Monday, 30 April 2012

Customer Insight – Asking the Question 'Why?'

Automated voice recognition and call centre techniques can leave out one crucial question that can provide invaluable customer insight: why?

Customer insight is incredibly valuable for the forward thinking company. By asking a customer why they need a product or why they are using a service, it's possible to target products and services more specifically. By knowing more about the customers' needs, you are increasing the likelihood of a transaction and improving customer satisfaction. But many contact centres can be blinded, on a mission, with one objective in mind. Customer insight allows them to see the bigger picture that can, in the long term, encourage customer loyalty.

Customer Insight – Understanding Consumer Needs

Automated or transactional interactions may be right for certain products or services. They can certainly be cost effective. But for some businesses there's an argument for making more out of the human contact made between consumers and contact agents; there's a strong case of building customer insight. Contact centres are the perfect place for businesses to gain a crucial understanding of their customers. By simply asking why consumers are asking for a particular service, contact centres can enhance their customer insight, which in turn can inform their business strategies. Writing on the subject of customer insight, Chris Hancock, Managing Director of Gasbox uses an example: if a customer is ringing a contact centre to ask for her bank balance, simply asking why could offer a wealth of information. If it's to see if she has enough funds to buy a five star cruise or to see if she can pay her bills, this information can help shape what products or services are targeted at her. Building customer insight by extracting and documenting this kind of information can in the short or long-term enrich, personalise and individualise further contact with the consumer.

Customer Insight – Asking Questions

Customer interaction leads to customer insight, and if anything asking pertinent questions is thought by many to improve the customer experience as it shows the agent is taking an active interest in the customer. There's a difference between asking pertinent questions and cross-selling. The two feed into each other, but if the agent launches into a sales pitch in the early stage of a call it can be counter-productive. Customer insight if used appropriately can help the consumer, used poorly, it can alienate them. In the long term, customer insight can be used to tailor services or offers to individual needs as well as reduce the likelihood of unnecessary repetition helping make services more efficient. The role of customer dialogue and customer insight is certainly an interesting, and challenging one for the contact centre industry.

Customer Insight – Treating Customers Fairly

 Financial services firms are making progress, but there's still some way to go to meet the FSA's Treating Customers Fairly criteria.

The Financial Services Authority has outlined an assessment criteria for financial services firms to help ensure they  treat their customers fairly. Customer insight is a growing concern, especially in the financial services sector where transparency and accountability have never been so crucial. But a survey by Clearconcepts shows encouraging results; it shows that leading retail finance firms in the UK are making good progress - although there is still some way to go. The study, entitled Complaints MI: Evidencing TCF was conducted on behalf of the Financial Services Discussion Club.

Client Insight: Crucial

The results of the report underlines the importance customer complaints play in shaping a company's standard TCF (Treating Customers Fairly) management information (MI) process. It showed that complaints are used to influence product design and improve information sent by financial sectors to their customers. Customer insight is a powerful thing. In the survey the financial companies were questioned about their progress when it came to collating evidence for compliance with the six FSA's TCF outcomes: clear information for customers, transparent corporate culture, adequate product design, suitable advice, post-sale difficulties and meeting expectations.

Improving the Customer Experience

The research found that the complaints data collated and analysed by firms reveals process improvements in over three-quarters of the FSA's TCF outcomes. Additionally, the leading companies questioned for the report were found to be making good progress in reducing post-sale problems or barriers for clients making complaints, making it easier for them to switch products or services providers.

Customer Insight and the FSA's TCF Criteria

Customer insight has always been central to improving customer service. And tackling customer complaints is a vital source for crucial management information. Harnessing this information can help inform strategies to drive business improvements. Commenting on customer insight, Paul Elswood, the vice president for CDC Respond said: “It is encouraging to see the financial services market embracing this approach to meet the stringent demands of the FSA’s TCF initiative.”
The study was felt to show positive developments towards meeting the FSA's TCF assessment criteria. So, whether you are using marketing pop up banners or anything else, you should know how you stand against regulations.

Offshoring – Customer Relations Damaged by Call Centre Offshoring

It is somewhat of a balancing act for businesses when it comes to the offshoring of their operations because, whilst it is inevitably cheaper to offshore call centres, it is often at the cost of customer loyalty because many customers are irritated by offshoring practices.

Offshoring is becoming increasingly commonplace in many industries but, of course, the industry which offshoring is most prevalent within is that of contact centres. Unfortunately, however, the practice of offshoring is often to the detriment of customer retention because most don't like having their requests, complaints and queries being dealt with in an overseas call centre. It is clearly apparent that a business needs to keep its customers happy if it is to be a success in the long run but much recent research has pointed to the problematic relationship between offshore call centres and customers based in the UK and the inevitable consequence is that customer relations are damaged and the level of loyalty demonstrated to the company in question dwindles. With this in mind, it is clear to see that it can be a difficult decision to weigh up the pros and cons of offshoring in relation to how likely it is to jeopardise relations with a business' client base.

Offshoring – Looking at the Key Problems

One company that recently explored the viability of offshoring their business operations, Customer Consulting Ltd (CCL), made some interesting discoveries regarding the financial implications which can arise from taking the decision to operate contact centres offshore for UK based businesses. Speaking of their findings, CCL's managing director, Simon Rustom, stated, “Our research shows that the cost of running a full end-to-end customer contact centre in India - including both the ‘back office’ administration and ‘front office’ voice elements of telephone calls, emails and faxes to customers and potential customers - is some £18m a year”. There are two sides to every story and the same is true with offshoring and Rustom goes on to state, “On the other hand, the cost of bringing back the ‘voice’ (front office) element of the operation to the UK, leaving the administration in India, is some £21m. However, according to our research, this results in increased customer satisfaction and higher levels of customer retention. Indeed, our research reveals that the cost of customers lost through using India-based contact centres is some £12m a year.”

Offshoring – Providing the Right Service for Customers

It is, of course, imperative that a business does everything that it can to make sure their customers remain satisfied with their performance, even if this isn't the cheaper option. With this in mind, CCL came to the conclusion that they would keep their administration practices offshore but wouldn't risk offshoring their front end operations through fears it would compromise their relationship with their customers. This problem with offshoring isn't limited to the call centre industry and almost any type of industry which engages in offshoring should think about the long term consequences of losing customers as opposed to the short term cutting of costs.

Outsourcing Company goes from Strength to Strength

Obviously, the credit crunch has had many wide reaching implications but one outsourcing company aims to buck the downturn. Teleperformance recently announced the opening of a sixth site to be based in Gateshead, near Newcastle.

Teleperformance are an outsourcing company affiliated with the contact centre industry and they recently announced that it was their intention to open another site, their sixth, in Gateshead, near Newcastle. The outsourcing company have created a substantial network across the UK for their Teleperformance Technical Help UK business. It is noticeable that a number of outsourcing companies, particularly those in the contact centre industry, are still capable of expanding their business operations despite the prevailing economic downturn in the UK. One such outsourcing company that is achieving this endeavour is that of Teleperformance, who are exhibiting their strength by continuing to open contact centres across the UK. Their latest centre, in the North East of England, will significantly strengthen the position in the UK market in 2009 and for the years to come. Outsourcing is a great way to save money in business and countries representing all flags of the world have workers who could be benefitted from doing outsourcing work.

Outsourcing – Adding to a Growing Network

Teleperformance are already one of the UK's leading performers in terms of outsourcing and already boast sites in Birmingham, Bristol, Bangor, Ashby, Newry and Northern Ireland. In order to grow, it is important for a outsourcing company to expand their network of sites and this is something that Teleperformance certainly seems to have taken on board by recently opening their sixth site in Gateshead. The latest addition to their outsourcing sites in Gateshead is expected to vastly improve the standard of their technical support and they now boast a workforce some 2,500 strong. The clients that make use of Teleperformance's outsourcing expertise are fairly prestigious and include the likes of Apple, Sun Microsystems and Hewlett Packard.

Outsourcing – Planning for the Future

By adding to an already established business model, Teleperformance have taken steps to solidify their position in the market and Jeff Smith, CEO of Teleperformance, states, “ We are delighted to have added the Teleperformance Technical Help UK team to our nationwide network of contact centres and to have strengthened our technical support expertise through this move. We now have over 200 multi-lingual agents handling levels 1, 2 and 3 technical help functions, supporting customers in 16 countries. Technical support is a business function of growing importance and now accounts for almost 20 per cent of contact centre activity worldwide.”