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Customer contact, the internal dimension

  • 5 min read
Customer Contact

Building the case for a Contact Strategy

Picture yourself sitting in the senior management meeting where you are seeking agreement to a contact strategy change management programme. You have spent several weeks developing the proposed approach. Built the watertight business case.

You believe you have tacit approval from many people around the table for what you are proposing. Presentation finished, the questions fly around and you detect both scepticism and resistance in the tone and nature of the questioning.

How did this happen?

To answer that question and to avoid that situation, it is important to take a step back and consider the people’s impact within the organisation. If, as is typically the case, your business has neglected its approach to customer communications, then there are several internal challenges that you will face. These are wider than the obvious need to prove the organisational impact and need for change.

Why now?

At the most fundamental level, you are going to need to answer the question: “why now?” What is it about the way the organisation has been communicating with customers to date that requires change today? You may be in the fortunate position of having hard evidence of specific negative experiences that have affected the organisation.

However, you will almost certainly be facing the challenge that customer contact data is not collected or not prioritised as a KPI. To be frank, if it was, then you would have a robust contact strategy already in place.

This means that beyond simply building the business case for change around, for example, increased customer retention rates, you are going to need more. You are going to have to build awareness that customer contact is something the business needs to pay attention to at all. When something is not a business priority, then reversing that situation is going to involve taking people on a journey so that it becomes one. And to do that, you are going to have to understand how the existing approach to customer contact has developed and where the potential diplomatic sticking points live.

The internal journey

One of the major problems companies face with customer contact is the silo approach of customer communications. If multiple departments and functions within the business are currently communicating with customers, then there will be reasons they are doing so and reasons they may resist change.

Be under no illusion that contact strategy creation and improvement might require structural and process change and will definitely require cultural change.

This cultural change will be more than a soft programme about ‘putting the customer first’. It will be about understanding where cultural resistance lies and how this is going to be overcome. Almost certainly you find that existing performance KPIs that individuals, teams and departments have in place will need considering if customer contact is going to be improved. For example, a target that causes a volume of outbound communications may be a KPI for a team. Then any change that will limit their ability to do that is going to take more than a simple diktat from on high. Yes, that sort of activity is often one of the major root causes of poor customer contact. But acceptance of this change is not a foregone conclusion. This is especially so if there is a perception that this will affect the company’s ability to sell.

Business as usual

And it is not just KPIs that may stand in the way, but that other dreaded three-letter acronym BAU – ‘Business As Usual’. Whatever the size of the organisation, they will require change for a contact strategy. Admittedly, you can also get tripped up on initiative overload, but it is typically the need to break and change the routine that causes the most problems.

Therefore, understanding your internal target audiences is going to be key. If you do not take time to understand the pressures they face, then creating the required change is going to be hard to achieve. To succeed, you are going to need to take that understanding of your internal stakeholders and determine the best way to engage them. And it will need to be in a way that is relevant, motivational and appreciative of the fears, uncertainties and doubts that they will have when faced with change.

Regardless of whether it is the frontline staff in a contact centre or your board, the onus will be on you to take your internal stakeholders on a journey. Only by doing this will you be able to land the requirement for customer contact change. The structure of storytelling will help with this internal communications planning. It will help you develop an audience-centric approach to stakeholder engagement that will enable you to take them on the journey.

Stakeholder engagement is a journey

So it is important to resist the temptation to dive straight into a proposal, looking at the structures and processes that will require investment and change.

However critical those aspects of contact strategy creation are, it will not guarantee a successful sell-in to your internal decision-makers. It is equally imperative that you think through the stakeholder engagement among those involved in the change programme.

You will need to take them on a journey and to do that, ‘engagement’ will be your watchword.