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The View from the Executive Suite: The Promise and Payback of Customer Communication and Loyalty


TMCnews Featured Article

October 09, 2008

The View from the Executive Suite: The Promise and Payback of Customer Communication and Loyalty

By TMCnet Special Guest
Steve Loring, Business Development Manager, Customer Interaction Solutions, Dimension Data

This is the first time that this article has appeared in publication. TMCnet is proud to provide this venue
Today, it’s no secret that businesses are more competitive than ever as they fight valiantly for every customer. And in many cases, contact centers are the front line in that fight. That’s why what happens in the contact center can drive revenue, impact customer satisfaction and keep customers coming back – or not.

If you believe that each and every customer interaction is a test of the customer service organization, how you manage or mismanage these moments of interaction determines your company’s long-term fate. That’s why understanding and constantly enhancing customer-centricity, satisfaction and loyalty by improving agent-customer communication has a lasting imprint – either negative or positive – on the entire customer relationship and, more often than not, on the health of the business.
Knowing that, senior management at many organizations are getting more involved in determining the type of customer service their organizations deliver. They’re trying different approaches, using technology in distinct ways and giving contact center agents more freedom and flexibility to “close the deal” with the customer by satisfying them on the first contact.
Here are some industry examples in which senior management is taking an upfront and personal interest in the work done by the contact center agent. This focus on customer service is yielding positive results and improving the bottom line.
Example #1: Small but Fast-Growing Credit Union
The CEO of a credit union routinely listens in as his 200 agents take calls. He uses a scoring system for every one of the 20 calls he listens to each month, and then uses that information to modify the way the credit union is delivering service to its members. So whether the CEO’s analysis results in a change to training programs or a shift in using different agents for different levels of customers, executive level involvement is more than a marketing slogan with this credit union.
Additionally, the director of the contact center sits on the executive committee and backs up the credit union’s “customer is number one” mission with real-time metrics. The executive committee also listens in to 10 + calls on a weekly basis and completes a scorecard with immediate feedback to the client services department. The resulting effect on loyalty enabled the credit union to increase its membership by twenty-two (22%) percent in a year.
In the case of this credit union, senior management is intimately involved in how the business is handling customers based on real-world calls and a continuous feedback loop. Customer preferences and responsiveness in relation to products, communications styles and channels are all taken into consideration. The credit union identifies the various customer types, groups and segments within its client base, looks at product usage and makes decisions on service handling based on customer need, organizational requirements and resources.
By nurturing, growing, maintaining or divesting the customer, the credit union is, of course, focusing on customer needs and is working to ensure the sustained profitability of the business. As a result, the credit union achieved a positive Return on Investment (ROI) from its efforts after five to six months of deployment.
Example #2: Large Retailer
In another situation – where enormous call volume was complex and difficult to manage – a large retailer looked to implement a caller segmentation program in order to bring a higher touch component to its customer service operation. The vice president of customer service wanted to utilize the data the company already had on customers to better match each incoming caller to the most appropriate answering resource. Then the retailer wanted to further support its agents with relevant customer information already existing in the customer database. By implementing Computer Telephony Integration (CTI (News - Alert)) and retraining its agents, the retailer estimated that it could identify a majority of callers through their phone numbers, without any action by the caller or the agent. This small action of hitting the Caller Line ID (CLID) against the database before sending the call to an agent reduced caller talk time by 15 seconds and improved the customer service rankings on 7 million yearly calls!
Example #3: Large Insurance Company
A large insurance company wanted to use CTI to improve service. The company provided the customer’s name and policy information to the agent just as he or she was answering the phone. Just having that information helped shorten talk time, especially in cases where a customer had multiple policies. In this instance, the vice president of IT monitored random agent calls and realized that if the company set up the CTI pop to list each caller’s policy numbers and issue dates, there would be an improvement in service and reduction in talk time. In addition to enhancing customer service and efficiency, the program generated an eight-month return on investment. Additionally the company leveraged its existing infrastructure and legacy systems, saving money on the implementation.
The rule of thumb today: Little things mean a lot, and by really understanding the nuances of the customer support operation, thousands and sometimes millions of dollars can be saved, and the customer experience improved. What we’ve learned from these examples is that each and every customer interaction is a test of not only customer service, but of the entire organization and the brand as well. So understanding why a customer is calling, how to best handle the query and then how to use that information to enable changes in the process builds a truly customer-centric company. Often companies miss that last step or are not able to research the customer’s call and resolution, forgetting that the outcome of one customer service experience can leave a lasting imprint – negative or positive – on the entire customer relationship. That’s why it’s more important than ever to improve customer-centricity, satisfaction and loyalty by continually feeding customer information back into the process. Having buy-in from the executive suite ensures the job gets done.
Steve Loring is Business Development Manager, Customer Interaction Solutions, Dimension Data

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Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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