A contact center should be an integrated part of a more general customer relationship strategy. Here is a very summarized cookbook recipe on how to address this.

Assign a company-wide customer interaction responsibility

In most cases, we propose to define a senior manager that will have company-wide operational business responsibility for customer interaction. This first step is in most cases politically very delicate, and will often require a reorganization from a product to a customer oriented organization. However delicate, this will be decisive for a successful customer relationship strategy. Many projects are only driven from IT, which is a good point to start with and gain first-hand experience but eventually, the business side has to take the lead.

Identify customer interaction processes

The next step is now to lay down all company-wide customer interaction processes, and under the following dimensions:

  • Contact point/ channel (phone, email, visit a branch office,…).
  • Customer Buying Cycle (Need, Evaluation, Buying, Servicing)
  • Product Cycle (Innovation, Introduction, Maturity, Phase-Out)

The estimate for each of these the process volume/ number of interactions.

Define which processes you can improve/ automatize

Select from the above those processes that have a high volume of interactions and think how you can systematize and automatize these. This will bring down your costs and improve customer service. In a typical retail business in mature markets, such as retail banking, credit cards, health insurance, residential customer telecom operator, online retail shop or travel agents, between 10 and 30% of your entire workforce will probably ultimately work in the call center if you designed well your processes.

Define how many physical interactions you can migrate to:

  • phone interactions and how many of these can be handled centrally by a Call center.
  • Automatized solutions like Phonebanking/ Voice Self Service or WWW-Self-service solutions

Spend money only on technology where you already have or expect a high volume. Before this, work manually. If you spend money on technology, make sure it is scalable and can be rolled out across your entire organization. Remember that 80% of CRM is about management, and 20% about technology. Don’t choose technologies that will prevent you from later implement your CRM strategy. 

Do a trial and verify customer acceptance.

After the trial, systematically roll out through the entire organization.

Define a customer Strategy/ Vision

Consolidate all customer information using a CRM tool.
Analyze and segment your customers according to customer value and customer potential, by using Data Warehousing/ Data Mining tools
For each of the customer segments, define a customer strategy (retain, acquire, drop, reduce costs, penetrate). Each of these strategies will have very different actions across all interactions. Define interaction intensity (simple, reactive, proactive, partnership) for each of these customer segments.

Implement Customer Strategy

Now gradually implement your customer strategy, always starting with the least expensive interaction methods: Internet, Voice Portal, Call center. The branch office (the most expensive interaction) follows at the end.

Proactive interactions

For proactive interaction intensities only, look again at your buying centre and identify proactive actions to surpass customer interactions, such as:

  • Call a client two months after having sold a product to ask for his satisfaction
  • Call a client three months before his contract expires

Cross-and Upselling

Systematically use every customer interaction for targeted Cross-and Upselling

Measure success and improve quality

Use reports, statistics, and monitoring tools to measure success and quality and impose targets.

Fine-tune processes

Reduce agent churn and optimize costs and by using Workforce Management tools.

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