically move ahead, it's imperative that you first take a step back to ensure you've accomplished important business basics outlined below.
Define, Measure, Improve
Your contact-center employees most likely are at the hub of most order activity at your company. This means that you're dependent primarily on people to offer good service to your customers. For your catalog to prosper, then, you and your employees must have shared values — values that you reinforce by employee-empowerment, frequent training and expert management.
As your company grows, how are you teaching and reinforcing your vision and mission to employees? You want them to grow in their jobs, but you also want them to retain the values that are true to your company's original objectives. To make matters even more challenging, as your e-commerce channels grow, you must create a parallel service path similar to that experienced by your phone customers. The following tactics may help improve your company's overall customer service: