Megan Papadopoulos, Head of Consumer Connection, Bendigo and Adelaide Bank
It’s no secret that as a result of the modern global 24/7 business environment, omnipresent digital technology and the way consumers now expect to engage with business, competition for customer loyalty is the highest it’s ever been. And because of this, customer experience, along with trust and values alignment are the unifying key competitive differentiators in the ongoing battle to attract and retain customers.
In the majority of cases it’s the contact centre that is often the first and the last human touchpoint in a customer’s interaction with any brand.
Throughout the history of the contact centre, the one thing that has remained consistent is change. Since the 1950s and 60s, new technology and ever-changing customer expectations have underpinned the evolution of the contact centre.
With great potential comes great risk
With communication continuing its inexorable move towards digital, customers expect a more connected seamless journey across all touch points.
As new technology channels find their way into customer preferences, contact centres are adding increasing numbers of channels to their CX repertoire, and this also adds to increased contact centre complexity - and if executed poorly, delivers a disconnected and potentially damaging customer experience.
What used to be phone-only, became phone and email and today, is now phone, email, SMS, chatbot, live chat, social media and more. In fact, Dimension Data reported in 2017 that the average number of contact centre channels offered by organisations was expected to increase from nine in that year to 11 in 2018.
Adding to channel complexity is the complexity for many organisations of managing multiple brands, multiple sites, and in my industry, managing the important regulatory and compliance framework for banking.
Also adding to that complexity is the fact that contact centre volumes are influenced by unpredictable events and often driven by items and events well outside the control of any organisation - including natural disasters and system or network outages.
It’s because of all of this complexity, that the contact centre must be connected to and integrated with the overall business and IT strategy in order to deliver to customer expectations effectively. A true omni-channel experience can only be delivered if the end-to-end customer journey is considered as part of the information and data architecture, with the contact centre fully embedded in the middle of the business.
The next challenge however is ensuring you have the right skills to manage this complex business reality.
The Contact Centre Manager but not as you know it.
Contact centres are at the heart of digital and organisational transformation. In the same way CIOs needed to evolve over the past ten years to establish technology leadership within the C-suite, contact centre managers and decision makers need to evolve their skillset to encompass business and customer experience skills and ensure they understand the underlying systems that impact the customer experience. This is critical, especially to navigate increasing complexity in order to drive the best outcome for customers, and by default the business.
Wayne Eckerson, an internationally recognised business intelligence expert, spoke about a need in business for ‘Purple People’. That is, professionals who have both business and technical prowess to foster tight relationships between business and technology departments to harness information for customer benefit. The only way to effectively chart the complex course of multiple systems and bring business and technical decision makers together, is to find someone that can speak the language of both groups to ensure customer experience is at the heart of any technology change in order to help leverage the organisation’s technology to solve the most important customer challenges.
Put simply, if your contact centre can find more Purple People, you’re on the right track to success.
How to get your vendors to work for you
The final important component of contact centre leadership is perfecting the fine art of articulating the needs of the contact centre to provide a great customer service when working closely with the technology teams so that any development or vendor relationships are fit for purpose and provide the right outcome. The moment you are appointed to a senior decision maker role, you’ll start fielding all sorts of proposals. It’s important to develop a strategy to leverage the knowledge, experience and insight of vendors without wasting anyone’s time, including yours. Learn to ask the right questions to understand how they will operate as a potential partner. Ask if there are other ways to achieve the same outcome and use your technology services team to ensure potential partners fit within the wider technology strategy and architecture.
Ultimately, it’s about providing choice
Underneath it all, ensuring customer choice is paramount. It’s important to understand the strategy and the root cause of any problem before ploughing straight into solution mode. At Bendigo and Adelaide Bank, we’re focused on our vision of being Australia’s bank of choice and our contact centre is a critical enabler of that choice.
Any organisation can offer choice, but without a clear strategy with customers at the heart of it, business-wide collaboration, engagement and targeted innovation that matters – along with the right skills, making that choice work seamlessly will be next to impossible.