By Simon Verzijl

Simon Verzijl

Simon Verzijl, group president for Customer Care Services at Xerox

By 2020, your customers will manage 85 percent of their brand relationships without interacting with a human – automation will dominate the customer experience. As a result call volumes will stagnate while digital interactions boom.

This leaves you to answer a potentially unsettling question about your company’s contact center: Does it satisfy and delight your customers, or does it incite disgruntled, unprofitable behavior? If your customer care structure follows the blueprint of the siloed support department anchored by a contact center with peripheral digital support portals, your unfortunate answer will be the latter.
Call centers are at the heart of a delicate equilibrium where they must satisfy both customer requests and operational performance indicators.

Cost is not always relevant

Learn more about the changing nature of customer care interactions.

Today’s contact center environments are under extreme cost scrutiny; “the cheaper, the better” puts call center agents under pressure to handle customer issues with increasing brevity.

This is at odds with customer expectations; quicker, smarter support anywhere, anytime. Thanks to digital self-service, this equation sees call volumes fall with better customer care; forcing a new way of understanding the value, and cost, of the contact center.

For some, the question of support costs has presented an opportunity to innovate- such as U.K. mobile network operator EE’s queue-jumping initiative. The lesson: catering to customer expectations doesn’t necessarily mean inflated support costs.

The next frontier of differentiation

Differentiated customer care is emerging as a necessity. Here’s what I mean:

Aspirational high tech and lifestyle offerings create an expectation of over-and-above customer care. However, customer care policies and standards have created homogeny between competitors. With the customer experience unvarying across industries, price can emerge as a key differentiator.

This is a big problem because, when a customer chooses your brand based on price, your customer relationship is built on shaky foundations. While creating an excellent customer experience is a complex process, it is a proven path to differentiation. No one wants to be treated in a “standard” fashion, least of all paying customers.

Self-serve portals cannot instinctively go off-script to delight your customers, and — if left unchecked — tomorrow’s support could harbor further homogeny between service experiences. The solution is a “seats and software” outlook on customer care. Here, automated support learns from your agents’ best practices, and agents are empowered to pursue only one performance indicator: customer satisfaction.

How your brand chooses to execute this will define your differentiated customer experience. Customer care is increasingly no longer just an avenue to fulfil a need, but an opportunity to create a mutually beneficial relationship. Human relationships are not identical, brand relationships shouldn’t be either.

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