The proliferation of digital-first technologies combined with the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and self-service options has created fundamental changes in the contact center. Customers today are empowered with more service choices and higher expectations than ever. Whether they text a question at 2 pm or ask via online chat at 2 am, customers expect knowledgeable service whenever they need it. This is both a challenge and also an opportunity. Companies that meet expectations and deliver the best customer experience gain a competitive advantage.
In previous blogs, we discussed how advances in technology – including AI and self-service bots – have transformed the contact center workforce and redefined roles of live human agents and supervisors on the front line, to the back office, and even executive management. The common theme is that nearly every function has been pushed to become more strategic and even more focused on the overall customer experience.
This strategic shift is causing many companies, in turn, to rethink and even restructure their service organization. As customer-centric businesses prioritize the experience they deliver, the contact center takes on a more central role. At a macro level, the customer service team transitions from a mandatory cost center to a powerful profit driver. But to be successful, companies need to break the silos and integrate the contact center with other core business functions to maximize their potential – and deliver the very best customer experience.
Many companies have a VP or head of customer service who is responsible for the contact center. This is a role that was largely defined in the classic phone era and unfortunately has not evolved in step with digital advances. Meanwhile, most customer interactions today start from a website, mobile app, or social media channel—all domains that have not traditionally been part of the head of customer service’s responsibility. In fact, the customer service team traditionally has little to no influence over digital channels aside from providing service on them. This is in sharp contrast to the marketing team, which often recommends digital technologies in close collaboration with IT, operations, and management.
Considering that the customer service team interacts with customers more than any other division, and is most likely using those digital channels more than any other part of the business, companies need to bring the contact center closer into the fold. But rather than simply including contact center management as part of big digital decisions, companies have an even greater opportunity to really leverage digital assets through a new organizational approach.
Enter the Digital Experience Team
Beyond simply integrating the contact center with other relevant business functions, companies should think about creating a whole new, digital experience team. By putting the digital experience front and center, with shared responsibilities across the entire organization, companies can truly prioritize their customers as the primary business driver.
Just imagine the impact of a digital experience team, responsible for all sales and support interactions across the entire digital spectrum regardless of the device. The team would have to include key players from IT, sales, and marketing as well as operations. But with the rich context of front-line experience working directly with customers, the contact center should play a significant and even driving role here. In fact, key players should probably have expanded responsibilities beyond the contact center, applying best practices for the digital experience team. Several specialties within the contact center could bring benefits across the business.
Data scientists from the research team have emerged as critical to contact center success today. They bring a sharp, data-driven approach, pulling valuable analytics from ACD reports, quality surveys and staffing systems to help optimize routing rules, staff schedules and even agent coaching programs. But they can do so much more within the context of the entire digital domain and across all business functions. Not only analyzing customers reaching out for assistance, but also prospects browsing the website. They already have deep experience that can be used to leverage AI and bots for customer service and would be very adept at expanding that technology to include marketing and sales. There is potential for data analysts to expand the reach of marketing significantly and accelerate the sales cycle. It’s a critical integration point that can deliver a single experience across every customer touchpoint.
Much like the contact center research team, playbook writers are an under-utilized resource with the potential to greatly enhance the customer experience. They are already documenting core knowledge and insights from customer service interactions. Imagine how aligned a company would be by leveraging playbook writers with their front-line customer experience for sales and marketing collateral.
The contact center agents and supervisors are also at the forefront of customer interactions and can provide valuable insights beyond customer service. This would break down significant barriers that often lead to a disconnect between marketing, sales, and customer service. Better yet, contact center agents have a pulse on what customers want – and could help sales and marketing to become more responsive to emerging trends faster.
Should Marketing Drive Digital Customer Service?
A tighter alignment between the contact center and marketing teams can yield significant advantages, ensuring that top-level content and the overall customer experience flows seamlessly from the messaging portions of the website to every customer interaction point. From marketing and sales content to supporting collateral, integrating the contact center team is the best way to ensure a consistent, unified customer experience.
This makes the case for the Chief Marketing Officer, or CMO, to manage the digital experience team or at least have shared responsibility with dotted-line reporting. Much like the contact center workforce, CMOs have been pushed into a more strategic role. It makes sense to elevate the responsibility of the CMO to manage the entire customer experience lifecycle, from initial contact to every touchpoint thereafter. One suggested way to organize this is illustrated in the flowchart below.
Whether the entire contact center team, or a subset as part of the digital experience team reports to the CMO, or even if the head of customer experience takes on more responsibilities traditionally assigned to marketing, the integration between these teams is essential. A digital experience team is a great way to elevate the powerful resources within your contact center team and integrate them with other strategic business functions. With a strong digital experience team in place, companies can move toward a truly customer-centric model that continually improves how the organization interacts, improves, and ultimately satisfies their primary constituent – their customers.
Check out the previous installment of this series: “How to Manage a Virtual Agent – Fate of the Bots | The Times They Are a-Changing: Talent in the Contact Center Part 7“