Welcome to the Customer Contact Center

On a recent client visit, I had the pleasure to spend the morning listening in on some customer service calls. I don't think I will ever forget one particular exchange between a customer and a service agent.

On a recent client visit, I had the pleasure to spend the morning listening in on some customer service calls. I dont think I will ever forget one particular exchange between a customer and a service agent:

Customer: "Hello, I am phoning you today about the e-mail that I sent to you earlier this week concerning the problem I am having using your product. My e-mail resulted from last weeks Web chat session that was prompted from your response to the letter that I sent you via regular mail last month."

Not surprisingly, the service agent was stumped. Although she tried her best to respond to the end users needs, she simply did not have access to all the contact history.

Welcome to the 2000s, where todays telephony-based customer service center is giving way to the CCC (customer contact center), a new customer service model that is capable of accepting incoming customer telephone calls, e-mail, Web chat sessions, customer self-service and more. Enabling this trend are new tools such as computer-telephony integration switches and IP networks capable of integrating and queuing voice and data packets.

Rolling out a CCC, however, requires more than just deploying technology. Here are some questions to help you determine whether you are ready to provide consistent customer service across channels:

Do you understand the customer service methods most preferred by your customers?

Has this vision and strategy been communicated effectively to internal customer-facing personnel as well as to external customers?

Do the current customer-facing processes support consistent customer service across channels, or do your processes need to be adjusted or even reinvented?

Will you be able to encourage customer service agents to think outside their silos and participate in your multichannel support efforts?

Will your current phone network allow for consistent customer service across channels, or should you be implementing emerging IP network technology?

Customers have become wiser. Competition is but one mouse click away. Now more than ever is the time to offer consistent customer service across all channels.

Barton Goldenberg is president and founder of ISM Inc., a CRM consulting company in Bethesda, Md. He can be reached at bgoldenberg@ismguide.com.