High touch equals high value: The strategic advantage of a high-touch contact center
Four years ago, the report “Customers 2020: The Future of B-to-B Customer Experience” by Walker alerted the business world to the fact that customer experience is rapidly overtaking product and price as the primary differentiator of a brand. Nowhere is this more true than in the field of highly complex products—medical devices, for example—where the end user’s ability to correctly operate equipment can be critical to performing certain tasks. Yet while the manufacturers of these types of products often recognize the importance of high-quality customer care, few appreciate the strategic advantage they can gain by outsourcing this care to a high-touch contact center.
Distinguishing features of a high-touch contact center
A high-touch contact center is distinct from a traditional one in a number of ways. Its end users are frequently one or more specific groups of professionals or consumers. In the example of a contact center for medical devices, the end users are healthcare professionals, medical device consumers, and manufacturers’ sales representatives. In addition, a high-touch contact center provides a range of customer support tasks that can be extremely specialized in nature. For example, a medical device contact center might provide pre-, intra-, and post-operative troubleshooting, as well as complaint management that ensures issues with equipment are reported via the appropriate channels to the FDA. And finally, it facilitates a high degree of customer interaction in order to resolve customer requests. There are typically low wait times—30 seconds or less—to speak with an agent, and agents are trained to provide quality support so they can successfully assist customers in the shortest time possible.
In order to provide top quality service, a high-touch contact center consists of the following components:
- A value-focused strategy: Whereas conventional contact centers often emphasize volume, a high-touch contact center focuses its core development on delivering quality services that add value to the client’s brand.
- Knowledgeable management: The management team not only possesses customer support expertise, it also acquires in-depth knowledge of the client’s product(s) and brand in order to develop an effective strategy.
- A hybrid setup of technology and human services: In terms of networks, CRM tools, data analytics, and performance tracking, robust technology is essential for any contact center. For high-touch contact centers, however, it’s also important to connect customers to live agents as soon as possible. Too much reliance on chatbots and other automated systems can detract from the customer experience and quality of service.
- A higher level of talent: On average, 60 to 70 percent of agents are college-educated, while others have significant work experience in a related field. Moreover, they’re not entry-level talent, but instead professionals looking for a long-term commitment attracted by flex-work options, telecommuting, and competitive remuneration. Consequently, in an established high-touch contact center, turnover can remain between five and 10 percent—considerably lower than the industry average of 25 to 30 percent.
- Training: A high-touch contact center may provide training programs for its agents, thereby freeing up the client’s stakeholders to focus on the company’s higher-level strategy.
The strategic advantage for the client
In the best outsourced high-touch contact center programs, the provider assumes a certain level of ownership for the support program (to the extent that the client allows). As a result, the provider effectively becomes a strategic partner that both delivers quality support for the client’s products and shares insights gleaned from its operations. And in the long term, this consistently increases the value of the program because it helps improve the client’s products while at the same time strengthening its brand.