Countless times we’ve heard the use of contact centres is in decline – soon we won’t need them because customer service will be managed through self-service and customer moderation. However, research continues to show that even with rapid growth in online customer service tools, 79% of consumers would still prefer to contact customer services by telephone (Nuance).

In addition, many retailers are struggling to make the transition from call centre to contact centre – adapting to the range of channels customers want to use. This is why it is so important for retailers to optimise their contact centre use to drive customer engagement and satisfaction.  

I just want to speak to customer services, why is that so difficult?

Have you ever been in a situation where something has gone wrong with a product you bought or you want to change your delivery time and all you want to do is speak to a human being so you can sort it out quickly? You are a person who likes to self-serve whenever possible but you have searched the retailer’s website and it can’t be done online so now you want their phone number but it is nowhere to be found? Frustrating to say the least!

When retailers are looking to make efficiency savings, the contact centre is often targeted and sometimes rightly so. Like any business function, the contact centre should be run efficiently with the service optimised, the target being:

  • Streamlined processes
  • The right number of customer service advisors available at the right time
  • Advisors who are equipped to resolve customer enquiries about the products and services across multiple communication channels

However, many retailers fall short of this by trying to discourage contact and move customers to less costly (but also less effective) channels, resulting in poor customer experience and engagement with the brand. Hence this game of hide and seek we play with the customer service telephone number.

Remind me why we need a contact centre again

Almost all retailers would agree that a customer service contact centre is a necessary function, but how it is perceived within the business and the role it plays in engaging customers and providing a service can vary significantly.

Some treat the contact centre as a silo, where you send customer problems so the rest of the business doesn’t have to deal with them face on. While others put the contact centre at the heart of the business – it is a place to have direct conversations with customers, resolve any issues, and leave the customer with a good experience of the products and brand, no matter why they made contact in the first place.

We need to remember that the nature of calls is also changing. The contact centre is a last resort for customers when they have been unable to find an answer elsewhere, therefore the complexity and diversity of these calls are resulting in longer handling times.

Achieving customer satisfaction is paramount at their time of need so when this is combined with the added cost/time to retailers for these interactions, efficient contact centre processes, the right technology and knowledgeable advisors are essential.

Making customer service the heart of the business

A client of mine working in customer services summarised this well when he said “Our contact centre is not just the voice of the customer into the business but our voice as a business to customers”.

So when you are squirreled away in head office creating the next product range or designing a customer proposition, don’t forget the contact centre is going to play an important role in the customer engagement strategy.

Retailers are missing a trick if they don’t optimise and equip their contact centres to use each customer interaction to deliver the desired customer experience.