News Stay informed about the latest enterprise technology news and product updates.

Personalizing the contact center

Creating one-to-one relationships in the contact center requires careful attention to agent hiring, training and evaluation, say analysts, vendors and managers.

Being more one-to-one in the contact center represents an investment in time, effort, and hard dollars -- and that flies in the face of those who have tallied cost-per-call as though their lives depended on it.

"It can be incredibly hard," said Esteban Kolsky, a Gartner research director. "If you don't have personalization experience from very early on, your best bet is to take baby steps."

Simply reevaluating personalization technology will not make a complete one-to-one turnaround in the contact center. Organizations also need to consider how they could alter their processes and manage their agents differently to make the transformation to a one-to-one contact center a success.


Although it may be tempting to equate cross-selling conversions with successful personalization, enabling agents to personalize the experience in a way that boosts satisfaction without an immediate top-line improvement is also important. Customer satisfaction scoring and overall company growth should factor more heavily into the compensation mix than individual quotas.

For more on call center management
Hear from both sides in our call center outsourcing face off

Prepare yourself for the top 10 pitfalls of new call center agents

Get up to speed with our Call Center Manager Learning Guide

"We're in the business of serving people, so we want to have people who are consultative," said Kurt Zimmer, vice president in charge of CRM delivery at TIAA/CREF. "We are in the financial arena, but we don't commission people to sell -- our consultants have zero financial incentive in the customer's decision. The individual's goal is to get the call and the experience…right."


Measure individual agent performance and overall contact center operations on metrics that matter to the one-to-one experience. That means a greater emphasis on satisfaction, loyalty, and share of wallet -- and it gives second-class status to operational scores like average handle time.

"People need to reevaluate their metrics by putting themselves in the place of the caller. How would you like to be treated when you call?" said Kelly Johnston, chief operating officer at Health Advocate. "I think [some companies] have lost sight of that. There are very few places that make customers feel good when they hang up the phone."

Also consider being more strategic when it comes to evaluating the service experience. Listen to both live and IVR-only calls that have the hallmarks of making or breaking the one-to-one relationship, for example calls that are unique by exception, like those with high-value customers or that have unusual length or callback frequency.

"Look for calls that ultimately represent a much more significant impact on customer experience than a random sample," said Mariann McDonagh, vice president of corporate marketing at Verint. Of course, it's possible to detect these calls through standard call-evaluation methodologies. However, using automated speech analytics is significantly more efficient.


At a loss for finding more engaged agents in your call center's home market? Look beyond it.

"More and more companies are utilizing home agents, because it gives them access to unique skill sets available in different geographies, and allows them to provide different services to their customers with agents who are more knowledgeable," said Randy Saunders, marketing manager for Cincom. "That makes personalization a lot easier than just hiring whoever is available in one geography."

Hiring experienced professionals with industry experience is another way to ensure that the customer experience is tailored appropriately. Health Advocate has done this in staffing its contact center largely with agents who have nursing experience. They understand the subject at hand and are not simply script-followers.


Continuous training on all of a company's products and services as well as how customers use them becomes a must, as does making a bigger investment on the front end to ensure that agents know how to handle more than just the basics.

"We're not seeing somebody coming out of the block with just one type of call they can answer," said Connie Smith, chief evangelist at Envision. "They have to come to the floor with [knowledge of] multiple types of calls, and that means changes in new-hire training."

Agents should also be prepared to lead by example and mentor peers.

"We have a six-month effort to fully train someone, and that includes joint seating and other ways of working with two agents on a call," TIAA/CREF's Zimmer said.

Reprinted with permission from 1to1 Media. (c) 2006 Carlson Marketing Worldwide.

Dig Deeper on Contact center management

Start the conversation

Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.