Say Goodbye to the Call Center

Earlier this week I attended the Customer Response Summit in Hollywood, Florida. It’s an In The Know event, a company that stays on the forefront of how corporations are dealing with customer care and customer experience in this rapidly evolving digital landscape. We used to call it Web 2.0, but that doesn’t capture what’s happening today. Now it’s mobile, social, video and audio. Consumers adopt new technologies quickly. Certainly not everyone is on the cutting edge, but the numbers  of people grow with each new cycle. They are the ones that demand firms adopt these new channels and they can no longer be ignored.

I was a speaker at the event and my topic was How to Turn Social Chaos into Valuable Brand Engagement. I shared my experiences, successes, and challenges of using Social Media to reach, engage and service customers. We operate using a very simple framework for social. Don’t over complicate it. Align it to your current business objectives, translate the tribal language into something more familiar, and prove it’s value.

I was impressed with the speaker lineup that included executives from FedEx, Time Warner Cable, General Motors, Disney, GoDaddy, ConAgra and others. I gleaned a number of takeaways:

  • Corporations are all working hard on how to improve the customer experience
  • Social Media and Mobile are moving much faster than corporate America
  • New customer care technologies will need to be considered and installed if firms wish to keep up with customers
  • There is no silver bullet; time to focus on weapons not ammunition
  • Everything you know is transferrable, but it will need to be re-interpreted
  • Data is still overwhelming insights
  • New silos have emerged (Great, more silos)
  • People are beginning to get it, proving value and taking steps
  • The call center of tomorrow will look very, very different (Think internal targeting, fewer phones, more direct contact with consumers on the web)
  • Consumers are gaining more and more power (That’s fine, just be gentle guys)
  • Embrace change, or risk being irrelevant some time soon
  • Call center managers are starting to shift their thinking from controlling cost to creating value
  • It’s very, very difficult to move away from “average handle time” (AHT) for hard core call center types
  • One of the most frequently asked questions for Disney is, “When time does the 3:00 parade start?”

What i’m seeing is the way we service customers is rapidly changing. Consumers operate in real time while firms operate in batch. There is a serious need for a centralized customer database that’s agile and can be easily shared by any of the marketing and service channels/departments that exist inside as well as outside a company.

Partnering is becoming even more important. If your company has an “It’s built better here” mentality, you are already falling dangerously behind. No one firm can keep up with what’s going on out there. Truth be told, they never could, but the pace of change was slow enough in the past to not be too damaging. Today that pace can cause fatalities.

The call center will evolve into a contact command center. More consumers will self-service through progressively easier to use interfaces and devices. Agents that answer the phone today will be transformed into agents that use their web browser to connect with consumers. Information will be pushed to their desktops by sophisticated listening devices constantly spidering the ether for immediate response. Proactive not reactive. Pre-service, like pre-crime from Minority Report. The agents of tomorrow will be more aligned with the business and more empowered than ever. This in turn will empower consumers and leave us all more time to focus on what’s really important.

The networking was the most valuable aspect of the event for me. I met some outstanding professionals and had some great conversations that I hope will continue. View some of the event videos here.

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