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July 02, 2012

Customer Care Going Home and Mobile, Says Rowan

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC

TMC this year celebrates 30 years of covering customer interaction, which means it couldn’t be a better time to look at where we’ve been with customer service and where we’re going. We’re also rebranding our customer experience effort. In this installment of our CUSTOMER coverage, we talk with Michele Rowan of CEO of was established in June 2009 with the sole focus of helping companies develop and implement home working strategies in customer contacts. Rowan also has served 12 years with Hilton Reservations and Customer Care as vice president of performance management, for which her responsibilities spanned contact center operations, HR, training and performance management. 

What has been the most important development in the past decade related to customer interactions?

Rowan: Customer contacts at home. Analysts report that growth of home working exceeded growth of off-shoring for the first time in 2011, propelled by a highly skilled, educated U.S.- based workforce, unprecedented employee satisfaction levels and reduced facilities and operating costs.

In the recent past? 

Rowan: UC platforms (IP) that nearly duplicate the home working environment (vs. in house) in terms of control, business process and security.

When and why did the trend toward call center offshoring take off?

Rowan: It took off a decade ago, purely as a cost play. Companies were willing to trade some cultural gaps and product knowledge understanding for drastically reduced operating expenses. But as we all know, low cost markets don’t stay low cost, and the gaps in product knowledge and cultural have resulted lost share of wallet for high value customers. 

Is the tide turning on call center offshoring? If so, why?

Rowan: Financial services and other organizations are moving high value customers back to the U.S. due to gaps in culture and product knowledge offshore, coupled with the fact that the cost benefit is only half of what is what a decade ago (i.e. 20 percent savings now vs. 40 percent last decade).

What else is happening related to the move toward onshoring?

Rowan: When companies look around for the best place to house high value customer transactions, it is not in bricks and mortar. Rather, it is in home-based positions, where costs are reduced by 15-20 percent (vs. bricks and mortar) and customer satisfaction is heightened due to heightened education and work experience of the vast labor pool at home.

How has the rise of IP-based networks impacted customer interactions? 

Rowan: Customers are making contact (voice and IM, e-mail) for help, not to buy. IP makes that possible through a myriad of devices, and makes CRM transactions fluid on virtually any channel.

How is WFM changing? 

Rowan: Home-based agents expand the talent pool by 500 percent.

How is the rise of cloud computing impacting how businesses target, engage with, and deliver product/service/support to the customer? 

Rowan: Costs are reduced and channels are integrated providing a fluid, seamless customer experience.

How is the widespread use of social networking technology impacting how businesses target, engage with, and deliver to the customer? 

Rowan: For B to C, social media is explosive and low cost. For B to B, it is still growing and a question mark.

How is the increased use and comfort level with video impacting how businesses target, engage with, and deliver to the customer? 

Rowan: Video saves customers, employees and business time and money, while providing a face-to-face interaction when required.

What new tools and practices are businesses using to better leverage their own and/or outside data to target, engage with, and deliver to the customer? 

Rowan: Understanding where customers spend time on line, why they reach out, and how and when their issues are resolved are all captured in UC platform technology.

How is the mobile boom impacting how businesses target, engage with, and deliver to the customer?  

Rowan: Mobile will likely become the primary contact tool that customers utilize, and already the top device utilized for IP access.

What other key trends are you seeing as it relates to how businesses target, engage with, and deliver to the customer?

Rowan: Utilization of home-based employees for customer contacts is growing at 30 percent per annum. Sixty percent of customer contact organizations utilize home workers in some capacity today, and the forecast is 80 percent by year end 2013. Talent pools are expansive, and costs are reduced.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2012, taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX. ITEXPO (News - Alert) offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. For more information on registering for ITEXPO click here.

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Edited by Rachel Ramsey
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