The long hold times, unhelpful agents, and IVRs that make talking to a human as easy as tracking down the holy grail make many consumers feel like companies don’t want to talk to them. That’s because, traditionally, it’s true. The contact center has long been viewed as a revenue drain where low-value inquiries, customer complaints, and service requests pour in and no revenue comes out. The goal was to limit customer interactions and keep costs as low as possible, frequently at the expense of the customer experience.
The simple retort to this is that today’s consumers won’t tolerate any bad experiences and you’re losing customers to the competition by dodging them like a bill collector when they call. While this is true — over 30% of customers will take off after just one bad experience — there are many other opportunities to drive revenue from the contact center and equal reasons to increase investment instead of finding places to hack away at it.
In an increasingly digital world, it almost makes sense to discourage conversations with customers. They just want to click, click, buy, and the last thing they want to do is pick up the phone and talk to a person. If they’re buying a rug from Target, sure. If they’re buying 50 grand in hardwood floors, not so much. Nobody is going to accept a bid like that without talking to someone first.
In our Buyer Experience Benchmark Report, we found that nearly 70% of consumers prefer to contact businesses by phone when seeking help with an expensive or complicated purchase decision. You can’t push these customers into digital self-service by starting your IVR with a message about hold times being longer than expected — 75% of people hang up after hearing that gem and they’ll just give their money to a company that will answer the phone.
No matter how good your online experience is, there are many situations where people need expert advice to help them feel more confident that they’re making the right decision. In fact, 87% of respondents in our consumer confidence survey said that talking to a person on the phone to answer questions made them feel more confident in making complex purchases.
A contact center staffed with well-trained agents provides an opportunity to close high-ticket sales and make your new customers feel valued.
When customers feel valued, they come back. Brand loyalty has to be earned, and the contact center is potentially your best opportunity to provide the highly personalized service and empathy that makes customers love your brand. In a faceless digital world, a customer’s experience with your contact center might be the only human-to-human interaction they have with your company, so it naturally becomes the face of your brand. Whether the service is good or bad, they will take it personally.
The service that your contact center agents provide can develop a deep connection with your customers, and that will be a lasting impression. A KPMG consumer study shows that the primary reason customers remain loyal to a brand is that they provide excellent customer support. Surprise! It’s not because your Instagram ads are really clever.
You still have to provide a great digital experience — that’s table stakes now and consumers expect it to happen. Unlike digital, though, many brands still treat the contact center as a cost center and a smooth experience is not the norm. Engaging your customers and providing an empathetic, personalized experience will still come as a pleasant surprise to them, and that means it’s a huge differentiator for your brand that will inevitably increase retention and customer lifetime value.
You’ve probably heard it a few thousand times in the last couple of years: third-party data is dead and first-party data is in. If we’re honest with ourselves, third-party customer data kinda sucked anyway and it wasn’t a terribly precise way of getting to know customers. Not to mention the privacy implications. You know that you need to get first-party data to drive customer acquisition and retention. The question remains, though: how do you get it? Why not get it straight from your customers’ mouths?
Customer conversations are the richest source of high-quality first-party data available to revenue teams in marketing, sales, customer experience, and the contact center. The challenge, of course, is making sense of it and utilizing conversation data at scale across the organization. AI-powered conversation intelligence platforms like Invoca make this possible, because they can extract logic, structure, and order out of unstructured conversation data. They also make it easy to rapidly activate that data in other technology platforms in real time through integrations with CRMs, CDPs, ad platforms, and more.
The ability to analyze conversations makes it possible to unlock the value of first-party data to do everything from optimizing ad campaigns, precise ad targeting, retargeting, and suppression, improving digital experiences, personalizing contact center experiences, and enriching customer profiles.
Since first-party data is the new oil/gold/ice cream/etc., the value of obtaining it can easily be attributed to revenue, adding enough to the contact center’s bottom line alone to bury the cost center argument.
In our Buyer Experience Benchmark report, we also found that one of the primary reasons customers call the contact center when making a purchase is because they couldn’t find what they wanted online. Brands need to meet customers where they are and provide them with better experiences regardless of how they want to interact with a business. While conversations are valuable, you only want to have them with customers who want to have a conversation with you.
Utilizing conversation intelligence enables the contact center to discover exactly what is driving customer calls at scale. Is it because they want expert advice to help them complete a purchase (great!), or is it because your website stinks (boooo!)? By integrating conversation data with digital customer journey data, you can see what is driving calls and optimize the online experience to make self-service easier and make it simple to call when people are ready to buy.
By reducing the volume of low-value inquiries to the contact center, you free up time for your agents to answer calls from high-value customers and spend the time needed with them to provide a great experience, make the sale, and increase the chances of earning a loyal customer for life.
Even when you’re looking at customer service functions in the contact center, there are myriad revenue opportunities. When a customer calls for help with, say, a phone that’s acting up, it’s a perfect time to mention that they’re eligible for an upgrade to a new device. If they’re calling to get their transmission replaced on a 10-year-old car, you can let them know you’ve got 0% financing on new SUVs and you can schedule a test drive when they drop their car off. If they’re calling to upgrade their internet service because they just started working from home, it’s a perfect time to tell them that adding a mesh network can speed up their connection in their basement office.
If done correctly, it’s not a pushy upsell, but a value-add for the customer who may not know about an offer or service that you have available.
The problem solving that customers rely on from the contact center is also an opportunity to retain revenue from customers that may otherwise churn. If you’ve invested in the people and technology to provide fast, personalized, and empathetic service, customers are more likely to be pleased with the experience and stay on board. If you haven’t made the investment, they’ll just have one more reason to leave.
The contact center can indeed be a cost center, but only if you view it as one. Cut costs, focus on slashing call handling times and diverting customers to digital, and all of the revenue opportunities begin to evaporate. If you view the contact center as a revenue generator and make the investments needed to provide elevated service, the opportunities become obvious.
The ability to analyze conversations and take action on the data makes it possible to unlock the full potential of all your most important customer touchpoints and drive huge improvements in acquisition, retention, and customer loyalty.
Learn more about Invoca AI-powered conversation intelligence solutions for the contact center here.