Founder & Director OmniTouch International
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What contact centre teams can learn from customer experience professionals

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There is plenty of inspirational work being undertaken by CX professionals the world over. And there are five points that contact centre teams can draw particular inspiration from. 

3rd Dec 2021
Founder & Director OmniTouch International
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I’ve written extensively about what CX folks can learn from contact centre folks. You can read an earlier article I wrote about it here

Today I flip the perspective and ask – what lessons can contact centre folks learn from CX folks?

Because the nature of the work between the roles is different – no matter how much contact centre folks rebrand themselves as customer experience.

And there are so many lessons contact centre folks can learn from their CX colleagues.

Here goes!

Is the work done in CX and in contact centres really so different? Yes it is.

When people ask me about what it takes to run a successful contact centre, I like to use the analogy of a circus tent.

Imagine a traditional red & white striped circus tent up ahead of you. Lots of things are going on inside that big top. As you enter the tent you’ve got the high-wire acrobats up overhead, the lion tamers over there and the clowns driving around in funny cars in the ring by the entrance.

There’s a lot going on in that tent. And it all matters. The fortune teller has her role. The weightlifters have their role. You get the idea.

Now imagine that your big top tent is your contact centre. There’s a lot going on inside the contact centre big top too. You’d find quality assurance – that’s a specialised role. And as we look around we find workforce management, Training, IT, human resources, finance. They’re all specialised roles too. They’re all contributing to contact centre success.

And of course you’d have all the people that get the work in and out each day – the agents, the team leaders, the directors.

In a great contact centre all the disparate roles work in harmony together to achieve results. Everyone knows what everyone else does and has a basic understanding of each other’s contribution – even if they themselves don’t ‘do that’. All under the direction of a skilled & knowledgeable contact centre head.

But the contact centre tent isn’t the same as the CX tent. Sure – they’re pitched on the same turf. Your entry ticket gets you into both.

So what’s inside the CX tent?

Like the contact centre tent, there’s a lot going on inside the CX big top too.

I’m a CXPA Recognised Training Provider and a fan of the 5 CX Competency Framework required for CCXP Certification.

The 5 CX competency domains are:

  • Customer experience strategy.
  • Customer insights & understanding.
  • Design, implementation & innovation.
  • Metrics, measurement & ROI.
  • Culture & accountability.

Where each competency requires a specific set of know-how to succeed.

Just consider VoC (customer insights and understanding) alone. By the time you factor in qualitative and quantitative research, triangulation, prioritisation and actioning of results you’re covering a lot of ground.

CX isn’t just doing one thing. And it’s not customer service on steroids. And just like in the contact centre, the disparate CX roles work in harmony under the direction of a skilled and knowledgeable CX head. With the added caveat that CX is at play across the entire organisation. All functions, all departments, all employees, all partners, all vendors.

When I listen to people talk about their work and customers  I ask myself: are they talking about the work done that falls within a department – like customer service or marketing?

Or are they talking about work done across the organisation – such as prioritisation of customer journeys to be studied, rollout of experience design know-how organisation-wide or culture building.

It may not be a perfect dividing line but it helps me decide if the conversation is about customer service (we handle omnichannel service) or customer experience (we’re use a few key customer metrics to understand their relationship with our organisation).

Ok, the tents are different. You made your point.  So what can lessons can contact centre folks learn from CX professionals?

I continue to be inspired by the level of CX work being done out there in the real world. I see this level both through judging I’ve been doing for various customer experience Awards as well as our own work with clients.

The lessons contact cenre folks can learn from CX professionals is tremendous. But for this article I’ve narrowed down to five points that really stand out for me.

Especially because of my background in the contact centre industry.

1. How to craft a CX vision

I am endlessly blown away by the work that CX professional put into crafting a powerful CX vision.

We teach the process and quite a few clients have shared the outcome of their process with us – and it’s intensive and can take months. Because it involves aligning to business strategy, brand values and customer expectations. And then blending all of these into a powerful statement that defines – specifically – what kind of experience we deliver around here.

It’s so much more than asking ‘what’s the industry standard for this or that’ – which seems to be a trap some contact centre folks fall into.

Strategy flows from vision – so getting that vision right – and taking the time and effort to craft one that’s meaningful is something CX people do – and do well. And if you’re a contact centre person lucky enough to work somewhere with a powerful CX vision – you’ve got what you need to craft your service delivery vision – one that can help you inspire the service folks that work for you.

2. Tie strategy to business results

Even after my 20 years of teaching in the industry, you’re still hearing consultants and practitioners debating whether contact centres are cost centers or profit centres.

I know it’s an important discussion – I’ve been in a few myself. I’m not minimising the importance. But really? 20 years? Why hasn’t more progress been made here? (and likely a topic for another article).

What the best CX folks are getting right these days is aligning the CX strategy they come up with to the overall business strategy. And showing how and where their CX work can improve the business. And not at the ‘expense’ of customers – but considering the customer viewpoint.

What I still hear a lot in the contact centre industry is this – ‘what are the best practices’. As if there was one playbook to use and everyone should use that same playbook. And that playing to that playbook would be enough to be a great contact centre.

I think the additional question that would help would be ‘what are the principles or practices I can use to align our contact centre strategy with our organization’s business strategy to prove out how our work benefits the organisation and the customer.’

Asking that question can take some philosophical shifting – and a strong grasp of financial and ROI considerations – something that CX folks are getting better and better at. And would be happy to help with.

3. Start thinking in Customer journeys and not just in touchpoints

Contact centres, by the nature of the work they do, become obsessed with what happens within that interaction. Did we show empathy, did we solve the problem, did we use time well?

And mastering the contact centre touchpoint and delivering great conversations with customers takes a lot of know-how and skill and it’s to be celebrated. But if we think only in touchpoints and not in the totality of the customer journey we’re missing the big picture. And how customers think – which is in journeys. Which is one underlying reason CX folks think & work at the journey level too.

So in addition to mastering that ‘touch’ the customer has with us – such as that live chat or email – it helps for contact centre to consider what I call the journey perspective.

  1. Where did that customer come from – and what motivated them to reach out to us? (the before)
  2. What does this customer need from me right now in this touch? (the during)
  3. Where will the customer likely go or need to go next – and how can I help them on their way? (the after)

I like to cover this when I teach touchpoint management because I think it’s important to use a broader customer journey oriented ‘lens’ to consider what customers are going through.

Over and above the single ‘touch’.

4. Understand Voice of Customer research practices and principles better

I was taken on a centre tour a few years ago where the director was so proud that the individual NPS scores given by customers at the end of their calls were instantly flashed on large TV screens posted throughout the centre. All showing the agent names and the scores they had received so far that day.

Oh dear. (an article for another day)

Here’s another example.

When I ask contact centre folks the last time they invited in a small panel of customers, bought them lunch and asked them questions about what they like or don’t like about contact centre service, they sometimes look at me like I’m speaking in tongues.

Bring in a real customer to the contact centre? I’m not exactly sure why that would sound so outlandish. Just imagine how much you could learn. To be fair, VoC is a highly specialized area. And it has a pride of place in the CX big top.

But having an essential understanding of qualitative, quantitative methodologies and principles and practices can only help centres perform better. And make better decisions on how they use the data & insights that come out of VoC work.

5. Build cross-functional support

When you listen to CX professionals share their stories – there a common narrative arc amongst many of them.

Let me see if I can narrate that typical arc here: “I was the first person in my company to take on the CX role – it was brand new. I had to create my own job, determine my own priorities and consider how to achieve both short term and long terms results.

And in all these I had to align myself with other stakeholders in other departments, heads of functions, senior leadership, finance, the COO. And now – 2, 3, 4 years later I’ve been successful. You know how I know? It’s not just that our Team size has increased – though it has. And it’s not just that we’ve achieve some cool results – though we have

It’s the people are starting to come to me and our CX team. To ask for help. To get our opinion on how to handle something better. That’s been the true sign of our success in promulgating a CX mindset throughout the organisation.”

Don’t you love that story? I do.

And I think contact centres can only achieve their vision & purpose better when they also build powerful cross-functional relationships too.

Not just to get the basics done – like forecasting or training. But to share how the contact centre can help support the efforts of other departments and the organisation at large.

In closing

Because I stand with one leg firmly in the contact centre world and another leg firmly in the CX world I enjoy comparing, contrasting and understanding how the two disciplines can work together better – to make employee & customer lives better.

I hope this short article has been helpful.

This article was adapted from a piece that originally appeared on the Omnitouch International blog page.

 

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