Making Your Contact Center a Strategic Goldmine for the Enterprise

Updated: May 19, 2010

Hire the right people: Create a job description for the person, not the role. Think of the best contact center employees you've ever had. Think of the best call center reps you've experienced personally as a customer. What attributes do they have? How do they commonly approach their jobs, their lives, their relationship with customers and coworkers? Hiring the right people is the single most-important factor in making everything else work well.

Make them happy, make them smile: Making employees happy isn't about more pay and fewer hours (though the paycheck is important). It's also about feeling respected by the organization, feeling respected by customers, and feeling their work is making an impact. Recognize and reward your employees with even small things and it can go a long way. Make them smile while they're on the phone, and your customers will hear it - and respond to it.

Teach them how to apologize: You're going to be wrong, you're going to screw up, and customers are going to get upset. But each of those opportunities can be converted into a satisfied and evangelistic customer - sometimes instantly. It's often in how you apologize. Recognize the problem or mistake, acknowledge that it's caused a problem or pain for the customer, apologize for that, and ask what you can do to make it right. The majority of the time, the customer will be taken aback at your directness and will ask for something far less than you were prepared to give. Problem not necessarily solved, but the process you use demonstrates the kind of company your customers are dealing with, and want to continue working with.

Use them as a daily, real-time focus group: Your contact center is worth more than most research agencies, more than a month's worth of focus groups, more than any number of analyst reoprts. Every day your contact center is speaking with countless customers, talking about real-time issues, and collectively understanding how the market may be shifting on a daily basis. If you can collect, aggregate and analyze that information, you would have a steady flow of information to adjust messaging, product strategy, resolve problems before they get out of control, and much more.

Reward them for customer success: Rewarding contact centers for time on the phone is focusing on the means, not the ends. Rewarding those employees for the impact they have on customers (and even prospects) gets them focused on what's really important, and allows them the functional creativity to delight customers and help you innovate everything from policies, messaging, product sales strategy and more.

Reward them for customer referrals: "I'm so happy we were able to help you today. Let me ask, do you know of anyone else who might benefit from (benefit/outcome statement here)?" You may not use this message at the end of a difficult conversation, but how many calls in your contact center will happen today, where the customer was satisfied, maybe even delighted, and there was no "ask" like this? Add those opportunities up over the course of a week, a month, a year. How much more business could it represent for you, with this one change?

Teach them how to solve customer problems (which means sell): You want your contact center to sell? You want them upselling? Don't teach them to sell. Don't give them a script with product information. Instead, teach them to identify problems and propose solutions. Teach them how to ask questions to understand the customer, what objectives they have with your product or service, what needs may not be fulfilled currently. Solving problems is the same as selling. But instead of pushing a product the customer may or may not understand, the idea of solving problems implies a customer-centric approach that makes it easy for the customer to buy.

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