Lisa Callender is President of LMC&A, LLC, a consulting firm based in West Orange, NJ. Her company provides strategic planning and multi channel contact management operations expertise to clients across the entire spectrum of B-to-C and B-to-B companies. LMC&A, LLC supports clients with managing Call Center, On-line and/or IVR channel touchpoints for:
marketing campaigns, expense reduction initiatives,complaint management projects, vendor selection and program launch of outsourced direct marketing and customer service contacts
GR: Lisa, a company like yours is in a good position to give us a snapshot of what conditions are like in the customer contact arena. What are those conditions from your perspective?
LC: Well, obviously the economy is the dominant influence right now and into the foreseeable future. Some of the consequences of the economy are actually positive. For instance, the past few years have seen an enormous leap forward in terms of the way technology affects every aspect of customer contact operations. However, the management efficiencies and changes inoperational processes that those technologies enabled, often lacked the multi year expense budgets such as people resources and training, to sustain attainment of those long term benefits. Today many companies are talking about shifting their internal focus to invest in existing technologies – be it software release upgrades, multi channel platform integration or customer data mining.
GR: So companies are developing better ways to utilize technology to better serve customers.
LC: That’s exactly right. And the companies whose marketing programs, business processes and technology are in synch as the economy recovers, will be positioned to offer exceptional multi-channel customer experience as part of their brand promise.
GR: That suggests that your clients are focusing on improving internal management systems perhaps more so than acquiring new technology.
LC: Some are, but I don’t want to suggest a complete separation of priorities; it is simply that during a time when cost reduction is often essential to staying in business the focus naturally shifts to doing things more efficiently. That means thinking about how to deliver better service at a lower cost. So you have to ask the question, have you fully exploited all the capabilities of your existing technology environments?
GR: That seems to be the holy grail right now.
LC: It always has been, but in the past the first impulse has been to find a technology solution to the problem; now the approach is to consider ways to use existing technology more efficiently. This is a very good thing, by the way, when technology outruns the means to apply it effectively, it is time to regroup and rethink the ways we do things.
GR: Which also means a shift toward the people considerations of Operations and Human Resources.
LC: Whether it is a call center representative talking to a customer, or chatting online, or responding to an email – one-on-one human contacts have earned their place in the hearts of customers and when strategically aligned, can deliver first contact resolution benefits including cost avoidance associated with fewer repeat contacts.
GR: So recruitment, selection and training remain a top priority? ?
LC: My clients have always been concerned with those issues – brand integrity is one of those core values that never get compromised. In a highly competitive marketplace when knowing and keeping customers is so important, a well-trained customer contact representative is a key differentiator.
GR: What are some of the characteristics of such a representative?
LC: The very best of them convey a sense of professional competence, friendliness, and enthusiasm for what they are doing. They make solving your problem a pleasure. You cannot hang up after a conversation with a really good customer contact rep without feeling that you have just received the attention of someone who cared about you and your concern, was capable of handling it, and who enjoyed the process. In addition to excellent listening, problem solving and questioning skills superb fluency with desktop applications is a must.
GR: Lisa, thank you for talking with us.
LC: My pleasure.