Customer contact points are the logical places where companies interact directly with their clients. These may include, for instance, in-store contact, phone contact, interaction via the Internet, business-sponsored booths, and in-store customer service. Each of these is an effective way to increase sales and customer satisfaction. The key is to ensure that customer satisfaction and retention are achieved in each interaction.
There are several key features involved in customer contact. Some of these are: e-mail or telephone inquiry, direct contact with a representative, a face-to-face meeting, etc. Each of these has its own unique aspect and potential impact. For instance, e-mail or telephone inquiry is very direct means to gather information; however, it is also very time-consuming.
Face-to-face customer contact provides a direct method to get answers to questions. However, it is quite time-consuming. A better approach could be to have the representative meet with the customer later in the production process – say, right after the product or service has been showcased. This is because many of the issues discussed during the demonstration can be resolved at this stage. Also, such actions help improve customer relations by lessening the perceived ‘time gap’ between the presentation of the product or service and the actual production process.
A high-quality service system should be able to minimize this time gap, as well as offer a comprehensive range of solutions for addressing customer issues. In addition, the representatives in such a setting should be highly versed in resolving typical problems. After all, many issues are simply cases of lack of understanding. This could stem from a long-standing policy (e.g., ordering too much, not having the right model, etc.) or it could stem from an issue that has been previously resolved in a timely manner.
A service system should also provide support for the entire organization, including both internal and external sales, service, and marketing personnel. Such support systems need to allow for requests for follow-ups on individual cases, such as when the customer contacts the company’s main office to discuss a problem. The same goes for requests for extension of the product or service guarantee. Good customer contact service systems should be able to quickly respond by either getting the customer on hold or, where appropriate, sending them a replacement product.
A mixed-service delivery model is just what it sounds like: one that combines elements of both high and low-contact system approaches. A mixed-service system typically includes elements from both high and low-contact strategies. For instance, the technical team may work to develop a low-contact system based on the requirements of a high-pressure situation, such as an emergency or flood. The technical core can then use the low-contact model to create a service system that meets the specifications of the customer’s needs without requiring the assistance of the technical core. If the customer has a high-pressure situation, however, the team might recommend developing a high-contact system instead.
Call center outsourcing provides a way for call center teams to improve their customer contact and support abilities without taking on additional work. For example, instead of having two or more staff members responsible for taking phone calls, the call center outsourcing approach takes the burden off of one person while creating greater efficiency. It is important to remember, however, that this type of service does require more skill and time than low-contact methods would require. As such, it is not suitable for all circumstances. Call center outsourcing should only be used when other options have been tried and failed.
Call center outsourcing is not a complete solution for customer contact and support issues. Complete customer contact and support systems should be in place, as well. Call center management must be capable of assigning appropriate staff members to handle the different tasks associated with various call centers, whether they are part of a mixed service operations network or not. Call center management should also be capable of coordinating these tasks with other parts of the business such as accounting, human resources, legal teams, marketing, finance, and other departments if necessary.