Forget contact centres... do you need a customer engagement centre?

8th Sep 2013

"By 2015, organisations that have not embraced the concept of the customer engagement centre will lose customers to competitors that have." – Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for CRM Customer Engagement Centers, 2013.

When Gartner altered its CRM focus from customer service to customer engagement this year, it raised several questions - are they predicting a major transformation within the customer service industry? How can businesses leverage this change to provide more adaptive services?

Ten years ago, if we spoke about customer engagement as a primary lead generation strategy, the idea would have been received with uncertainty and disdain. But in 2013, the paradigms have changed and “interacting” with customers seems to be the winning ticket for most businesses.

Adopting a proactive engagement approach

Optimising costs and operational efficiency has been the primary focus for the contact centre industry to date. Even with technological advancements such as IVR, self-service channels, predictive dialer systems, speech analytics, etc., the approach has always been reactive. However, businesses are now quickly moving away from the “one size fits all” approach and adopting a more proactive mindset.

Engagement ensures a higher level of involvement from the consumer, making them a part of your company’s collaborative value chain. It also helps solve one of the biggest challenges facing businesses today: driving higher revenue from a shrinking customer base. A recent survey cited customer engagement as the top concern for over 52% of CMOs (out of the 124 that were interviewed), with only 11% satisfied with their initiatives in this area.

Just responding to immediate requests or resolving issues on the first call is no longer sufficient. Customer service centres must carefully track, evaluate and measure every interaction (a phone call, an email/chat, a like on Facebook, a re-tweet or a comment on your blog) and nurture these to build long-term relationships.

Social media has changed the way consumers connect with companies. Today, consumers expect brands to respond to them in real time, they demand dialogue and true engagement.  Supporting these “digitally connected” customers requires a focused engagement strategy - and contact centres of tomorrow will be the power houses driving this initiative.

According to a report by RnR Market Research, the social CRM market stands at $1.91 billion currently and is expected to grow to $9.08 billion in 2018. This spells huge opportunity for enterprises globally who can use social customer service to understand consumers better and drive meaningful dialogue that translates into better loyalty (and sales!!).

Using technology and analytics to build deeper engagement

The focus on personalisation is increasing, as enterprises re-design their offers based on holistic, customer data (e.g., where customers are in the purchase cycle, what their social media interactions say about their preferences/needs, their purchase history, etc.).

The typical CMO is now working closely with the technology departments to collect data from both structured and unstructured sources, to build the perfect engagement strategy. From marketing automation tools to unified communication platforms to predictive analytics, contact centres are embracing technology to not only connect with consumers across multiple touchpoints, but also personalize each interaction.

Some of the top brands and companies are already using the power of analytics to build better offers and drive engagement. For example:

  • Wal-Mart uses social data to engage with potential customers and to predict their purchase patterns based on their social media interactions.
  • Microsoft’s email campaigns are yet another example of customized engagement. Using advanced analytics, the software giant is able to create tailored offers in real-time, based on the recipient’s age, location and online activity.
  • According to a report released by McKinsey & Co., a European telecom service provider used big data and information shared by consumers across social networks to understand what prompted customers to choose one brand over another. The company used these insights to design customised service offerings for its customers.
  • Apple's customized support centres called “Genius Bars” use the real-time, in-store customer interactions to up-sell and cross-sell additional products and services. Rightly referred to as the “the heart and soul” of the Apple stores, the Genius Bar is an interesting way to engage, acquire and retain customers.  

Enterprises are investing deeply in smarter analytics and technology to get a 360 degree view of their customer interactions—what are they buying (the demand), how are they buying (the preferred channel), and why are they buying (the need).

For any marketer this is a goldmine of information that can be used to collaborate with consumers across multiple channels, enhance up-selling/cross-selling efforts, strengthen customer support, and create targeted marketing campaigns to attract, acquire, retain and grow customers.

Every interaction is an opportunity to build and strengthen relationships, and businesses today are constantly finding ways to turn call centres into engagement centres to boost retention and profitability. However, the market for customer engagement is extremely diverse, largely due to the multi-channel nature of customer interactions and the various platforms that need to be supported.

The coming years will see a complete overhaul of the customer service domain, with channel specific strategies taking a backseat and real-time engagement and integrated communication taking centre stage. To succeed, enterprises will need to demonstrate a confident understanding of the current and future trends in customer engagement that are unique to their target market, and mold their customer service strategies in the same direction.

Adam Hachey is site director at Aditya Birla Minacs.

Replies (3)

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By Mahima Kini 0
09th Sep 2013 20:21

Whether it is a retail brand selling jeans or a a technology company offering software services, the need to communicate is at the heart of every business. Engagement opens the door for real communication that allows businesses to understand their customers better--their desires, pain points and expectations! Completely agree that contact centers are moving from a mechanical problem solving approach to a more interactive mindset--and its a change that must occur if customer service centers want to survive and succeed in today's digital age!

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By Digital_Guru
17th Sep 2013 10:05

Call centers have long been associated with scripts - agents referring to scripted responses to every problem, and escalating the ones they can't resolve to a higher level. The concept of personalized interactions is definitely enticing and will give the whole call center industry a major boost. Its amazing how every action that a person takes in the online space (even offline in some cases) is monitored, analyzed and then used to offer the same customer a better service: technology + human psychology = great customer service.

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By Teddy_Kiln
17th Sep 2013 14:12

Gartner's predictions for the customer service market are well-timed. Automation and customization are the two primary focus areas for all organizations in 2013 and for years to come. All industries are welcoming this change and it is only natural for the biggest industry "the customer service" industry to also adapt to these trends.

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