This article originally appeared in the Dec. 2011 issue of Customer Interaction Solutions
Contact centers have been in the forefront of advancements in telecommunication, collaboration and customer service, being first with contact routing based on skill and experience, enterprise presence and instant messaging, recording, coaching, softphones, reporting, administration, social media integration and so on.
Unified communication, as defined by UCStrategies, is “communication integrated to optimize business processes,” which is what contact centers have been about since the early days. The back office is the focus of UC to bring innovation to the traditional office users. Contact centers handle volumes of contacts, every minute, everywhere. It is a pervasive technology that has enabled new business models and innovation in the market place.
Taking Another Step – Introducing Now Service
The industry is constantly scanning for new technology innovations – new software updates, features that add new ways for customer interaction to be improved, re-invented, or even over-turned and made new again.
I believe we are seeing the beginning of a new type of view of customer service. We can call it now service.
Now service has some interesting characteristics:
· immediate feedback from customers who have an impact on product delivery, development and innovation;
· collaborative service where the customer and the company share the burden in helping users;
· customers who become audiences and fans.
Collaboration is in everything we do. Internal and external boundaries in customer service dissolve. This requires new technology, yes, but most of this is possible today. Customer service solutions have stagnated in its evolution. We are seeing more same-same, and less innovation.
By enabling customers, devices, applications and service points to send feedback immediately, companies can react virtually simultaneously as a situation occurs. When a credit limit is reached, the financial institution can communicate this directly to a portable device (mobile phone or tablet), allowing the customer to choose to increase credit levels. An airline with available seats on a flight can offer these to travelers who have entered or are in the vicinity of the airport and are going to the same destination. A car that needs service can communicate with auto shops to negotiate the best price and find a place that is available when the car will be in the area.
Many companies see end users’ blogs and external how-to sites as a risk. Collaborative services is the next step in social media where users help each other with product support, tips and tricks, and even purchasing suggestions. These will become an increasing reality in many markets.
Innovative companies embrace them and assist them with product support. These groups can become your audience; they will listen to you, and in turn tell others about you and your products. You will exist in symbiosis to create value. But a company must be engaged and alert, as viral issues can quickly lead to disaster. These groups can also act as your testing ground for a new product or service.
Audiences and Fans
Companies that view their customers as just a transaction or a post in a CRM system will lose out to those that consider them an audience and fans. These companies will have their audiences close to their heart. They will use them as a marketing tool and make sure they are well informed.
Teach your audience members what they don’t know. The competition can’t steal them from you anyway. Consider master chefs who write cookbooks. They are not concerned with competition using their recipes because they know you need more than the list of ingredients – you need talent, and that is what your organization consists of.
Use new ways to reach out to your customers. Teach your customers how to benefit from your products and how to use them better. Let your audience hear from other customers and leverage these brand advocates as part of your strategy to win new customers to enlarge your fan base and increase your worldwide audience.
Innovate by Collaboration
Innovation is not only to invent “electricity” it is also to improve on someone else’s thinking. Maybe you will be able to supply it better, or create a better user experience. Do it together with your audience and with your partners to find collaborative initiatives to innovate.
Collaboration is not a subset of innovation; it is the essence of innovation. Let your whole organization collaborate to improve customer service, products, product-related services, even supply chain, stores and on and on.
The Border-less Organization
Organizations that do not allow one part of the organization to communicate with another are going to be less successful than those that allow border-less collaboration. Management structures are great to manage people, but not for innovation. A manufacturing company organized teams to identify improvement areas to decrease shipping costs. Teams worked with improving scalability within software and hardware development, but the person who achieved the most innovative and cost-effective solution worked in the warehouse. He came up with a way of packaging the products that saved space and time loading and unloading.
Collaborative organizations invite all to participate and contribute with their experience. But the border-less organization also invites customers and partners to be part of the innovative process.
Reinventing Unified Communication
UC is not about packaging features we already know and use. UC is about doing it better, innovating instead of doing things as we always have. You innovate in your back office not by implementing a new product, but by re-inventing how you do your business. Your company can have the innovation the industry is looking for. Successful companies will be the now service organizations with immediate feedback to its audience. They collaborate throughout the organization and invite customers to be part of the process.
Contact centers have innovated the market up to now, let’s take it another step. Innovate!
Jason Andersson is a UC specialist with UCStrategies (www.ucstrategies.com) .
TMCnet publishes expert commentary on various telecommunications, IT, call center, CRM and other technology-related topics. Are you an expert in one of these fields, and interested in having your perspective published on a site that gets several million unique visitors each month? Get in touch.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi