Is Your Retail Contact Center as Customer-Obsessed as You

All retail contact center staffers want to give great service. It’s why they stay in the job — and why the best ones are worth their weight in resolved trouble tickets.

But while the customer is the same person over the sales lifecycle – initial acquisition, the buildup of loyalty, transformation into NPS Advocate – they don’t behave or respond in the same way at every stage. (It’s only natural; think of how a friendship develops.) To be truly obsessive about the customer, agents need information on where the caller is on that journey.  

But if getting that info means constantly switching between apps, or placing busy customers on hold, or doing end-runs around procedures to satisfy a customer need, your customer experience will end up in the emergency room. Because the agent experience is suffering too.

That’s why a third of contact centers say improving agent experience is a top goal.

So that’s one key to making your contact center obsessive about customer experience: remove the impediments at every stage. It allows agents to focus their energies on customers rather than technology, making them more customer-centric. And it boosts the side to customer obsession: making it pay in terms of ROI. Higher NPS scores, greater up-sell and cross-sell, higher conversion rates and longer customer lifetime value.

These are all outcomes worth the effort. So never forget why it’s worth fostering that obsession. Ultimately, the success of your whole retail organization depends on the experience created in its contact center.

Empower the agent, and you empower the customer experience

Let’s look at how we can create that situation — with four key questions to ask yourself on the path between first contact and ongoing friendship.

QUESTION #1: What’s stopping first-call resolution stone dead?

Of course, the ideal customer outcome is to solve any problem on first contact. That means making sure the agent who answers the phone (or email, or webchat) is the same agent who checks the ‘completed’ box. It’s key to building the trust and comfort that lead to customer loyalty.

But it’s surprising how many contact centers, festooned with legacy apps brought in over decades, prevent this from happening. Often one team of agents has access to one set of apps, while other apps are needed for the resolution. That means switched screens, different databases, and verbal acrobatics to keep the customer engaged.

The problem, then, isn’t with your agents — rather, it’s the stuff getting in their way. To work out how to make customer obsession blossom, look critically at what’s making it stop.

Do you have a grab-bag of outdated apps that your IT team is constantly having to patch and fix? See if there are ways to simplify, perhaps by moving to an all-in-one, click-to-install solution in the cloud.

OUTCOME: Increase in first-call resolutions … and greater customer loyalty.

QUESTION #2: Is your eCommerce system hailing all frequencies?

Connected to — or rather, disconnected from — the first call resolution (FCR) issue is pouring too much resource into channels your customers don’t use.

The typical contact center still concentrates on calls. But a quarter of millennial workers don’t even use their phones for voice. Today’s customer is omnichannel, using email, SMS, and chatbots with as much ease as the spoken word. So if your contact center is focused on voice, or treats different channels as different queries (for example, the apps dealing with different channels aren’t connected) it’s time to start being where your customers actually are.

So bring text, voice, even video channels – whatever you want to offer – together as part of the retail contact center offering. And when you’re ready to listen (or watch, or read) across all channels, make sure the data you gather from each is connected into one meaningful view of each customer.

OUTCOME: Faster response to pertinent inquiries … and an increase in customer acquisition speeds.

QUESTION #3: Can your personalization dig even deeper?

At one time, contact centers would have ‘offers of the month’ and blast them out to every customer, going for volume. But with artificial intelligence (AI) making its play for contact center hearts and minds, offers and options given to each customer are being individualized much more deeply.

The recognition that each customer is a single individual, not a demographic or cookie-cut segment, is the basis of hyper-personalization. Treating the customer not as a set of numbers, but as an integrated whole with a human face.

You can’t get that from traditional checkbox-driven profiling: it’s less quantitative, making more use of value judgments and obscure correlations between unrelated areas of the dataset. That’s why AI is increasingly taking charge. No human can interrogate gigabytes of data to identify causations and coincidences – but the right software can.

Speech analysis alone will be a $1.3 billion sector by 2019.

It’s becoming more common for the list of options a customer sees to be ultra-customized especially for him or her. Psychographic profiling, past actions, dreams, and desires are analyzed and turned into predictions of what that customer will respond most positively to, now.  Treating each customer as if they were your only customer — that’s customer obsession. Are you seeing the potential of AI?

OUTCOME: Higher conversion rates, stemming from intelligent options.

QUESTION #4: Are your agents micromanaged or empowered?

Many contact centers over-administer their agents, seeking to eliminate any possibility of the agent not toeing the company line. Such over-emphasis on control has a negative outcome: the agent doesn’t feel empowered to treat the customer as a human being.

Tim Ferris, the author of The 4-Hour Work Week, once found himself getting swamped with escalations from a team of agents asking him to make decisions above their authority. He solved it with a critical eye on risk and reward. If the resolution cost the company less than $100, he told them — just do it, according to your best judgment.

At first, agents were hesitant. But they very quickly learned to like it, because they were being treated with respect and trust. Today, empowering your team is easier than ever, because all-in-one solutions let you collect many more metrics without interrupting the agent’s flow- you’re watching, rather than controlling. To give your customer obsession character — empower your agents with seamless solutions, and see where it leads.

OUTCOME: Trusted bonds with agents and a happier contact center team-leading directly to deeper connections with customers as they become advocates.

From first acquisition to long-term advocacy score, customer obsession is the route to a truly customer-centric contact center.

And what’s more, your agents are probably as enthusiastic about it as you — they’re customer-obsessives-in-waiting, ready to be empowered!

So help them. Remove obstacles in the agent experience, replacing apps that are costing more resource than they’re worth. Connect applications into a seamless whole, and build a 360-degree view of each customer across all channels of communication. Then use that data to understand customer behavior more deeply … and empower your team to do the right thing, every time, according to best practices.

A contact center focused entirely on the customer — now that’s where obsession pays off. Moving successfully from acquisition to loyalty to advocacy is a process, not an event. And with the right tools, your agents are the ideal team to achieve it.


  • Customers respond differently at acquisition, loyalty-building, and advocacy stages of the customer lifetime
  • Your agents are probably as customer-obsessed as you but are frustrated by the technology in your contact center
  • Every unconnected app, every extra screen of info, impedes focus on the customer
  • Connect all customer data to build a complete picture of each customer
  • Use that data to discover and predict customer behavior
  • Trust your agents because they’re more effective decision makers than you might think

What motivations are driving customers away from traditional retailers?

Learn more and check out the eGuide, “5 reasons tomorrow’s customer won’t be shopping with today’s retailer” from the experts at Genesys.