Mike Hughes, managing director of CPM UK, believes agencies need to get closer to customers than ever.
When trying to sum up this past year, many words spring to mind: interesting, challenging, taxing, worrying, exciting, stimulating, testing, difficult, inspiring. With newspaper headlines about high-profile organisations moving their contact centres to India, for example, contact centre professionals and outsourcers alike feared that they might be seeing the 'thin end' of a wedge that would ultimately see their livelihood eroded.
And yet this year has also seen some re-markable initiatives and developments in the ways organisations find, win and keep their customers. Customers are demanding a relationship through a variety of channels, from telephone and e-mail to face-to-face and SMS text messages. We are beginning to see real take-up of new technologies such as picture messaging, video and 'click to call' services.
So are we a commodity industry? Or are we still pioneers and innovators helping clients grow their brands and businesses through effective customer contact?
In call centres, we've been measuring performance metrics for years: time to answer, average call length, agent use and abandoned calls as a percentage of all calls. These measures tell us exactly what the descriptors suggest.
What we've not always understood, though, is how those statistics impact on customer value: how do you measure the return on investment for increased staffing, which allows you to handle more calls more quickly? Does that enhance the customer value? By how much? At what point does the return start to diminish?
We know it gives us a better service level in terms of percentage of calls answered inside the magic 20 seconds, but do we really understand whether it (literally) adds value to the business? It is possible to be both information-rich and analysis-poor.
That lack of understanding may be one of the things which is driving organisations to focus on the cost of providing contact centre services, rather than the value or return it is generating. If you can only measure cost, it's an easy decision to move your business offshore.
We are fortunate at CPM. For years we have been demonstrating the value impact of all our face-to-face customer contact activity, so naturally adapted that thinking to other media channels. That has meant we have tended to focus on high-value-adding services for our clients, which tend to (although don't always) demand higher skills and, as such, we've been relatively immune from migration to low-cost offshore services.
So as customer contact specialists, we need to understand the value impact of all our initiatives and activities on the customer. Great customer service adds value because it drives satisfaction. This drives loyalty, which in turn drives profitable growth.
Those of us working in the customer contact arena have been promoting the delivery of great customer service by offering a variety of contact or interaction channels, all offering high levels of service and efficiency. That will deliver disproportionately high levels of compound value. It's the old adage about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts but, as I said last year, ours is not a 'one size fits all' solution. …