We can do a lot with our phones these days. My own phone sits beside me as I write. It’s ready to pull up a recipe for breakfast or get me directions to the nearest Cafe. However, what our phones provide in convenience, they lack in personal connection. I don’t want a random recipe. I want to try something at a friend’s house, love it, and hear them say, “I’ll send you the recipe.” I don’t want to be directed to the 4.5 star Cafe made popular by its proximity to the hotel. I want someone to tell me about that cozy little shop tucked away an extra two blocks down that serves the best mocha latte.
That mocha might not be objectively better. It will be better to me. It’s the connection with another person that creates the value. The value added by that connection is unique.
Contact centers do this for your business. They add value to your products and services, intrinsic value. Value that cannot be copied. When the conversation is high stakes, we pick up the phone. We want someone on the other end to assure us, simplify things, and help us choose. The person who sits in your contact center answers that call and transforms your product or service into experience.
Contact Centers are uniquely human.
Contact centers are human. They are people talking to people. People-to-people conversations add value. These conversations also have unique needs. Our approach to our contact centers should recognize how these conversations are alive and dynamic. Because they are dynamic, contact centers adapt to your business. They can be one of the most agile pieces of your organization. Developing that agility starts with recognizing the uniquely human nature of contact centers.
Often, when we need to solve a problem, we think in terms of technology – machines or software – that does a thing. Technology can be complex, but it’s straight forward. It may be difficult to resolve the first time, but once a tech issue is sorted, it behaves consistently. Is there an issue with the software? Do a sprint, patch it, and you’re good to go.
But you cannot patch a contact center. Getting to the strength of your contact center, personalized experience for your customers, isn’t easy. It requires meeting the unique needs of your contact center.
Keys to the Contact Center Meet the needs of your own people
Happier employees make for happier customers. Both research and intuition tell us so. Cultures of “fun” have become common in contact centers. Corporate give-away stress balls and printed certificates fill cubicles. These are not bad, but they miss the point.
Contact centers are human. They are people talking to people. People-to-people conversations add value. These conversations also have unique needs
Fun doesn’t happen until basic needs are met. And people who are hungry, fighting with family, or stressed over money think of little else. These challenges can seem overwhelming. They can seem outside of our scope. But they affect your people, and in turn, your customers. Giving someone a stress ball or giving a 1-in-100 chance at a trip does nothing to address the core needs of your employees. Most managers throw in the towel on these issues. You don’t have to.
Start by listening. We know we are supposed to listen. But we schedule meetings to tell people what to do and answer a few questions they might have. While we talk, they desperately need someone to listen. Listening starts with your intent. Listening requires time. Wherever you sit in your organization, ensure that you listen. Listen to the work stuff. Listen to the not-work stuff. Listening must be a priority in your contact center. Listening to people helps them to feel valued and connected. When they feel valued, they help your customers feel valued.
Tools and Resources
People who work in call centers have a service mindset. They take joy and pride in meeting a customer’s needs. The want to give a good experience. They want to avoid bad experiences.
They need the right tools. Ask your contact center employees what they need to take care of their customers, they’ll tell you. They might not know the words. They know the pain points. Your contact center employees want to give great service. Give them the tools and let them deliver.
When your people have their needs met, and they have the tools they need, they can engage with customers. When they get engaged in conversations, what was once a transaction becomes an experience. Order fulfillment goes from, “What color do you want” to “I really like the blue one, and I think you will too.” “No, I can’t” becomes, “Let me see what I can do here”.
"Contact centers add value to the products and services. In an interview with CIOReview for a special edition of Contact Center, Lexi Emmons, Sr. Director, Customer Experience, Bright Horizons Children’s Centers LLC, explains that, "Contact center adds value only by listening, engaging, and creating experiences for the customer and it is necessary to clear the way for contact center individuals who connect with your customers"
As we add more convenience into everything, entire personal exchanges have been reduced to a few button presses. Sometimes, this is what we want as customers and what our customers want from us. When we need to talk to someone, only another person can listen and engage with us. Only another person can take something that anyone can get and make it unique. Your contact center adds value by listening, engaging, and creating experiences for your customers. Clear the way for your contact center individuals to connect with your customers, and they will create the experiences that set your business apart.