Contact Centers Must Adapt to the Reality that Customers Today Control the Marketing Message
While it’s no secret that contact centers are changing, particularly thanks to new technology, it’s interesting to examine some of the underlying reasons why they are changing. Yes, they are becoming more multimedia as consumers use more communications channels to contact companies. Yes, they are engaging in more robust training of agents as customers become more demanding and expect better customer experiences. But it goes deeper than more demanding customers coming in through a larger variety of channels. One very important consideration as to why contact centers are changing has to do with how customers are being influenced.
Once upon a time, companies controlled the message to consumers through print advertisements, television commercials, retail store sales floors, direct mail and other vehicles. Customers may have shared a little information with friends and family members, but these influences didn’t go very wide. This is no longer the case. Consumers today use the Internet to read review sites and message boards. They read and comment on one another’s social media posts. Highly socially connected consumers, who can either be “net promoters” if they like a product, or “net detractors” if they don’t, carry some of the heaviest influence today on how successful a product or service is. A study by Cone Communications in 2011 found that 80 percent of consumers have changed a purchasing decision based on an anonymous negative review online.
What this all means is that companies no longer control their marketing messages – at least not in the traditional way.
“It’s because of this shift in the decision making process, and the social technology that makes it easy to intensify the public opinion, that the contact center is changing as well,” wrote Peter Schmitt, president and CEO of Dialogue Marketing, in a recent article for Business2Community. “Once seen as a cost of doing business, the contact center is now a significant factor in the public’s shaping of your brand value. Providing remarkable customer service is no longer a subtle advantage but a critical component of your brand’s viability.”
Contact centers need to cease being a place that simply takes inbound customer queries on a transaction-by-transaction basis and become the kind of place that controls and directs the entire customer relationship, monitoring social media and responding to it when advantageous and initiating outbound outreach efforts toward customers at propitious times. While no one will ever be able to combat negative reviews and negative social media, contact centers can go a long way toward preventing them by not allowing small problems to fester into large ones.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi