The changing face of contact centres

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Posted by: Andrew Hague, Business Solutions Executive, Stellar

It’s the thing we’ve read about, planned for, and braced ourselves to be ready to tackle for the last couple of years:  the reduced reliance on traditional voice channels that threatens to change the face of the contact centre industry forever.

As consumers ourselves, I doubt there would be much surprise that people are more readily embracing social media and web chat as channels of choice.  They’re always available, you can manage your grievance or enquiry while you’re also doing something else, and – most glorious of all – you don’t need to listen to hold music.

In January 2015, over 3% of the customer interactions Stellar managed for our clients were via social media or webchat.  And while that’s obviously proportionately small, it’s the relatively rapid growth, the variety of channels and enquiry types and immediate impact on the customer experience that is the truly astonishing part.  Across the travel, tourism, government, telco and ISP sectors, Stellar currently manages an online community of over 430,000 customers across our clients’ social media sites, and handles 455,000+ digital service interactions a year. In addition to the astonishing growth is the impact this has made on the service profile with smaller teams, a different agent skill set and new and emerging technologies, which are changing the look and feel of our existing contact centre environments.

We have been talking to a lot of our clients in a range of industries, navigating nervousness about brand protection to reach this inevitable tipping point. However, there are still plenty of organisations and companies still holding out on offering digital service to their customers – whether social media service, web chat support or emerging digital channels – and it’s a similar range of concerns that’s stopping them from embarking on this journey.

It’s risky

Digital and especially social media is still viewed by many to be a risky channel to open, citing issues around brand protection, complaint management and the prospect of issues being discussed openly in a public forum. However global evidence suggests that the greater risk is not doing anything at all and ignoring your customers online. Studies by Gartner found that failure to respond via social channels can lead to a 15% increase in the churn rate for existing customers – a frightening statistic

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Through this experience, Stellar has found that opening up and embracing these channels creates opportunities to interact, engage and rescue customers that in the pre-digital age would have moved on to a competitor or not used your product again. By setting up the correct processes and by giving your social team the power to resolve issues and manage them in the channel in which they’re raised, you have the ability to save customers, make them happy and turn them into brand advocates in that very same public forum.  That’s money-can’t-buy publicity, and it’s easy to do well.

It’s hard to prove success

Cost and Return on Investment are key elements of all digital discussions. These channels do require investment – in technology, people and time – and the return on this investment has often been difficult to measure.

Bain & Company found that when companies engage and respond to customer service requests over social media, those customers end up spending 20% to 40% more with the company. Harvard Business Review found that customers who encounter positive social customer care experiences are nearly 3 times more likely to recommend a brand. What this shows is that when done well, the ROI for these channels will please even the digital sceptics within your organisation.

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Social solutions have come a long way very quickly, and we can provide the technology, the processes and the tools to measure the tangible benefits of these strategies.  Whether the cost saving from call deflection, the incremental revenue of additional sales that wouldn’t have existed without a digital engagement approach, or the NPS and issue resolution of these channels, we have the ability to measure it and provide you with all the information needed to take back to your senior management team and prove the success of the channel.

It’s a fad!

Yes, there are still people out there claiming that the digital bubble will burst and we’ll all go back to sending letters any minute. The reality is that digital channels aren’t a pure replacement of traditional channels; they co-exist as complementary avenues, allowing you to engage with people who were previously out of reach for your organisation.  So don’t give up your pen license just yet, but it’s impossible to ignore what customers are trying to tell us, with every action they take. Where social media used to be focussed on pushing out marketing activities, the dynamic has changed, with 67% of consumers now using a company’s social media site for servicing, compared with 33% for social marketing (J.D. Power and Associates).

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A Nielsen study found that 33% of users even prefer to contact brands using social media rather than the telephone.

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Now, even though 67% still prefer other channels, that’s 33% of your customers who would have a better experience with your brand if you connected with them online.

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The other piece of real data that’s too compelling to ignore is around the value of the experience from the customer perspective.  Regardless of industry, our existing web chat services are delivering an average Net Promoter Score of 55+.  And while social media satisfaction can be measured by sentiment as well as NPS, the trends are the same – digital service customers are happy customers. 

Customers are flocking to these channels because it’s easy, it’s fun and it’s where they already spend their time.  By meeting them there you can reduce risk, reduce costs and increase revenues, while gaining valuable insights into your processes, your products, your competitors and your industry in real time.

One customer’s story

Theory is one thing, but the most powerful motivator to get your social strategy started is seeing how other organisations are succeeding.  So below we’ve outlined the story of one of our early adopters of social media service – a Government transport client.

This amazing client, despite the perceived risk by some people in the industry, decided to tackle negative sentiment around product and services head on.  The service needed to be 24/7 and responsive to engage with the travelling public and ensure users returned to this channel again.

Over the course of a year, a channel that was previously entirely controlled by customers has turned into a two-way engagement, and the results and customer sentiment have been outstanding.  Happy customer, happy public. 

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So is it all over for contact centres?

It’s so clear that “Digital” isn’t spelling the demise of contact centres, merely triggering the next evolution.  It’s an opportunity to have rich, rapid, rewarding engagements with your customers, and it enhances the contact centre opportunities, rather than replacing them.  It’s a really exciting time to be working in customer relationship management, and our “Stellar Enhance” offering is bundling up everything we’ve learnt so far and everything we’re delivering to our fearless customers already.

Customers have changed, and so has the humble contact centre.  If you’re ready to unleash its potential to create better customer relationships, give us a call (or a Tweet!).

About Andrew Hague

Andrew Hague is Stellar’s Business Solutions Digital Lead.  As a passionate advocate of the potential that digital presents for unparalleled engagement with customers, Andrew sits across the design and delivery of the digital strategy for all of Stellar’s clients.  Throughout the sales process, strategy development, implementation and ongoing operation of the service, he adds his expertise and understanding of how to manage social customer care well.  

Andrew brings his curiosity, expertise and hands-on enthusiasm to every engagement, and he firmly believes that continuity between strategy and day to day operations is the secret to a dynamic, successful digital solution. 

About Stellar

We are the voice behind some of the world’s biggest and brightest brands. As Australia’s leading contact centre and business process outsourcing provider, we’re instinctively restless in finding new ways to add value and potential to every customer interaction.

From traditional phone and email activities, to complex back office, cutting edge social and digital services, and multilingual operations, we don’t just deliver; we delight.  And we continue to add value to our partners by analysing our performance and suggesting better ways of doing business.  A Stellar partnership is about more than just having the solutions; it’s about helping to define the questions.

Frost and Sullivan have named us Contact Centre Outsourcing Service Provider of the Year for the last three years running.  Every day, across every industry and every medium, we create better customer relationships.