Every contact center, from small to large, strives to provide the best possible customer support it can, right? Not necessarily. Great customer support costs money, and many organizations still aren’t willing to spend money on something as intangible and immeasurable as “customer good will.”
While we like to think that “the customer is always first,” there is increasing evidence that customers are getting stuck with a “lowest bidder” type scenario in which companies deliberately whittle down quality in order to avoid spending any money. A recent survey conducted by the International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) found that 92 percent of contact center managers claimed their agents could be more effective, and 74 percent said that company procedures actually prevent agents from providing satisfactory experiences.
“Contact center managers are attempting to cut costs by operating on a cost-per-contact model, which limits the amount of time agents can be resolving customer inquiries,” wrote Aspect’s Tim Dreyer (News - Alert) in a recent blog post. “At the same time, their organizations are inserting advertisements for premium support, which costs a fee, into the messaging customers hear while they’re on hold.”
In other words, many companies are considering saying to their customers, “Do you want good customer support? You’ll have to pay for it.”
The view is intensely short-sighted. Customers will never widely accept the premise that if they buy a company’s products or services, they’re on the hook for paying if a problem crops up. Competitors will see opportunities in offering better customer support at no charge.
“If these practices became known to customers of a particular business, how long do you think they would continue their patronage of that business?” asked Dreyer. “How long until they left for a competitor more attuned to their needs? Sacrificing service in favor of savings is a preposterous model—a recipe for financial ruin in the long run—especially considering that today’s contact center managers do not need to select one or the other to be successful.”
That said, there are a number of ways companies can keep costs down while still maintaining good quality of service. Properly designed and delivered self-service solutions, for example, can help take the pressure off live agents and pay for themselves in the long run. Good workforce management solutions can prevent over-staffing. Better scheduling can help companies properly manage their human resources. One of the best ways, however, would be to leverage cloud-based solutions, according to Dreyer.
“Outdated on-premises legacy hardware is costly and expensive to maintain,” he wrote. “Migrating to the cloud will reduce those costs while also promoting uptime with network monitoring and automatic security updates. Furthermore, automatic software updates will ensure that your agents are ready to field all interactions supported by the most effective and up-to-date tools.”
Going omnichannel can also help. When companies increase the number of integrated customer touch points such as email, Web chat, IM, SMS, mobile app and video, customers will be able to contact companies in the medium that is fastest and most convenient, which reduces the burden on live agents.
Perception is an important element to the customer relationship. Customers have high expectations today and punish companies that fail to meet them…even if they’re trying to meet them. Companies that throw up their hands and declare good customer support too expensive to provide will likely find that, in the future, they don’t have customers anymore.