4 Characteristics of Best-in-Class Contact Centers


4 Characteristics of Best-in-Class Contact Centers

What does it take to deliver standout customer service? It’s a question on the minds of many business leaders since customer experience trumps price as the number one competitive differentiator in today’s economy. While no secret formula makes for an outstanding experience, ICMI has uncovered four characteristics that the ICMI Global Contact Center Awards winners have in common. Read on for practical advice that your contact center can apply in 2018.

Contact Centers Empower Their Agents to “Say Yes”

For the Citrix customer care team in Raleigh, N.C., saying “yes” is part of everyday life. Winner of the 2017 ICMI Global Contact Center Award for Best Medium Contact Center, they’re on a mission to give employees the freedom to act in the best interest of customers. Rather than resorting to statements regarding policy or procedure, agents at Citrix are trained to say “yes” to customer requests, even if that means going off the script a bit.

“We do everything we can to instill confidence in each of our agents,” says Justin Nuzum, senior manager of Customer Care at Citrix. “Though they know that QA is and will always be part of our culture, we enjoy setting protocols in place that allow for as much autonomy as possible and establish a certain amount of trust with how agents are working to engage and help clients.”

What are some practical ways to empower agents to do what’s best for customers? Leslie O’Flahavan offered these suggestions in a recent #ICMIchat:

  • Empower agents to make best decisions for customers by banishing handle-time expectations. It takes as long as it takes.
  • Empower agents to make best decisions for customers by setting reasonable expectations about how many contacts they’ll handle.
  • Empower agents to make best decisions for customers by allowing/requiring them to free-text when they write to customers.

Contact Centers Collaborate With Other Departments

Is customer service the new marketing? It’s a phrase we’ve been hearing for years now, but in reality, many contact centers still operate as islands within the company. Knowing that the customer experience is now made up of so many different touchpoints, leading service organizations work hard to break down silos and collaborate to drive better customer engagement.

Signs.com, 2017 winner of ICMI’s award for Best Chat Support, thrives on and believes in collaboration. This collaborative spirit allows their contact center to drive success and process improvements that benefit the entire team. Open communication is a priority at Signs.com. The design team and customer experience team work together to make sure that clients are taken care of promptly. If a customer experience representative receives a design-related question, they can chat with the designer in real-time using an internal chat system to check up on the design. The result? The customer gets an immediate response instead of a transfer to another department. And according to Madison Page, manager at Signs.com, customers love it!

“Our clients tell us time and time again that having a team that works so closely together is incredibly beneficial. We think so, too! We strive to make sure our entire team has great communication. Further, our customer experience representatives even communicate with the development team to troubleshoot website issues on the spot.”

Contact Centers Serve Customers in Their Channel of Choice

Phone is still the predominant channel of customer service communication, but that doesn’t mean contact centers should ignore less traditional channels in hopes of saving money. According to Sprout Social, 90% of customers have used social media to interact with a brand. Many of those interactions involve service requests, and yet ICMI research reveals that only 41% of contact centers currently offer formal customer support through social media. The result? High frustration and missed opportunities. That’s precisely why Dorel Juvenile set out to add social media customer care to their arsenal in 2015. Aside from winning the ICMI Global Contact Center Award for Best Social Media Customer Care, they’ve reaped countless other benefits since completing the channel implementation.

“Our customers no longer need to call or email for an answer to an inquiry, they can just post their question on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to receive feedback,” says Michelle Williams, director of Consumer Care at Dorel Juvenile. “These channels provide prompt responses and convenience. As a bonus, social media allows our customers an opportunity to publicly share positive reviews, positive experiences and their personal success stories with our products.”

Contact Centers Encourage Career Growth and Development

While businesses tend to equate free food, an occasional yoga class or a game room with employee engagement, real engagement comes from growth. And as the job of contact center agents continues to become more difficult, the most successful service teams are working to carve clear career paths for their employees. At UPMC Health Plan, employees engage in formal career-pathing meetings with their manager twice each year. Often, agents express interest in moving to a higher tier of support, but they discuss long-term goals, too. Managers encourage honest, open dialogue about future career opportunities, and work to identify skills and projects that would help them to aspire to the position they are seeking. With individualized resources and information in hand, managers and agents develop an action plan that might include job shadowing in a different department, working on a collaborative project with another team, or networking with colleagues.

“We know that each team member who leaves our department to go to another part of the company takes the spirit of service with them, as well as a strong understanding of our members’ needs,” says Anne Palmerine, vice president, Customer Engagement & Enrollment Services, UPMC Health Plan. “We have watched many of our team members become managers, senior managers and even directors. We are partnered with them no matter which department they may move to, and it helps to strengthen our company.”

Bringing It All Together

If you’re looking for practical, meaningful ways to drive change in your contact center in 2018, consider following the lead of these award-winning contact centers. Higher CSAT scores, lower agent attrition rates and better customer experiences don’t happen by accident. Consider the ways your team can better empower agents, work more collaboratively, better meet customer channel preferences, or carve clear career paths. Who knows? It could even land your team an award trophy in the new year.