Oh no, here we go again. The debate over control of the contact center flares anew. This time analyst firm Forrester asserts Why Marketing Should Own The Contact Center (April 9, 2004 Forrester report by Elana Anderson and John Ragsdale). This is neither a revolutionary concept nor an original one.The last time marketing was given responsibility for contact center transactions was in the 1996-99 time frame, when the Web first became hot. Marketing owned the web site and wanted to handle customer inquiries that came from this channel sounded logical at the time. But it wasnt.
It was painful for customers and enterprises! Marketing wasnt prepared for or equipped to handle the deluge of email and web-based inquiries the primary reason contact centers were built. Marketings mission is to analyze and spot trends in customer data to create revenue opportunities, not to respond to customer inquiries. After receiving many complaints about web site customer service, marketing organizations quietly passed responsibility for these inquires to their contact center, where it belonged.
Forresters conclusion and action item is wrong. Marketing should not own the contact center, as they are not prepared or even interested in dealing directly with large numbers of customers. Marketing organizations need to increase their effectiveness, but putting them in charge of contact centers wont bring about this result. Rather, this puts contact centers at risk of losing sight of their primary customer service mission. Without a strong service focus, contact centers stand little chance of leveraging customer relationships for incremental revenue.
The report accurately pointed out the declining effectiveness of traditional marketing tactics . Ironically, this is cited as a driver for giving marketing organizations additional responsibility for contact center management. Its true that contact centers have great potential as a sales channel because customers share their preferences and needs during service interactions. The obstacle today is that contact center agents do not have access to the marketing information needed to sell in real time, at the point of customer-initiated contact.
Instead of demanding control of contact centers and changing their mission from service to sales, marketing should concentrate on improving their own effectiveness. There are many reasons why marketing organizations are less successful than in prior years. The Federal Trade Commissions Do Not Call Legislation, passed in 2003 limiting outbound calling, is one explanation. Another limitation is anti-spam legislation. However, marketing performance was already declining even before these external impediments were introduced. This may sound harsh, but it doesnt make sense to reward marketing organizations for poor performance by giving them new responsibilities that theyve already proven they cant handle.
The time is right for change and contact centers, well positioned to generate new revenue and retain profitable customers, must step up and play an increasingly important sales role within companies. Contact centers have more meaningful interactions with customers than any other organization in the enterprise. Callers to inbound contact centers are open and receptive while asking for help. Enterprises that can optimize these interactions will provide an outstanding customer experience, increase revenue and retain customers, three essential goals for all companies. But, they need information, not instructions, from marketing organizations to achieve these objectives.
Contact centers have been eager to contribute to corporate revenue goals for years and welcome the opportunity to participate to their full potential. Its time for contact centers to step out of the shadow of marketing. Executive management should empower contact centers by converting them from cost centers to profit centers. Contact centers must be given corporate revenue goals aligned with departmental objectives.
Contact centers need parity with sales and marketing organizations if they are to increase revenue while continuing to deliver an outstanding customer experience. They must be promoted organizationally, reporting to the same executives as sales and marketing departments. Contact center management should be compensated in the same pay range as their peers. Senior executives should introduce shared revenue and profitability goals for sales, marketing and the contact center so that these organizations will be forced to put politics behind them and work together. Performance management applications should be implemented to measure adherence to common corporate goals.
But its not a free ride for contact centers. They must open up their resources and freely share customer information with all customer-facing departments on a timely basis. Marketing and sales organizations are increasingly dependent upon real or near-real time customer insights that are available in contact centers. If contact centers were better at sharing customer information, there wouldnt be as great a need to own them.
Marketing does need help and support from contact centers. But marketing does not want and is not prepared to handle the day-to-day responsibility of managing customer interactions. If you have any doubt, I suggest that all marketing staff be required to do a three-month rotation getting to know their customers by answering inquiries in contact centers. While Ive never seen this done, I suspect that you would have a hard time filling marketing positions. But if marketing is going to manage the contact center, they must be prepared to handle all aspects of customer interactions from simple requests to irate callers.
Marketing organizations that are out of touch with customer needs and decreasing in effectiveness should not be telling contact centers how to deliver customer service. What will work for enterprises and their customers is placing these organizations, marketing, sales and contact centers, on equal footing so that they bring out the best in each other and provide the best customer experience.
Donna Fluss is the Principal of DMG Consulting LLC, delivering customer-focused business strategy, operations and technology for Global 2000 and emerging companies. Ms. Fluss is a recognized leader and visionary in customer relationship management and a highly sought-after writer and speaker. She is the author of the industry-leading 2004 Quality Management/Liability Recording Product and Market Report and the 2004 Guide to Successful Contact Center Offshore Outsourcing. Contact Ms. Fluss at [email protected]
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