Web shakes up contact centre industry

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Web shakes up contact centre industry

The Internet has turned traditional concepts of brand loyalty, sales, and customer expectations on their heads, Genesys execs have warned.

According to Michael McBrien, who is the senior vice president of Genesys’s APAC Field Operations, businesses are challenged with meeting rising expectations of customer service.

Speaking at the G-FORCE APAC 2008 summit in Melbourne this week, McBrien discussed results of Accenture’s 2007 Global Consumer Survey that found that 33 percent of customers expect greater customer service than they did one year ago.

“[Doing business is] getting harder because of the internet,” he said, describing online ‘shame lists’ on which consumers name poorly-performing contact centres.

“It’s very easy for customers to vent frustration on the very open forum of the Internet,” he said.

While companies spend ‘millions of dollars’ on advertising and branding campaigns to attract new customers, existing customers are often neglected, McBrien said.

He described his experience with a U.S. bank that he contacted when making a large overseas purchase on his credit card.

Despite numerous calls to the bank’s contact centre, McBrien was unable to stop the legitimate purchase -- a surprise gift for his wife -- from being wrongfully flagged as a potentially fraudulent transaction.

Incensed, he returned the purchase and terminated his 20-year-old credit card account.

McBrien blamed the incident on a ‘disconnect’ between the bank’s contact centre and its fraud department.

When different departments within a company operate as separate silos, the result is a disconnected, unsatisfactory customer experience, he said.

According to Genesys’s 2007 Global Consumer Survey, 44 percent of defecting customers cite a poor contact centre experience as their sole reason for leaving.

“Customers don’t call ‘the contact centre’; they call ‘the company’,” McBrien pointed out.

Customer loyalty is expected to play a greater role in today’s world of economic uncertainty, with the credit crunch and U.S. presidential election likely to result in a ‘tough year’ for businesses.

According to Jason Stirling, who is the Vice President of Genesys Australia, India and New Zealand, the time is right to create opportunities by viewing the contact centre from a strategic, rather than a tactical, perspective.

“When you look at the contact centre today, our foundation is to reduce cost,” he said.

“[But] we can make or break customer satisfaction in one foul phone call,” he said. “We have an enormous amount of power.”

Instead of viewing contact centres as a cost, businesses could capitalise on relationship building and sales opportunities to transform the contact centre into a profit centre, Stirling suggests.

Describing the need for a multi-channel approach to cater to the technology preferences of individual customers, Stirling highlighted the importance of supporting customers online.

While Web sites have become increasingly popular for advertising and branding purposes, conversions to sales typically have been few.

Without the support of human interaction functionality like Web chat, Stirling warned that Web sites are likely to experience ‘leakage’ to competitors.

“I believe in two years, if we take a truly customer-centric approach, the Web is going to be our next contact centre,” he said.

“It’s time to really seriously consider opening the channel to the Web,” he said. “We’re neglecting our customers online.”

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