Today’s socially networked consumer is demanding more from the companies they do business with. They are expecting higher levels of service and enhanced communications provided through ever increasing virtual channels, and outlets using Social Technology for voicing opinions and more importantly communicating with each other about YOUR product or service and about their experiences with YOUR company than ever before.

Engaging in proactive conversations with those consumers to manage and deliver on their expectations will become critical to a company’s ability to succeed. Planning for a next-generation customer communication centre will help to address these requirements while enhancing the overall customer experience.

Unified communications and collaboration technologies provide the foundation for the next-generation communication centre, by connecting not only the contact centre and the rest of the enterprise, but also the enterprise and the customer in new ways. These technologies bring vital capabilities to customer company communications, including voice/telephony, unified messaging, contextual presence, multimedia conferencing, desktop and data sharing, web portals, social computing, content and knowledge management using ever increasing data and information about how your customers interact with your organisation.

Communication channels are expanding beyond more familiar choices like voice, chat and email to include SMS/text messaging modes, customer communities using social networking, and access to content-rich, user-directed, self-service experiences through the Internet.

And as these channels are expanding, so are consumers’ expectations. At a minimum, they’ll expect a rich experience tailored to each channel that identifies their needs and provides what they expect. As social media continues to ‘democratise’ the customer experience, they will increasingly want to interact with both fellow consumers and decision-makers within the company to gain a larger voice in the brands they champion. Take heed that if you are not listening to what is being said about your company through the ever increasing Social Media channels. If you are not using technology to ‘listen’ then you are operating in unknown depths where ever dangerous reefs can tear the bottom out of your ship.

Ultimately, consumers are looking to participate in the reinvention of customer-company communications and the creation of products and services. These trends bring either risk or opportunity to companies looking to build relationships that cultivate loyalty. The outcome depends on whether or not businesses take action and look to embracing a ‘one to one’ strategy or stick to the old tried and tested ways of doing business and provide what you ’think’ your customers want.

Customer-centric companies that choose to adapt to this new norm will need to move from traditional customer interactions confined to the contact centre to enterprise-wide customer-company collaboration. To keep pace with evolving customer needs and to take full advantage of emerging technologies, companies should understand the essential digital capabilities that a next-generation company must embrace and begin planning for it today.

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