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Women mobile Mans Face in background_SM.jpg“Contact centers are the face your customers see first”. This was the statement in this very enjoyable roundtable session “Coffee Break with Game Changers”, where experts were discussing contact centers’ role in creating a great customer experience and competitive edge. I liked especially Dennis Goodhart’s referral to the “blind men and the elephant” story, which very well highlights the fact that you form your opinion on a large entity like company based on a small part you actually see or feel yourself.

If you think about this “face” of the company –contact center- a great deal of the experience is based on the voice of the agent. And that voice should be pleasant and friendly, right? But what actually makes a friendly voice? Have you ever thought how much your voice can reveal when you are speaking on the phone?

I got a reminder of this the other day when I was speaking with my spouse on the phone, while simultaneously trying to find my car keys. I had an appointment I had to go to and I just couldn’t find the keys. Women are famous for being able to do two things simultaneously, so I didn´t see a problem continuing the phone call and trying to find the keys. Surely I can talk about our weekend plans while I am going through all my jacket pockets…

Suddenly, my spouse asked me: “why are you so upset about this anyway?” I know I can sound very upset if I want to, but this time I hadn’t even realized I was upset, let alone sounded like it. Of course I did not want my husband to think I was upset about our weekend plans because I was not. In this case it was easy to correct the mistake. Luckily my husband did ask what the matter was, so I got the chance to apologize and explain it was the missing keys that upset me, not he or his ideas.

Think about a contact center agent who has a customer on the phone asking for example something tricky about past orders and invoices. How is the agent able to keep her voice friendly if she has to do a lot of searching before finding the data she needs? According to a recent Aberdeen research, 26% of agents’ time can be spent on searching for relevant data. That is one fourth of the call! I got frustrated having spent one minute looking for the keys, how do the agents feel, using one fourth of their working time just searching?

I have high respect on contact center agents. I think they do a great job. I also know that they are professionals and they can certainly control their voice and remain friendly better than I can. I am just wondering how much better face the company could present to customers if they equipped their agents with easy-to-use communication tools and a quick access to relevant business systems. The technology is there, the benefits are clear, so there has never been a better time for a face lift. For starters, I recommend having a coffee break with these guys.

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