The importance of the contact centre’s function as brand ambassador has been overlooked by management for years. However, this is about to change as more and more companies are realising that the battle to win and maintain customers is fought by contact centre agents every day.
“We recognise the trend and appreciate the significant role of the contact centre,” says Andrew Doyle, Managing Director, Jabra Business Solutions, UK & Ireland. “We believe that contact centre agents are major contributors in safeguarding brand perception and by making this value-add tangible, it will clearly demonstrate their role as brand ambassadors alongside their Marketing colleagues.”
According to Laura Bassett, Director of Marketing and Customer Experience at Avaya, a global leader in business communications and Sarah Stealey Reed, Content Director at International Customer Manager Institute (ICMI), we will see a shift towards contact centres becoming much more of a customer experience and knowledge centre, playing an important role as “brand guardian”. Sarah Stealey Reed, ICMI, comments: “When customers finally communicate with the contact centre it is because they literally have reached the end of the line. So, that interaction with the agent needs to be fantastic or this might very well be the last time you will ever hear from that customer again.” Companies are no longer being defined by their products, but by the way that customers experience them. And now that the customers have so many options of brands and products to choose from that experience is vital. “That is why call centre agents are becoming much more like brand ambassadors,” Sarah Stealey Reed concludes.
Minimising customer handling time can be risky business
For many companies LEAN and cost reduction have been key words during the financial crisis, and there has been a great focus on how each contact centre agent can minimise customer handling time. But according to Laura Bassett from Avaya this can be risky business, as this might initially save the company costs, but may leave the customer with unresolved issues after having been through customer service. The key here being that although your company may save on handling time, your customer might be the one that is left with all the extra work and that creates a very poor customer experience of your brand. Sarah Stealey Reed, ICMI, said: “What customers want right now is to be helped as fast and effectively as possible. So the agent needs to be effective, efficient and proficient about it – it is not about how long it takes the customer service agent afterwards, but about helping the customer as soon as possible.”
The need for a shift in behaviour towards reducing the customer’s handling time – not your company’s
Laura Bassett from Avaya says that businesses must never forget that the way your customer service agents handle your customers’ issues basically communicates whether you care about your customers or not. And those customers will not hesitate to tell other customers publicly what they think about your customer service, which is why an increasing amount of critical communication on social media steams from customers sharing bad customer service stories on Facebook and Twitter. That is why contact centre agents should be seen more as brand ambassadors whose main goal is to create the best possible customer experience: “I believe that it is important that there is a shift in behaviour. It is not about reducing your company’s handling time, it is about reducing customer effort. Where the market will be going now is with a much greater focus on customer experience management. In the future, we will see a greater focus on how your call centre can be the best possible brand ambassador and create the best possible brand experience.”