- Customer service in general and contact centers in particular play a crucial role in the health and image of virtually any business
- The contact center market is stepping up with innovations to meet growing demands, and IT departments and business leaders should carefully examine their level of investment given the importance
The annual global spend on advertising, or customer acquisition, is roughly $500 billion. The customer relationship management (CRM), or cross-selling, market stands at approximately $50 billion. The contact center slice of the pie is $9 billion. These figures were trotted out at last week’s Genesys G-Force conference in Barcelona by the company’s top sales executive in an effort to make the case that perhaps enterprises need to adjust their priorities a bit. That Genesys—one of the contact center market leaders—would make that argument is hardly surprising, but given the irrefutable influence that customer service in general and contact center activities in particular have on brands, the fundamental point sits on a solid foundation despite the self-serving platform upon which is was delivered.
It is fairly safe to say that many businesses pay lip service to the concept of keeping customers happy, but then not much else. Everybody has stories of customer service ineptitude. I’m on a Virgin Atlantic flight as I write this blog entry, for example, and just as I had fallen asleep—complete with blanket, earphones and eye-shade, so that my intentions were obvious—a flight attendant chose precisely that moment in an eight-hour flight to jostle me awake to collect payment for the more-leg-room upgrade I had purchased. Nobody could deny that Sir Richard Branson needs as many £30 collections as possible—he does have a rather extravagant lifestyle to fund—but it certainly could be argued that he did not need my £30 at that exact moment. Perhaps Virgin Atlantic should spend a bit more time and money on training staff on the nuances of customer service (and perhaps I will think again about which carrier I use for my next transatlantic flight).
The customer experience is the brand. That’s another point made by Genesys at their conference, and another that I could not fault. The contact center is the “front door” of the enterprise, and many times forms the customer’s most lasting impressions about the company. If you really think about all that is at stake when customers or prospects call or e-mail or text your company, things get pretty serious rather quickly. I cannot confirm that businesses spend too little on their contact centers, but I do know that innovations in the sector are coming thick and fast. It is one of the ideal marriages of business objectives and technology capability, and suppliers like Genesys, Avaya, Cisco, Interactive Intelligence and others are, indeed, stepping up to either meet, or in many cases create, demand for ever-more sophisticated services. Innovative companies are dabbling with mobilizing customer interactions, and with more clever ways of using social networking platforms and tools, to name just two key areas.
Generally speaking it is not wise for businesses to tell their customers how best to run their own businesses, or at least to appear to be doing so. But in this era of rapidly changing consumption models and real-time brand creation and destruction, the Genesys message is worth listening to. Maybe you and your IT department do not need to spend more money on contact center solutions, but you ought to know that for sure.