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Advancing Contact Centers to Customer Engagement Centers

Advancing Contact Centers to Customer Engagement Centers
By Jennifer LeClaire

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Many simple call centers have evolved out of necessity into full-blown, multi-channel contact centers, and are now making the transition to customer engagement centers, with a focus on providing the best possible customer experience. Treating customers with intent, integrity, and consistency continues to be the winning ticket.
 



When Gartner's team of industry analysts replaced their report on the "Magic Quadrant for CRM Customer Service Contact Centers" with the "Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center" in May, it turned quite a few heads.

Why the change from focusing on "Contact Centers" to focusing on "Customer Engagement Centers"? The experts say it's because there has been a fundamental shift in the way companies interact with their customers, with a far greater emphasis now on engaging customers through different channels, as well as social media.

In response, Gartner chose to focus its 2013 CRM report on vendors who respond to the challenge of "any channel" customer service engagement.

Just Responding Isn't Enough

Gartner VP and distinguished analyst Michael Maoz recently blogged about the genesis of the customer engagement center idea, calling it "evolutionary" much more than revolutionary. While "call centers" ruled the '70s through 1990s, "contact centers" have ruled ever since -- reflecting the fact that customers began making contact online for sales and service, not just by phone.

Nowadays, "just responding to a customer's immediate request for help is grossly insufficient," Maoz writes. "Phone, email, IVR [interactive voice response], and chat are all fab when designed properly. But that is reactive for the most part. Today, [if we can] drop our organizational handcuffs, we have the ability to extend our reach into social media. Is a customer or prospect who posts to Facebook, or to a community site, or out to Twitter, any less deserving of our attention?"

Of course not, and that means that savvy sales and service teams as well as marketing staff need to stay plugged in to social media, where customers as well as new prospects are sharing their feedback -- the good, the bad, and the ugly.

As Maoz sees it, the major transition is from "contact" to "engagement." Still, he predicts it will take most organizations a long time to relinquish the idea that the digital marketing group does the listening, but no one does the responding -- at least not systematically. It is not marketing's job to engage in social media, he argued, but in most organizations it's not customer support's job, either. He also called out a disconnect: There's one set of rules for traditional contact, and another set of quasi-al fresco approaches to social engagement.

Adopting a Hybrid?

Maoz offered a bottom line: Sometimes it's good to stretch one's field of vision. He admitted that the phrase "customer engagement center" may or may not ever enter the common vocabulary of IT or business buyers. He even acknowledged the naysayers who think the change is too big, or that it is much ado about nothing. And, he admitted they may be right. (continued...)

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Posted: 2013-08-07 @ 11:23am PT
I work in a contact center too, and yes, I believed treating your customers with integrity, respect, and value could make a difference. We had those customers who don't need solutions to their concerns, they just need someone to listen as they vent out their frustrations. And call centers who are stepping up the game, reaching their customers in all possible channels are on the right track.



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