How call centres open doors to positive customer experience

Companies should provide proper training to contact-centre employees as role of ‘human touch’ becomes ever more important in digital era

PUBLISHED : Friday, 22 July, 2016, 8:41pm
UPDATED : Friday, 22 July, 2016, 8:41pm

One of the most crucial customer contact points management should focus on is call centres. When customers deal with a contact-centre employee, it is because they have complex issues or the digital process has broken down. This means contact-centre employees are crucial to ensuring a positive customer experience.

As a consultant to financial services firms, my experience is that the contact centre has emerged as one of the most effective venues through which finance companies can deliver a positive customer experience.

To deliver such an experience, however, firms need to establish a new focus on a largely overlooked resource: the people in the contact centres who talk with customers on a day-to-day basis.

Contact-centre representatives or agents, who have historically been treated as a substitute for more expensive branch personnel, are now being asked to provide tremendous differentiation from the customer’s perspective. Their role – to humanise and establish a connection – is becoming more important in the digital era.

Increasingly, businesses are moving to a self-service and process automation model for routine inquiries and transactions (such as address changes), pushing growing responsibility to the customer. For most companies and customers, that is a good thing as it streamlines processes and makes things simpler.

However, that means that nowadays when customers deal with a contact-centre representative, they do so because their issues are too complex to resolve through automated or self-service options, or they may have found that the digital process has broken down and human intervention is called for. In other words, the customer is frustrated and has a problem. It is rarely routine.

Increasingly, the firm seeks to deliver the “human touch” as part of the customer experience, but it is no longer as simple as answering the telephone. Just as the telephone augmented in-person business, now digital augments business conducted by telephone.

Firms pursuing this course can protect hard-won customer relationships and seize opportunities to build on existing connections

In this environment, I have noticed that financial services firms are finding it necessary to re-examine and redefine the ways in which contact-centre employees are selected, trained, equipped and motivated.

Other industries should take note as the lesson is universal. The firms need to impart new skills and, more importantly, new attitudes so that contact-centre teams feel engaged, motivated and empathetic. They need to supply the right tools, technology and information as well as adapt to new approaches to everything from performance tracking to career development. Your contact-centre employee needs to feel as if he or she is part of the team.

We believe that a systematic approach to the workforce within the contact centre – based on an understanding of the customer’s expectations; the adoption of data-fuelled technologies; and appropriate selection, training and development of the employees – can transform the centre to a powerful engine for customer interaction. Firms pursuing this course can protect hard-won customer relationships and seize opportunities to build on existing connections.

Andrew Woolf is Accenture’s global human capital lead, financial services