Contact centers may exist to answer customer calls, but these hubs of conversation are equipped with the know-how and tools to shape business strategy, put answers at the fingertips of customers and use deep-dive data to provide stellar experiences.

Say Hello to Strategy

Contact centers are deep wells of information, and companies should tap into them. According to global technology community CustomerThink, 96 percent of businesses expect growth within their contact centers in the next couple of years. That growth – and the new representatives and touch points it represents – signals a tremendous opportunity when coupled with strategic thinking on the part of business leaders.

With intricate and frontline connections to consumers, representatives are equipped to go beyond solving seemingly disparate problems and use their knowledge to improve the way companies build, package, sell and market their products and services.

Are customers calling because they’re receiving a confusing letter? The contact center can quantify that problem and report on the need for a rewrite. Does an online process have a perplexing element that prompts people to reach for the phone? The contact center will see the results and can be a strong partner in finding the solution. It’s critical to develop knowledge-sharing platforms so employees can identify roadblocks in the customer experience, then report those findings so business partners can address the root cause of the call.

"Contact Centers are Deep Wells of Information, and Companies Should Tap into Them"

Be Everywhere They Want to be

How a consumer engages a contact center is closely tied to their satisfaction, according to recent research from CFI Group. And that makes sense. About 90 percent of multiple device owners switch between devices at least three times in the same day, according to Google, and more than 35 percent of customers expect to be able to contact customer service reps through any channel. Basically, if people can order groceries to their front doors, they carry the same expectations for convenience into interactions with Contact Centers.

That’s why self-service and omnichannel offerings, which allow customers to pick up where they left off regardless of device or system, will continue to be differentiators in the coming years.

Self-service features can head off questions and provide critical information to a customer, improving their experience and increasing efficiency in contact centers. These details make self-service an important trend to watch, according to American market research company Forrester, but with some caveats. Self-service solutions from simple Frequently Asked Questions documents to video tutorials to Interactive Voice Response systems have to actually help the customer serve themselves. That same research from CFI Group shows that while self-service is important, if consumers take a self-service approach but aren’t able to find what they need, they’re more likely to be dissatisfied and lack loyalty.

Omnichannel, multiple inter-connected channels, is an enticing and important shift, too. According to Aberdeen Group, a technology, and services company, businesses with strong omnichannel offerings retain close to 90 percent of customers compared to just over 30 percent who don’t.

A recent article by Forbes contributor Shep Hyken asserts that even omnichannel is a dated concept, noting that what businesses really need to do is offer a channel-less experience. Omnichannel or channel-less, the point is clear: It doesn’t matter to the customer how many channels you have, they just want to be engaged in ways they’re already working and living. This mindset, therefore, isn’t just for contact centers but for your whole company.

Consistently Provide Excellent Service

While new technology and how to use it should be a major focus for forward-thinking organizations, it’s not the time to “abandon ship” on phone support.

In fact, research shows 79 percent of interactions with contact centers are still phone calls. Is that because the self-service options weren’t actually very helpful or because people prefer phone calls? It depends on your industry and company, but making sure your representatives continue to provide excellent and personal service through more traditional channels continues to be paramount. After all, when it comes down to it, 63 percent of customers are still citing whether their issue was resolved quickly or during a single call as the top predictor of satisfaction with contact centers, according to CFI Group.

At Unum, an employee benefits provider, we understand that when people are contacting us, it’s often during a very difficult time in their lives. We hope they never have to call, but we want to respond quickly, accurately, and with empathy when they do.

Overall, contact centers can be catalysts for strategy in your company. Whether through sharing insights, modern technology, and mindsets, or more traditional service, they are hubs of knowledge that can drive improvements to the customer experience.