Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Business of Customer Responsiveness

Theme: Organizations boast of being responsive to their Customer, but does every part of their organization engage in Customer Responsiveness?

I am aware that I am broaching a sensitive topic here. No CEO would ever admit that his/her organization is not customer responsive. Yet, when I scan the market; across industry verticals, across geographies, and even across varying business types; I find that the Contact Center is the only department in most organizations, that measures this responsiveness.

There is no trend yet where organizations as a whole are being responsive to their customers. Metrics like Average Speed of Answer (ASA), Service Level (SL), First Time Right (FTR), Abandon rate, get measured and discussed only on the Contact Center floor.

Why don't I see a trend where the entire organization answers to the customers?

When it comes to the Enterprise communications infrastructure, I see two types of organizational communications strategies being initiated.

  • The "Cost Focused" business leaders

- They believe in 'isolation' tactics

- The Central office has state-of-the-art communication systems and applications

- The branches and other parts of the organization have small Key Telephone Systems

- It is presumed that that is all they require.

  • The "Visionary" C-level

- They believe in having ONE integrated communication system

- Offering the same rich functionality to all parts of their organization

- They are right!

- And they are reaping the benefits of being able to collaborate with intuitive applications

Yet, neither the "Cost Focused", nor the "Visionaries" are even thinking of integrating their Contact Center with the Enterprise Communications systems. They continue to work as islands of information and connectivity. One for communicating with the customers; and another to communicate within themselves!

The "Visionaries" have actually reached a stage where they are poised to leverage and unleash an enormous amount of collaborative energy working for the benefit of their customers. Yet, they are still as far from a true integrated communication system, as their "Cost focused" counterparts of the first type.

Therein lies the huge opportunity! The opportunity of unleashing collaborated team of internal associates, external partners, as well as the customers. The opportunity of:

  • Making every individual associate capable of contributing to customer queries (Fulfilling the vision of a truly Customer Responsive organization)
  • Giving frontline Contact Center agents the ability to pull Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) right there in real time (increase the FTR ratio)
  • Greatly streamlining many complex processes required for customer fulfilment (Increasing organizational effectiveness)
  • Taking the human latency away from the entire Customer Responsiveness chain (Increasing customer satisfaction)
  • Optimizing enterprise resources (e.g: Tellers in the branch sharing the Contact Center call load, because the footfalls and customer calls peak at completely different times... etc..)
  • Creating the Customer Responsive organization

A few years ago, these opportunities did not exist, because the underlying technology that makes this possible, has emerged only recently. The Contact Center agents did not know back then, which SME to look for. With a true Presence, agents will instantly know exactly who is available, interruptible, and on what device can they be reached - Desk Phone, Mobile Phone, Instant Messaging, or email.

Today, I can think of at least one technology leader Avaya, who is ready with innovative solutions to deliver Presence across multi-vendor applications, Unified Communications, and rich Business Intelligence tools.

But what I find disconcerting is the lack of "Visionary" leaders who are already prepared with their strategy to take advantage of this changed landscape. The precious few who are, are an exception. The good news is that they will be at the forefront of the trend when it comes, and consequently gain tremendous competitive advantage.

I am now looking forward to that trend - that of organizations moving from their "intent" of being Customer Responsive; to "being" Customer Responsive and fulfilling their promise.

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