Small-Medium Contact Centers and the Battle for Customer Intimacy

 Do you remember your local grocery store—the one closest to home when you were a kid? The owner knew you and your family members by name. He knew what you bought and, if you hadn’t paid him a visit in a while, he would ask your mother if you were okay. He knew what you liked and, if he didn’t have what you wanted, he would order it especially for you. In short, you had a relationship. His prices may have been a fraction higher than the larger supermarket, but no one there knew you. You didn’t mind paying a little more for that personal connection.

The bottom-line value of this kind of connection has not gone unnoticed among larger grocery chains. Over the last few years, they have been investing big bucks in innovative technologies to help them get to know their customers as well, if not better, than their mom-and-pop rivals. They issue coupons for the products customers are most likely to buy, based on their previous purchases, invite them to promotional events and more. The supermarket is going head-to-head with the neighborhood grocery store in the battle for customer intimacy.

The battleground extends well beyond grocers. Small to mid-size businesses worldwide face the same challenge. The key asset that differentiated them from large competitors was knowledge of their customers, attained through their customer service operations. But that advantage—a hallmark of the small to medium contact centers that support local and regional businesses—is eroding.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the simple call recording that’s done in the small to medium contact center (SMCC) today is regarded as standard but increasingly insufficient for competitive purposes. With the risk of losing the battle for customer intimacy, more robust applications for SMCCs have become a must. According to the Datamonitor report, “Small and Suite: The Mid-Size Contact Center” (April 23, 2009), “Because large enterprises also seek ways to personalize customer self-service, customer intimacy is a battle that mid-size contact centers cannot afford to lose.”  

It’s somewhat ironic that today SMCCs need to invest in business applications to protect the intimacy advantage that once came so naturally. But as IBM correctly states, “To survive, mid-size companies must be agile enough to respond to the pressures to compete on levels not required in the past.” This may mean that SMCCs must explore the kinds of technologies—and price points—once reserved for bigger players. It’s an opportunity for SMCCs and their call recording solution vendors to provide advanced customer service applications that best fit SMCC needs and budgets. It will be interesting to see how they rise to the challenge.

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