Over the past years most companies have recognized the contact center or customer services center as an important touch-point between the company and its Customers. This insight has been mostly driven by the recognition or discovery of Customer Experience Management. I very much welcome the interest of Marketing (and Sales) for the call center environment as much as I do the attention for improvement of the Customer Experience.
The main strategy of call centers has been to develop itself from a cost to a value center. From a terminology perspective this works for me, but the practice, in my opinion, is mostly focused on single value creation or value extraction. Let me explain my thoughts:
The main elements of the cost to value-center strategy have been focusing around generating additional sales, through up- and/or cross-selling. Also customer retention calls (inbound or outbound) are a good example of the value that companies are trying to achieve through the Customer services touch-point. Some pro-active companies are aiming to improve the customer experience with things like welcome calls or any other form of courtesy calls (generating another sales-opportunity).
I’m a firm believer in the great opportunities for value creation there are on the customer services touch-point. I also see that, in lots of cases, after a promising first starting year, companies forget that value-creation is not only about extracting as much value possible out of the Customer into the company. Hence companies start increasing the sales-targets and more importantly, they start increasing the “sales-per-hour” target, which is just another productivity metric not aimed at customer value creation. Which leads me to the following statement:
Deployment of a Value Center strategy will only have a chance to meet the desired result if one can leave behind Cost Center methodologies and metrics.
Becoming a Value Center is not about choosing to upsell or cross-sell when you want it. Becoming a Value Center is also not something one can decide to be by itself. Let the Customer be the judge of how much value is created through the Customer Services Experience, let the customer decide if your Call Center is a Value Center.
Call Centers are an important touch-point in the Customer Experience. It is also not the only point a Customer will touch in its lifetime. The design , delivery and decision making aspects within the Call Center change if a company thinks and manages the contacts as part of a lifetime of Customer interactions. If one factors a longer term of interactions, then there is an emphasis on consistency and sustainability of the experience, not single contact value distraction.
Thus, to conclude, I believe the best way to go is not with a cost-centered, not with a profit-centered and not with a flawed value-centered approach. The best approach to Customer Services Call Centers is the Customer-centered approach.
Any thoughts? Please share them in the comments.