As an advocate for great service, I often find myself being challenged by the mere thought of having to contact a few of my service suppliers – as I just know that I will be met with indifference or confusion. On the other hand, I have others that are such a complete delight to deal with that I am left feeling confident that I actually matter. Over the last few months I have been making a conscious effort to truly understand what is driving the different levels of service that I receive when I engage with a contact centre, and why.
Last year, Bridge was part of the transformation team that rebranded a 5-star hotel in Palm Beach, Florida from a well-known, high-end brand to an independent, new-fashioned luxury property. We worked exclusively on the internal messaging, employee engagement and building a new culture that would support both the vision of brand and better meet the needs of this new type of guest. It was not until working on this project that I began to realise just how the changing hospitality industry was a core reflection of new emerging customer trends and expectations across the board.
For those of us who have stayed in a branded hotel chain, we enter this relationship with a clear expectation of service. In the more high-end franchises, we expect consistency – no matter where we are in the world. I was surprised to discover the number of new, boutique, high-end hotels that seem to be opening up globally; these can range from sole independents or new, exclusive brands such as Marriott’s Edition hotels. So, what can contact centres learn from this evolution in customer needs and wants in a hotel experience?
This brought me back full circle to a recent call that I had with my AMEX Platinum contact centre and the delightful service that I consistently receive with them. It was made clear in one interaction that I was unique in my contact with them. They offered me a boutique-style service, one that was exclusive to me. They took the time to build a relationship with me on my terms, and took the time upfront to better understand my needs and the style of my personality. They clearly have the elasticity to deal with and respond to many different types of customers, and quickly fell into the personality type that best complemented mine.
At the hotel in Palm Beach, we ran several workshops on living the values. As true hoteliers, all members of the team play an equal part in the success of the business. We also underscored this with how the service offered in a boutique environment needs to be more flexible, and how to build moments that leave guests with goosebumps. One might argue that it is much easier to do this in the face-to-face, tangible environment of a hotel, and I would agree with this; however that is the challenge that the contact centre world needs to address and find more creative solutions to overcome as it seeks to eliminate barriers to success.
Customers are changing – as they have been since I began my career 20 years ago, and customers will never stop evolving. We have had the introduction of so many new communication channels over the last few years and people seemingly want things to happen faster in a world of immediacy. I have several devices at my fingertips, which means I can complete complex transactions without ever speaking to a person. Many organisations are building such a fortress around their contact centres that it has almost become impossible to find a telephone number to call. All this change has altered the face of both the contact centre and the relationship that we have with them as consumers.
For the foreseeable future, contact centres are not going anywhere, but I think that we need to give them the boutique status that they deserve. They have the ability to make true and lasting connections with the real face of customers. This now extends to all customers that take the time to contact them by phone, as it is a medium that they still prefer. This personality type is one that values being heard and one that builds loyalty in the live environment. For those that work in and support the contact centre, they too need to better connect to the purpose model of their organisations and better understand how they can offer five-star service to boutique-style customers.