Sunday, 12 May 2013

Service Innovation – key to sustain brand loyalty

Sidney Yuen
Chairman, HKCCA Awards & Asia Pacific Contact Centre Association Leaders

Are we losing the human touch in an increasingly high-tech and automated world? On the contrary, as technology becomes even more pervasive, people are demanding personalised human contact and more detailed attention. Indeed, a growing number of customer service challenges are forcing a shift in the approach to servicing customers.

Contact centres have traditionally been perceived as a necessary component of customer service, especially for companies in the hospitality, healthcare, real estate, travel and  financial services sectors. More often than not, they are also loss centres. However, the role of contact centres has changed in recent years, and they have evolved into a key channel between companies and their customers that not only focuses on customer satisfaction, but also retention and upselling. In other words, they are turning from cost centres into profit centres, and an effective sales channel.

In order to do that, it is imperative to start with a compelling customer relationship management (CRM) strategy. CRM is defined as a systemic approach to understand the life style and behaviours of customers. The goal is to acquire and retain profitable customers. Therefore, contact Centre is a key component of CRM strategy.

Service providers, including those who provide voice, data, content, financial, insurance, retail, safety or other services, are realising that to increase revenues and profits in today’s environment of increasingly vigorous competition and market saturation, their business focus must be on maximising the value, or profit contribution, of each customer over the lifetime of the relationship.

As a result, contact centres have become one of the most important customer touch points. They are handling everything from technical queries to debt collection, and are often relied on to deliver excellent results on the more challenging tasks like recouping outstanding debt or improving revenue per customer. This wide range of capabilities and responsibilities marks a fundamental shift in the role that contact centres possess within the modern enterprise framework.

They are now designed from the customer’s perspective, with every customer call viewed as a cross sell opportunity. Instead of an army of barely trained housewives and students working short shifts, modern contact centres are staffed with well-trained and highly knowledgeable professionals with the relevant people skills to handle almost all types of possible customer behaviour.

Companies now deploy technologies and customer focused processes that create an environment that can deliver the superior service experience, empowering staff to offer an enhanced customer experience through the power to make decisions affecting customer retention. Applications like dynamic customer feedback including speech-enabled applications are also increasing ease of use, enjoyability, and customer satisfaction.

Business intelligence tools and techniques are also making contact centres more effective than ever – and giving them a vital new role in the customer-centred enterprise. As business intelligence plays a larger and larger role in these centres, it is helping them to cut costs and strengthen customer relationships. And it is changing their focus, as well.

According to IDC, companies are applying highly refined, customer focused analytics, technology and proven staff management processes to address the complete customer life cycle so customers experience the company as easy to do business with.

Just as important, business intelligence tools and practices promise to give the contact centre a new role – that of a customer intelligence centre, which acts as a focal point for the entire company’s effort to listen to the voice of the customer. By analysing customer data gathered in calls and contacts and feeding the resulting insights upstream into the corporation, the contact centre can enable the improvement of enterprise processes and performance and help the organisation keep pace with customers’ needs.

Today, companies expect a lot from the contact centre. It is critical in the battle to provide superior service and drive customer loyalty, and increasingly, it is seen as a vehicle for boosting revenue from existing customers. At the same time, however, companies are worried about the cost of providing increasingly sophisticated and thorough care across multiple electronic and live channels. The solution is to deliver a mixture of automated and life customer services to take those varying preferences into account to keep customers happy.

ICLP has great experience dealing with personalised service centre tools. Customers nowadays want more emotional connections while brand are focused on new customer acquisition in line with their growth plans. A world class service centre uses a channel mapping and assessment tool that aggregates customer information from Web, IVR and phone channels. This data is put into a single repository and used to plot what those customer experiences are in aggregate as well as on an individual basis. Companies can then determine where customers are opting out, where they are not getting enough information, where they are abandoning the call, the completion rates, the cost per completion and so on. Armed with such analyses, the company can determine the most efficient, customer-friendly approach to act such as when to cross sell/up sell.

In addition, companies should also ensure that they are able to maximise their customers’ lifetime value by radically improving the effectiveness of all customer interactions. A customer interaction is effective if it is timely and pertinent to that customer, is viewed as efficient and satisfying to that customer and is profitable to the service provider. In order to truly maximise the lifetime value of all customers, all customer interactions must be made effective.

This means that the system must go beyond the traditional touch points of the customer service officer, IVR, Web, kiosks and storefronts and include all the billing related and service delivery touch points. Every time a customer uses a service, makes a call or downloads a piece of content, there is the opportunity to improve the effectiveness of those interactions. Because of this, ICLP knows the secret to drive true customer insights by focusing on your key customer segment (eg. VIP) to achieve a personal and emotional connection.

To make all these work, we need to retrain our contact centre staff to be proactive in identifying buying signals and act accordingly to close the sales. Coupled with a realigned compensation system and an easy to navigate customer relationship management system, the results will be sustainable.
According to Frost & Sullivan, Unified communications in the contact centre is emerging as a key theme in enabling customer satisfaction. This tools can make service representatives more productive and hence cost effective and improve loyalty.
At the end of the day, the best in class contact centre provides a much needed human touch point, anywhere, anytime, anyhow access for the customer. This creates the continuation of the customer story that follows him or her for that highly sought after wow experience.

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