Businesses often seek to differentiate on the basis of one of several strengths they can call their own. It might be product innovation, price, or some distribution or branding advantage that they have above and beyond their competitors - and yet every company, consumer- or business-facing alike, has a customer support function in some shape or form.
It begs the question: Is customer support seen within your company as a competitive advantage, or it is merely perceived as a cost center - one of those "necessary" functions that makes the business run, but one that's only grudgingly recognized by senior management?
DigitalGenius recently worked together with Canam Research to put together a survey that gets to the heart of this and many other questions. We talked to a broad cross-section of customer service and contact center leaders, with the intention of seeking to understand just how rapidly the customer service function has evolved, and what customer support leaders think about where it is and where it’s headed.
When we asked our respondents, “On a scale of 1 to 10, rate how well your contact center helps your company achieve a competitive advantage?”, we instructed them to score a “1” if customer support was not helpful to achieving a competitive advantage, and a “10” if it was extremely helpful in achieving a competitive advantage, with degrees of gradation in between.
It turns out that nearly 3 out of 4 respondents (72%) say that their customer support operations are “very” or “extremely” helpful in achieving a competitive advantage. Only 3% of respondents believe that customer support is “not helpful” in achieving this.
This tells us that what happens on the front lines of support goes even further in building company value than it did even one year ago. In Deloitte’s 2017 contact center survey, 62% of companies perceived customer experience delivered by their contact centers as a competitive differentiator.
This 10% jump in just one year may reflect the fact that consumer expectations for contact center/customer support are rising just as fast as the number of ways in which to reach an agent (email, web form, chat, social etc.), and that forward-looking customer support leaders are putting into place tools that delight customers and resolve their problems quickly, while removing those unnecessary costs that once made the contact center synonymous with "cost center".
It’s clear that the companies succeeding in 2018 are those who have put a measure of thought and planning into the customer-facing people and the forward-looking processes that are needed in order to strengthen relationships with customers in need of support. It's gratifying to see that the industry in which we - and likely you - work is now extracting strong company and competitive value from the agents on the front lines, as well as from the tools they use to resolve tickets.