Today’s customer relations centers (CRCs) are a far cry from the call centers of the 20th century. Over the past 20 years, call centers have taken a great leap forward, evolving from phone banks into high-tech hubs for customer relationship management that must continuously adapt to ever-changing technology, an expanding multichannel environment, and shifting customer demands.
The good, old-fashioned telephone (now, in many cases, the smart phone) is still used by nearly 80 percent of customers, but it is gradually losing its predominance to new forms of communication, such as social media and instant messaging. Intelligent robots or cognitive agents now handle huge numbers of incoming customer calls to major banks and lending agencies and are capable of recognizing the customer’s issue, ID code or voice, and, in more than 60 percent of cases, can provide a response.
At the heart of the customer relationship, the CRC has become the nerve center of value creation. Beyond just answering calls, agents are now incentivized to grow existing accounts and win new business. Companies realize the value of providing excellent service, and staff recruitment is much stricter than in previous years, with particular interest paid to candidates who will be on the front line with customers. Agents are trained in appropriate sales methods and work in a fully scripted process. To meet this higher level of service and sales effectiveness, CRCs have had to establish operational efficiency initiatives and equip themselves with automatic call distribution systems (ACD), customer relationship management (CRM) software and electronic document management systems (EDMS). Many companies also have overhauled their sourcing strategy in response to unhappy customer experiences with offshore CRCs and are bringing that function back onshore or even in-house.
Despite the major advances CRCs have made in recent years, managers still face the challenges of managing, processing and analyzing a large volume of customer data from purchased customer lists and the social networks that feed the CRM. Hidden in all this data are insights that can help successfully transform a CRC into a profit center.
The first step in uncovering these insights is to identify weaknesses and non-compliant areas and correct these gaps and shortcomings. A CRC satisfaction survey also may be issued to staff and customers. A benchmark of work stations will assess variances in cost and performance and highlight good practices. At the very least, a CRC will require a systems inventory (including ACD and interactive voice response units), a workstation inventory (including PCs, phones, headsets) and an inventory of all computer telephony integration (CTI) tools that automate outgoing calls and recognize inbound client calls by their phone number. It also may be beneficial to identify dedicated CRC phone lines and associated costs and volumes, such as the number of incoming and outgoing calls, minutes in each category of calls and service quality indicators, such as time-to-answer and lost-call rate. Finally, the volume of contacts collected via social networks, chats, fax and email can supplement agent performance data.
Calculating the main contributors to cost and performance of a company’s CRC gives managers the information they need to make decisions on redistributing, outsourcing or adopting additional technologies. The most effective CRCs are the ones that leverage this input to improve their staff attendance rate at peak call times, adapt a call’s receive mode to fit each customer’s profile, train more agents in new chat or telesales techniques and leverage the potential of the cloud to allow employees to work from home or redistribute their CRC function.
It’s not unusual for these techniques to already be in use within a CRC, but managers are often surprised at how quickly and dramatically they can move from the call center of yesterday to today’s hub of value creation with relatively minor adjustments—which quickly come to light by analyzing the right data.
ISG helps companies outfit their customer relationship centers for the future. Contact me to discuss further.About the author
Pierre Puyraveau brings more than 25 years expertise in senior business management and IT outsourcing (infrastructure and applications) to ISG clients as a Director. Pierre’s in-depth IT management experience includes expertise in large, complex and demanding IT environments for engagements such as worldwide networks & telco operations benchmarking and datacenter consolidations; advisory services for the negotiation of large contracts; and management of client challenges requiring rapid assessment, planning and successful execution.