EXPERT ADVICE

Optimizing the Contact Center as a Profit Center

Traditionally, the contact center has been a cost center. However, with the contact center transforming into a profit center, the selling of products and services has emerged as an opportunity for the contact center to improve agent and customer interaction. Yet the challenge will be balancing customer satisfaction goals and driving profits.

Sixty percent of companies surveyed in Aberdeen Group’s benchmark report, “The Conflicted Call Center — Customer Experience vs. Transaction Hub” (March 2007), said they sell products, services or support in their contact centers in addition to handling their primary responsibilities. In another Aberdeen benchmark titled “Optimizing Your Workforce — Increasing Contact Center Agent Productivity” (February 2008), it is revealed that 34 percent of companies currently use outbound proactive customer service and 36 percent expect to implement it. To achieve or maintain Best-in-Class status, companies look to generate profit through not only cost reduction, but also through cross-selling and up-selling.

A Logical Outcome

The number of customer touch points within the contact center has continued to grow. Customers can now reach out via e-mail, chat, voice and Web self-service and agent-assistance. With all of these interactions, transforming the contact center into a profit center is a logical outcome.

Focusing on lowering costs to improve or produce profits is one way to achieve a profitable contact center. However, another important way is through cross-selling and up-selling to customers. The benchmark report “Optimizing Your Workforce — Increasing Contact Center Agent Productivity” indicates that 54 percent of Best-in-Class organizations currently have the capability to proactively reach out to customers, and an additional 22 percent plan to implement it.

From the end user’s perspective, the key benefits are the opportunity to increase market share and profits; improve customer satisfaction and customer retention; and create brand lock-in to:

  • increase average revenue per contact;
  • drive cross-selling and up-selling;
  • improve customer satisfaction;
  • improve customer retention; and
  • create brand lock-in.

In April and May 2008, more than 130 companies responded to an Aberdeen survey, and 65 percent indicated that a top pressure driving companies to provide multichannel cross-selling and up-selling in the contact center is the need to establish customer service as a competitive differentiator. Furthermore, 54 percent of companies choose revenue and profit, and 50 percent balancing customer satisfaction with revenue and profit as a top two pressure.

Cross-selling and up-selling in the contact center is an opportunity for the contact center to establish competitive differentiation, where simply driving down costs is no longer a viable solution. Companies can no longer differentiate themselves on just price and product. Furthermore, contact centers recognize that they must not only remember their roots in solving customer problems, but also recognize where opportunities to fulfill unmet customer needs lie and proactively provide solutions.

Two Strategic Actions

Aberdeen research indicates that there are two strategic actions the majority of Best-in-Class firms take to establish customer service as a competitive differentiator. This is unlike Industry Average and Laggard firms, which do not seem to be able to agree on a top strategy. Best-in-Class companies are 1.61 times and 1.33 times more likely than all other companies to provide sales training for contact center agents, and align contact center goals with corporate revenue and profit goals, respectively.

Best-in-Class companies, by definition, are better than other companies, and all other firms would be wise to follow their actions to become top-performing organizations. By enabling your agents to cross-sell and up-sell, the contact center is taking advantage of increased number of touches by the customer. Providing a high level of service and products makes for a well-rounded and successful customer interaction.


Alan Hubbard is senior vice president of customer service and support at Aberdeen Group. He can be reached at alan.hubbard@aberdeen.com.


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