Building a Welcoming Front Door

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We all know the expression "You never get a second chance to make a great first impression." For businesses, that statement has never been truer. For most customers, their first impression is formed when they walk through the front door of your business, even when that front door is no longer a physical one. The new front door to your business is now often your Web site, an inquiry to your call center, or an email, but what hasn’t changed is that your customers’ impressions of your front door are as lasting as ever.

It’s widely held that roughly three-quarters of consumers have said that they would give more business to companies that provide them with great customer service. At the same time, though, many studies have found that call centers—often the center of the customer experience—are the most underutilized of corporate assets. One thing is certain: No matter what industry your business falls into, your call center needs to be as welcoming as possible to ensure a long-term relationship with each one of your customers. The best way to meet this goal is by going beyond the limitations of basic interactive voice response (IVR) systems.

Many leading vendors in the IVR space offer solutions that can easily help executives re-examine their existing IVR systems. Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, for example, recently began offering the Intelligent Customer Front Door (iCFD), a solution that not only greets the caller, but also gathers the caller’s intentions, adds contextual information about the caller to his profile and history, and then routes him to the suitable resource that will most effectively resolve his issue or perform his transaction.

The iCFD solution provides a more positive and personalized customer experience through the intelligent use of blended self-service and agent-assisted service. It also offers the opportunity to better align the contact center with the business goals and customer service strategies of the organization.

Traditionally, IVR systems had been designed with cost savings in mind. Developers achieved this goal by forcing customers into a self-service menu structure, no matter why they were calling or how important they were to the business. This often resulted in customers hanging up out of frustration, which not only negatively impacted a company’s bottom line, but also its customer retention.

Costs Versus Benefits

Instead of viewing the contact center as a cost center, companies should view it as a strategic asset. This shift in thinking alone allows an investment into a proactive, customer-centric approach to service, which can help create a better strategy that results in stronger customer satisfaction, higher revenue, and increased productivity.

Advanced speech applications also provide an effective way for callers to interact with a voice platform. By using an open voice platform, companies can enhance their customers’ experiences with intelligent, natural language speech capabilities. They also can provide self-service that satisfies routine requests, enabling agents to focus on more productive and complex calls.

Another benefit comes from the creation of a consistent brand experience, which can mesh with a company’s advertising message, corporate Web site, or other brand initiative. Most important, customer loyalty is enhanced by the end-to-end customer experience.

What does your company’s call center (a.k.a. front door) look like today? By blending intelligent routing, integrated self-service, agent-assisted service, targeted marketing, callback, and proactive contact, companies have the opportunity to create stronger customer relationships while delivering on their brand promises. The elevation of the call center from a mere cost center to a strategic, customer-centric asset in your organization will not only give your company a competitive advantage, but it will provide the ability to adapt to changing business conditions and allow your company to better position itself for future growth and innovation.

Alex Halikias is global sales and market readiness leader of the Business Process Outsourcing Group at EDS, a global technology services provider. He can be reached at info@eds.com.

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