When answering the query is no longer the point

Felix Thomson

Content Executive

The Financial Services Forum

Call centres are at a tipping point and changing fast, from a room full of agents who answer clients’ queries, to knowledge gathering operations which analyse and collate customer information, to be used in all aspects of the business from sales to technical support. Peter Massey looks at the frontrunners in this revolution.
Living in a Google world
In a Google world, the challenge for companies in delivering service or selling to their customers is that the educated customer expects to know as much as the company – probably more about the alternatives – and expects only to need help with complex things. They want to be able to do things themselves and get easy help when they need it with the unusual or the abnormal.
OK, so many customers are far from this. Calls can be about mundane things like has that cheque cleared, has that payment been agreed? But how long will it be before consumers expect to be able to interact to the same level as the best business to business online systems provide to financial intermediaries? Is your bet that this is far away – or here already?
Have you tipped?
Take general insurance. Our furthest advanced clients are closing up to 90% of business online, the least advanced are in single figures. Is that the customer base acting differently, or the company’s capability being different?
Out of industry, notably in tech support, consumers and B2B customers expect to be able to do a huge amount themselves – online e-learning, peer to peer blogging and wikis, sophisticated search and FAQs. These same people bank and insure. For some industries the tipping point from being a call centre supported by the web, to being a web based business supported by the telephone channel, has occurred. How many times do you personally give up on a web site that’s too clunky, that’s off the point, that sells stuff at you rather than helping you research, decide and buy? Have you reached the tipping point where you just want to get the job done, quickly, anonymously, simply online?
The test as to whether you reached the tipping point is, if you personally ask for help, do you expect the contact centre to help you complete what you are doing online, or do you expect them to take the whole process off you and do it for you by phone? Are you a ‘do it with me’ person or a ‘do it for me’ person? For some people the tipping point from using a call centre supported by the web, to using the web only helped by telephone in exceptional circumstances, has occurred.
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