Hosted Contact Center Featured Article

Customer Service vs. Customer Engagement

January 08, 2014

By Tracey E. Schelmetic,
TMCnet Contributor

The point of a contact center today is customer support. So that means when the customer calls, you answer, and hopefully provide him or her with the right solution to a problem or answer to a question, right? That might have been good enough once upon a time. In an era in which “customer engagement” is the ultimate goal, it is no longer the case.

Try this scenario again: A customer has a problem with an item he ordered, so he takes a photo of the product flaw with his camera phone. He posts the photo to your Facebook (News - Alert) page, with an explanation of the problem. He later calls in to discuss it. Since you already know about his Facebook post (right?), the agent is able to look at the photo quickly and see what the issue is. After the issue is resolved on the telephone, the agent emails the customer a 15 percent off coupon for future service, and thanks him for being a customer on the Facebook exchange.  Seventeen of his friends “like” the interaction, and several of them become fans of your brand.

This is the difference between customer service and customer engagement, and if you’re not striving for the latter, you’re falling behind your competition (even if they’re not quite succeeding yet). Despite the fact that customers are not only looking for customer engagement but demanding it, few companies are meeting the need.

According to a survey by the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI), only 25 percent of companies feel that their customers are “extremely engaged” with their brand. Why such a low number? Many organizations don’t even know where to begin, particularly with the technology they have.

Matt Holbrook, a contact center solution architect at CDW (News - Alert), recently told Biztech that a good start is to revamp the company’s mission statement and craft it for the organization’s individual business units, always keeping the customer in mind. Quality monitoring and management tools can help refine those mission statements, and organizations can use surveys to gauge interaction across every communication channel the company uses.

“You have to be able to quantitatively identify where the interactions you’re having with your customers are meeting your mission statement and when they aren’t,” he says. “Based on the results, put together a program that provides training and mentoring to staff so it can meet those objectives and transform it into an engagement center.”

Key technologies to help build a customer engagement program include customer relationship management (CRM ), a multimedia/multichannel contact center platform, social media capabilities, analytics and call recording, all of which must be integrated to keep a unified view on each customer relationship and not just each transaction.

“It’s a combination of social media, analytics and modern web-based desktops that provide all of the information an agent needs to really engage the customer,” Peter Milligan (News - Alert) of the solutions marketing department at Cisco told Biztech. “That’s what results in a more direct, high-quality interaction between the company and the customer.”

Essentially, it’s a new way of thinking about customers. Instead of looking at them as a series of unrelated transactions, companies need to view them as individuals and have the ability to keep a bird’s eye view on the entire relationship, regardless of channel or transaction.

While customers may not be getting true customer engagement from a majority of companies they interact with, they are beginning to expect it. All it takes is one superior transaction with a forward-thinking company to raise customers’ expectations for all the organizations they interact with. Your success hinges on being that forward-thinking company. 

Edited by Blaise McNamee