Friday, 26 March 2010

Contact Centre vs Communication Centre vs Call Centre – But Which One is Right?

Think of these 3 phrases:

• Contact Centre
• Communication Centre
• Call Centre

What images do they conjure up? Rooms full of people in small cubicles chattering away on headsets? 2,000 seat off-shore facilities filled with people reading from call scripts? Or small teams of dedicated individuals dealing with enquiries received across a variety of channels?

Well to be fair you’d be right in all of these cases as fundamentally they mean the same thing - or rather they are variances on a theme. The main differences would be in the type of work and projects they undertake.

The contact management industry includes a vast array of operations of all shapes and sizes serving just about every sector and marketplace you can think of. Some businesses operate in-house contact centre departments whilst others prefer to outsource to experienced professionals.

When outsourcing any contact management operation the question is how do you find the right partner – do you need a call centre, a contact centre or a communication centre?

Well this comes down to a number of factors some of which may include:

•Through which channels do your customers want to talk with you?
It’s important to think of it in these terms rather than through which channels do I want to allow my customers to talk to me. If you’re not engaging with them on their terms you risk alienating a significant portion.

•How many calls/contacts/enquiries do you receive and how long does it take to deal with each of them?

•What experience do you want your customers to have?
For example, a high volume, quick and easy, churn through calls may not be what you want to expose your customers to…

•What level of knowledge and expertise do the enquiry handlers need – about product; service; sales; etc.

All customer contact operations can be successfully outsourced, but your selection of the right partner is crucial. Get it wrong and you may not have too many customers to worry about anyway!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

More channels than ever, but have we forgotten how to talk to our customers?

I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that technology is taking over my life.

Until recently I was just another happy go lucky guy, ignorant to the likes of Twitter, iPhones, Kindle’s, streaming media, HD TV and all the other multitude of “must have” gadgets (a phrase which I despise by the way… the “must have” part somehow insinuates that our lives are not complete without these things!).

Then I turned the corner and life hasn’t been the same since.

I’ve had a Facebook account for sometime but I decided to see what all the fuss was about with Twitter. All of a sudden I’m immersed in a world of tweets, access to a whole new universe of exciting information, a new way of communicating with like minded people – people I’ve never met with interesting ideas and comments on the industry I work in as well as life in general.

Next came the iPhone. And oh my God the apps… the wonderful, life enhancing, “must have” apps (they really are in this case). This opened up a new way to stay up to date with my email, my Twitter account, Facebook, text messages, world news, sporting events, to measure my exercise, to find my way, etc. etc. etc…

This then led to streaming media and content to my TV. Normal TV is boring. Sky+ has allowed me to watch the programmes I like when I want to watch them but that’s not enough; I want online content as well. A spot of online shopping and a few pounds later (don’t tell the girlfriend) and now I can get my favourite extreme sports’ videos streamed to my TV, not just on my PC.

There are of course a number of consequences to all of this media buzzing around my life. I suddenly have accounts all over the place, things I need to check just in case I’ve been sent a message or someone has posted a life changing piece of information, a tweet that I need to share with the rest of my followers, an event being organised on Facebook by an old acquaintance. And this takes time, but time well spent I reassure myself. After all, the direct message sent to me on Twitter could be from a prospect I’ve been following with a question about our services.

And that’s what I mean by technology taking over my life. Back in the good old days, if you wanted to talk to someone or share an idea, you called them or sent an email. Now we have a plethora of channels through which to share our ideas, suggestions, offers and to promote our services. An ever-growing cornucopia of ways in which to connect to the world and absorb information.

This presents a challenge for marketeers like me and businesses in general. Through which medium and what channel do you communicate with your customers and prospects? An integrated campaign now needs to be truly integrated and that goes for the response channels as well.

There are ways to identify the channel preference of your customers – simply asking them is always a good place to start. But your data will tell a story too, different customer profiles will interact with your business in different ways, they’ll respond to different campaigns and calls to action and if you can analyse this, you’ll begin to build a picture of what your customers’ preferences are.

We use one word to describe this concept: Relevance. Put simply, every campaign should take into consideration relevance of channel, relevance of timing and relevance of content to the recipient. You know so much about your customers from the data you hold; when they buy, what they buy (and have bought previously) how they pay for it, and to what communications they respond - so why not use it?

Bringing this information and the three ‘relevancies’ into a communication programme, whether it’s an outbound campaign or an inbound response channel will have a dramatic effect and improve relationships with your customers.

So what are you waiting for… stop Tweeting, step away from the iPhone and discover how your customers really want to talk to you.