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Checkmate: The Strategy Behind a Contact Center

I’m not a chess expert, but like most people, I am aware of the basic rules and I know that it’s a game of skill and strategy. Of course, experienced players will tell me it’s much more than that but… In this article, I would like to use this metaphor to open your mind.

Checkmate: The Strategy Behind a Contact Center

For more than ten years now…

I have been giving conferences, all dedicated to customer contact centers matter. I can recall one of the first conferences I attended, where I discussed the importance of the agent: The agent is the voice of your organization. Following the conference, some of the participants told me that they thought my content was interesting but utopian. That it was impossible to realize such ideas. That I will not last long if my thought process remained the same. ​ As a young entrepreneur, these early comments struck me and have stayed with me all this time. 15 years later, however, I am still here and continues to advocate these same values. And it is now, at the end of these 15 years, that contact centers are finally beginning to change. This is what is most important to me. ​ Do you think that I was avant-garde when I proposed these new ideas in that early lecture? I do not believe so. I am just a realist. A human consultant who has been immersed in the life of contact centers since the age of 18 and witnessed, firsthand, the evolution of technology. I was an agent whose vast experiences evolved into a dream of helping contact centers.

Guy Winch: lecturer and author of “The Squeaky Wheel”

Last year, I had the opportunity of attending a conference by Guy Winch [1], Ph.D. in Psychology, lecturer and author of “The Squeaky Wheel”, read by more than 4.5 million people. His presentation focused on customer service. To put this into context, the psychologist was explaining the birth of call centers that appeared after a study conducted by students and supervised by John A. Goodman. This study, commissioned by the White House in the early 1970s, recommended the introduction of toll-free telephone numbers (1-800) to provide customers with the opportunity to express any dissatisfaction. Faced with this new wave of incoming calls, organizations reacted by creating specific departments to respond to them. The results of this study reversed conventional wisdom and contributed to the positioning of customer service as a potential profit center. i3vision is not avant-garde … John A Goodman [2] was. ​ 45 years later, our principal mandates are the optimization and transformation of customer contact centers into omnichannel. I take this opportunity to have you reflect a little on this transformation.

The voice of your organization

What I am trying to say is, don’t give up on the basic need to have agents available to answer your customers' needs. It seems easy to look at technology to eliminate basic needs for business, like optimizing your business to implement tools that remove that human interaction (Yes, I am pointing at you, businesses who remove cashiers and replace them with self serve terminals), but at the end, when a pandemic like this hits, no one wants to really touch those terminals that have been touched by potentially infected hands. When pandemics hit, people want to talk. People need reassurance. People need people. People matter. Keep safe everyone. ​ Your agents represent the voice of your organization. They are the first and last contact between your customer and your company. A relationship must first be established in order to create an experience. The goal of your contact center is, therefore, to create relationships between two people. So, make sure that these relations are pleasant and positive. Moreover, do not neglect the power of your agent, after all, they represent 50% of the relationship. You only have one chance to deliver your strategy and customer experience…as in a game of chess! Furthermore, invite all levels of management and all departments of the organization to visit your contact center and meet with your agents. All must become aware and understand the stakes at play in the contact center and the transformation taking place. ​ Sensitize the stakeholders of the changes being made, since every aspect directly impacts your agents: work environment, schedules, tools, training, coaching and their quality of life. Remember, the impact on the agent always results in an impact on your customer. Do not neglect your agents so as not to find yourself in checkmate.

Redacted by: Marie-Helene Savard - Senior Director, Customer Experience


1. ​ 2. John A. Goodman is a co-author of the 1970’s breakthrough study of consumer complaint behaviour and customer service for the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, one of the original trailblazers of the customer experience industry. His contributions to this research overturned conventional wisdom and were instrumental in repositioning customer care as a potential profit center.

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