Using customer interaction in the call centre to transform your entire business

Feb 6
customer interaction

Using customer interaction in the call centre to transform your entire business

Having a killer product or service or a strong supply chain used to be enough to keep a business firing on all cylinders. But as products increasingly become commodities, and more businesses adopt technology that makes the operations part of their business easier to manage, it’s pretty tricky for a business to stand out and grow their sales and the all-important bottom line. So what is a business to do? The answer may lie in your call centre’s customer interaction.

The secret sauce to business growth nowadays is the ability to offer a compelling customer experience, where each individual customer interaction resonates, and make your customers or prospects feel pretty damn good about your brand and business. The secret to creating this experience within your business is to understand your customers’ behaviour, why they do the things they do, and what matters to them when it comes to the category you’re operating in. These are insights. A business grounded in real consumer insight is one that stands out from the clutter, and makes their customers feel pretty chuffed with them at every touchpoint – because what they are hearing and seeing really means something to them.


How about an example?

If you want an example of a company that uses consumer insights well, let’s look at Unilever. A global company who make ice-cream (streets), soap (Dove), deodorant (Rexona), food (Continental), amongst other things. In 2016 they conducted a global research study into the markets they compete in. They found, from asking a lot of people a lot of questions, that local brands were strengthening, which posed a threat to their big, global, often homogenous brands. What they thought was their strength was in fact a weakness, as customer gravitated to brands more tailored to the culture and communities in which they operated.

As a result of this insight, Unilever developed a strategy that empowered their regional business units to create more meaningful products, brands and experiences. Without the data, the insight would have been undiscovered. Without embedding the insight into their global business plan, Unliever would have carried on with their global strategy flying blind.

You can obtain insights by spending tens of thousands on a research study where you ask the people who matter to your business why they do the things they do. You’ll get a nice report you can feed back to management and input into your business planning process. For businesses who don’t have a handy ten thousand dollars to spend, a much cheaper way is to train your staff to identify pieces of information that can be collated and turned into insights which can truly transform a business.

To get your staff into the right headspace to identify these meaningful titbits, you need to shift their mindset when it comes to a customer interaction. The call centre is a veritable gold mine of potential insights, if your staff have the ability and willingness to recognise them.


Turning staff into customer interaction investigators

Call centres are an absolute gift when it comes to gathering data that can form transformational insights. Your staff speak to customers all day, every day, which normally you have to pay a lot of money to do. The challenge is to shift the mindset of your staff so they can identify the valuable bread crumbs in ever customer interaction they have, so you have the data from which to extract the good stuff.


Connect your team to the business strategy

Tethered to their workstation, dealing with calls in isolation won’t the insights bring. Staff need to know what to look for. How is the business performing? What are the issues? What do we know about our customers and what are our hypothesis? Share the thinking with them. Ask them their opinion, based on the conversations they have. Get them involved, and they will have a better chance of recognising a relevant piece of information when they come upon it.


Get curious

A strong call centre agent should be able to carry on a conversation, not just read from a script. A good recruitment strategy will ensure you have the right kind of people on the job. If your agents can conduct meaningful conversations, then they should also have the ability to ask questions that prompt a meaningful customer interaction. It starts at open ended questions, but it’s more than that. It’s a conversation where agents can glean from each customer how they feel about the brand, why they chose it (or are thinking of ditching it), even what is important to them in their lives.


Collate customer interaction data

A call centre agent might have 60 conversations on a shift. 5 shifts per week, say 8 agents in your team – you’re looking at 2,400 conversations from which relevant information can be gathered. That’s a lot of data. Once you have your staff on the lookout, you need to collect this information, so it can be analysed and the insights can be uncovered.


Share your insights around the business

You have information that matters. Stuff that can, and will make the powers-that-be very happy indeed. Not only that, to uncover insights that could really drive growth for a business is pretty satisfying. But even the most ‘game changey’ information means absolutely nothing if it sits on the network forever, waiting to be discovered. This stuff needs to be shared and embedded into the business planning process.

As a call centre manager, you need to have have the lines of communication open with marketing and with product areas, so the information you’re gathering can be used to shape the strategy. They need to know what you’re doing so you can ensure your team and work is adding value to the planning process.

Not all businesses are savvy enough to recognise the value of the call centre beyond firefighting. This means, as the leader of this division, you may need to drive this process and get on the radar of other business units. Schedule meetings with the right people, tell them what you’re doing, and update them regularly. Keep them involved and they will care, very much, about what you come up with. Marketers spend thousands of dollars to speak directly with customers, and your team is doing it all day, every day.

Make sure that you make time to get your team together regularly to share the interesting titbits they’ve discovered, to stay motivated and connected, as well as starting to bring together the thinking.

Real business growth is all about insights. People are more likely to connect with your brand or business if you’re delivering something that means something to them, which comes from a real understanding of their behaviour. As a call centre manager, your team is dealing with customer interactions on a large scale, and this is the kind of data that can be used to form very valuable insights.

The onus is on you as a leader to recruit the right kind of people, to unleash their curiosity, and keep them connected to the broader business strategy so they understand what matters. Once you have the system in place, and have your team plugged into the rest of the business, you may just find your team is transformed, in role and mindset, from problem solvers to business strategists, who know what needs to be done and can recognise the information that will get the business where it needs to go.


customer interaction