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Most brands today see their contact center as a necessary evil — and they’re right, at least about the “necessary” part. Customers need to get in touch with brands to solve issues, and there’s a growing number of ways in which they can do so (more on that soon). Moreover, good customer service is a critical factor, more so than product or service when it comes to establishing a brand reputation. Contact centers aren't going anywhere anytime soon.
However, because contact centers are expensive to maintain, many brands also think of them as an evil — a part of the business to be condensed as much as possible to support the bottom line.
But we want to challenge that notion, and help you learn to see your contact center as a potential revenue generator, rather than a cost center.
Ever since the pandemic, when brand interactions moved primarily online, brands were forced to think of new, contact-free ways to generate revenue. One of those ways was empowering frontline employees — including contact center agents — to build meaningful relationships with customers, to establish trust and increased lifetime value (not to mention better CX).
But how can you do that? Let’s cover six important steps you can take.
Unfortunately, most contact centers are stuck in the early 2000s — relying primarily on voice interaction, which is slow, inefficient, and expensive. While phone as a customer service channel remains vital for many brands, today’s customers also prefer digital options. It’s up to your brand to provide them with as many ways as you can to contact your brand, and on top of that, create a consistent experience across each one.
The most important way to do this is to offer self-service options — for example, a community or knowledge base (or, at the very least, a good FAQ page). Customers don’t want to have to contact you, plus it’s expensive for you when they do, so give them what they’re looking for.
The next thing you can do is prioritize engagement via asynchronous digital channels, such as SMS, social media, or even web chat. The average call costs roughly $6.00, but a chat $4.00 and a self-service journey is orders of magnitude cheaper at $0.10.
Better conversational experiences also increase conversion rates in other areas. Brands with longer buying cycles see significant conversion rate increases when engaging prospects in chat or messaging. By adding scheduling functionality or qualifying questions to the chat experience, brands can remove unnecessary back-and-forth exchanges and redundant discovery meetings — speeding up the sales cycle.
Finally, digital channels are rich in data, which you can analyze to see what could be causing friction points throughout the customer journey. Finding these friction points makes it easy to quickly implement changes, and by extension, CX as a whole.
While AI advances like chatbots aren’t perfect, and they won’t fully replace skilled human agents in your contact center, they certainly help reduce the inquiry volume those agents have to handle. 53% of customers don’t care whether their question is answered by a chatbot or a human, as long as their question gets answered. Chatbots are highly effective at resolving simple, common inquiries, which can mean a lower long-term expenditure on contact centers.
The best part about AI and automation is that they improve the customer’s experience and propel increases in CSAT. High satisfaction is closely correlated to lower cancellation and customer churn rates.
Churn or attrition reduction can be considered a subset of lifetime value or individually measured by comparing satisfaction to average contract duration, or measuring retention rate over time and comparing that to significant spikes or dips in CSAT. Highly satisfied customers are three to four times less likely to churn, and substantial increases to CSAT can result in an overall 10-15% churn reduction.
Another advantage of using chatbots is that they’re not just for support. Implementing a chatbot in sales and retention interactions can help brands increase top-line revenue growth.
Chatbots offer immediate responses, and we know faster response times are closely correlated to customers’ willingness to pay more for products or services. Customers who receive a response from a brand in under five minutes on Twitter are willing to spend 85% more than customers that waited over an hour for a reply. That’s a huge impact on your bottom line.
Of course, it’s not all about the bots; it’s also about placing agents at strategic points along the customer journey to help move them to that final stage of conversion. Potential customers have questions, need help finding and comparing products, and don’t always want to dig through your site to get answers.
Forrester reports that site visitors who engage in web chat are almost three times more likely to purchase than those who don’t. You can enhance this experience and conversion rate further by equipping agents with promotional language response templates, knowledge base integrations, and rich content that showcases your products.
Make sure agents are trained to exhibit empathy in their interactions to improve your brand experience and make those “wow” moments more common. Most importantly, keep this experience consistent across every channel and point of interaction. It’s your brand’s identity, so it needs to be great everywhere.
Every step in your transition from a cost center to a value center needs a clear purpose to get you closer to achieving your ultimate goal. Create your plan early and stick to it while allowing some room for agility along the way. Form the right partnerships both within your organization and with external vendors. Having the right people on your side will be crucial when it comes time to prove your value.
Get creative with how to track progress. For example, referral business is an outcome of loyalty you can easily track. Go deeper than just surveying your customer base. Offer promotional campaigns for referral business, then compare the referrers’ engagement history and relative CSAT scores. Customers who report excellent experiences are 77% more likely to recommend your brand. Find metrics like this to track every stage of your transformation, and you’re sure to succeed.
While 80% of customer service operations track CSAT and NPS, only 51% track agent-driven revenue. If you’re in the other 49%, you’re missing out on a key metric. Agents can engage in consultative sales and marketing conversations to better assess customer needs and upsell or cross-sell at strategic points. With the proper training, they can increase revenue by a lot. One of our CX Insights customers grew its sales conversion rate by 2% — a $900k increase.
The more messaging channels your agents are in, the better their opportunities to sell will be. That’s because mobile channels like Apple Messages for Business and Google’s Business Messages offer compelling in-conversation checkout experiences with their built-in Apple Pay and Google Pay wallet apps.
Just as digital wallets and tap-to-pay apps have offered transformative levels of convenience for consumers and merchants, this new in-conversation functionality is the next major development in customer payment experiences. Customers can now take action within their conversations, adding additional services or buying the item they inquired about — all directly within the exchange. Best of all, agents can help answer questions along the way, guiding customers to the products and services that fit their needs.
It may seem obvious, but it’s important to emphasize that successfully turning your contact center into a value center only matters if you can prove it. Most brands measure contact center success using customer satisfaction (CSAT) and net promoter score (NPS), but they sometimes struggle to correlate these to business outcomes such as customer lifetime value. Did you know that a two- to three-point increase in these scores can increase annual revenue per customer by as much as 30%? To see an impact on your brand, it’s important to deploy an omnichannel care solution that can track metrics across every customer touchpoint. (An added benefit here is that this can speed up response speed and improve CX, which can increase in average spend per customer.)
Then, integrate that platform with back-end systems like your CRM or ecommerce platform to track every interaction against a holistic customer profile — allowing you to see exactly how your contact center impacts revenue generation.
Shifting a customer service organization from a cost center to a value center can be challenging, primarily because many customer service organizations have operated in “cost center mode” for so long. But the cost of inaction today of the consumer could be the difference between you and the competition.
Look for partners and solutions that will work and grow with your organizational goals throughout your shift to a value center. A focus on expanding your customer experience and engagement strategy is vital to your success during this shift.
Finally, be sure to plan and strategize and identify KPIs that lead your organization to evaluate the value you are seeing at each step in the process. Remember: there should be positive impacts on your bottom line at each step of the shift.
If you’re interested in learning more about how digital-first contact centers increase satisfaction and revenue while decreasing costs, check out our whitepaper, How the digital first contact center drives savings and ROI, or run the numbers yourself with our ROI calculator to see how adopting Khoros in your contact center will impact your brand’s bottom line.
Khoros Care is a digital and social media customer service solution