Posted by Matthew Vallance
Contact centers have undergone significant transformation in the past few years, driven largely by the shift from voice to digital and omni-channel customer service. This continual channel shift has also influenced the nature and complexity of services being delivered. There is now a growing trend of contact centers supporting complex services outside the realm of what constitutes traditional customer service. In a recent article, Vicki Jenkins, principal analyst at Nelson Hall, referenced how HGS’s Customer Excellence Centre London is delivering customized customer support programs capitalizing on location and demographic advantages.
I believe this will be a valuable differentiator for customer experience management specialists in the future. Simple and routine transactions will be automated as more and more customers move to digital and self-service routes. At the same time, complex services requiring that “all-important human touch” will be delivered via voice by specially trained customer service advisors. Outsourcers equipped to support such customized and premium services will stand to benefit from this. Here are a few of the underlying trends that we are seeing.
1. Transactional to Consultative
Complex services are characterized by consultative, advice-based support provided by highly qualified agents with deep domain knowledge. In several instances, the advisors may come from specific professional backgrounds to add credibility to the service provided. For example, HGS’s customer support program for multinational food corporation Danone consists of a team of healthcare professionals (nurses, dietitians, and midwives) who routinely answer customer queries around childbirth, pregnancies, and pre-natal care. The center’s London location means it can tap into the city’s vast pool of multi-lingual graduates and qualified professionals to support customized customer needs. Globally, HGS staffs more than 1,500 registered nurses, providing a range of product safety, dietary, health information line, and even emergency contact and life flight support.
2. Widening Service Delivery Scope
The contact center is fast evolving to support services not previously placed under the remit of customer service. For example an outsourcer for consumer goods businesses may provide on-site product labs and testing facilities where faulty products can be investigated by trained technicians. This decreases the burden on the manufacturing sites, reduces operational cost for the client, while driving faster complaint resolutions and higher customer satisfaction.
3. Training, Training, and More Training
Complex customer support typically requires heavy investment in training and knowledge management initiatives. Advisors need rigorous training to ensure they stay up-to-date on practice and processes to deliver high quality interactions. Think two-time winner of the Top 50 Companies for Customer Service, Dignity Caring Services. Dignity, which provides Funeral Planning Services, has invested heavily in a training program to ensure its agents are equipped to deal with the needs of bereaved, vulnerable customers.
HGS’s cord blood bank project with Virgin Health is another such service that calls for specialized training to address emotional needs of customers. The contact center supports a stem-cell transplantation service, managing a 5-stage process, from application, collection and testing. Due to the level of complexity, only agents who have passed stringent examinations and workshops mandated by the Human Tissue Authority are allowed to work on the program.
4. Knowledge Is Power
As BPM services become increasingly complex and the range of potential support needs are both expansive and rapidly changing, it isn’t practical to try to train every person in an enterprise on every nuance or possible circumstance. Knowledge management is increasingly important, both for capturing knowledge but also for making it readily available to your customers and your front-line support team. Today’s knowledge platforms are at the center of digital support strategies to optimize the customer experience with unified customer engagement. Total consistency is only possible through maintaining one source of truth in an organization that is syndicated to all users, both internally and externally. For example, the HGS Digital Natural Assist (DNA) platform is leveraged by government agencies, consumer packaged goods companies, financial services, and automobile manufacturers to start customer engagement with self-serve options that seamlessly transition from FAQ database searches into live chat, video, or phone support. At every process touch point, the DNA knowledge base is consistently feeding intelligent support information to the portal, the chat interface, or the agent call management system.
5. Location Matters
The contact center’s location, to a large extent, governs its ability to provide complex support services. For instance, large metropolitan areas such as London, Toronto, and Chicago-based centers can leverage a city’s diverse talent pool of qualified professionals and multi-lingual graduates to support complex customer care operations.
According to Jenkins, vendors that effectively leverage a location’s language diversity and high education standards for strong multi-language, multi-country, and multi-channel support in support of customized support programs will add significant value to the customer relationship.
From simple, vanilla transactions to valuable relationship-building engagement with niche specialization, the contact center evolution is imminent. Is your business ready for the change?