A long time ago there was an outsourcing blog called ‘Horses for Sources’ managed by Phil Fersht. Eventually Phil used the momentum behind this blog to create HFS Research, now one of the leading analyst companies focused on technology and customer experience (CX) outsourcing, but in a blog post from back in 2008 Phil asked the question: “Is it time to dump the term outsourcing?”
Phil was already questioning the use of this terminology more than a decade ago and yet it still seems to be a live debate. I was recently a guest on the excellent ‘Talking Sourcing’ podcast and my co-guest was Melissa O’Brien, from HFS Research. Talking Sourcing is a podcast published by Intelligent Sourcing magazine, which used to be known as Professional Outsourcing until 2017 – they got the message. Once again, I was asked on the podcast about contact centre outsourcing.
After grinding my teeth, I talked about how outsourcing has evolved into an orchestration of technology, culture, and operations. Let me take a moment to explain my ideas on this.
Before our modern ideas about CX and customer expectations there was the contact centre. Customer interactions were mostly voice, with some email, and were mostly limited to post-purchase questions, enquiries, or complaints. The customer journey was still very linear. A customer learned about a product, probably from an ad, did some research, purchased it, and then contacted customer service if there was a problem.
Now think about the modern equivalent. The customer journey is no longer linear at all. Customers not only consume vast amounts of articles, blogs, reviews, and social media posts, but they also create this content. They sit inside a web of information on your products and may never have seen a single formal ad, but they have read 50 reviews.
They are much more likely to reach out to a brand before, during, and after a purchase. It might be a question or information request or it may be something that isn’t transactional at all. Modern customer engagement feels more like a relationship between the customer and brand, rather than a customer service exchange. If you doubt this then look at some social networks and you will see supermarkets offering advice on recipes, auto brands advising on how to keep seats clean, airlines recommending restaurants, and sports brands advising on warm-up routines.
Many brands are now an integral part of customer lifestyles and customers interact with them using the same channels they use to talk to their friends and family – messaging apps like WhatsApp or social networks like TikTok or Instagram. They don’t need to sit waiting on the phone if all they want to do is tag the brand in a video of their latest run.
So, there is a cultural change in the brand to customer relationship. There is a technology change in the number of channels that can be used and how they can be used. There is also a change in the way that the contact centre is deployed into this new CX environment – Customer Experience as a Service (CXaaS).
Think about this scenario. You just bought a great new smart TV from Samsung. You get home, unbox it, and then struggle to get it connected to the Internet. What’s your first move? In 2021 the customer is likely to just say ‘Alexa, how do I set up a Samsung TV?’ Or Googling the same question on a smartphone. Or asking a smart chatbot the same question on the Samsung website.
That’s at least three different layers of support that customers will use before ever calling a customer service phone number. If they do make that call then you need to ensure that the contact centre agent is really smart – I mean expert level, brand ambassador. By the time the customer gets this far they have tried Google and failed. They don’t want to hear a drone reading a script.
This is a cultural change. For most companies, it will involve a blending of marketing, sales, and customer service. Some companies have already created a Chief Customer Officer to oversee every process along the customer journey. Some have just rebranded a marketing director as CCO, but not truly merged all these functions.
If you need to design a modern customer experience then you don’t need a contact centre outsourcing specialist. You need a trusted adviser, a partner that understands the cultural, technological, and operational changes that are really needed to deliver great CX. Phil Fersht was on the right track back in 2008.
The future, or end state, for a business that needs to design great CX isn’t going to be transformed by outsourcing customer service to a contact centre. We should no longer talk about outsourcing CX, we need to be orchestrating CX.