Benefits of a Boutique Contact Center (vs. the Big Guys)

February 12, 2018 Rusty Langford

Boutique contact centers are nimble, flexible and innovative. Partnering with this type of support organization offers your brand some powerful benefits.

Need some strategic direction on how to improve your customer support experience? Thinking of testing out a new support channel small scale before committing? Not sure how to train your agents to support your new app?

There's a contact center for that.

Need a partner that to keep an eye on future trends, make strategic suggestions, assist with program design and implementation, or take on your innovative pilot projects?

There's a contact center partner for that, too.

Boutique contact centers are nimble, flexible and innovative. Partnering with this type of support organization offers your brand some powerful benefits. Read on for the details.

1. Strategic vision and problem solving—not just focused on metrics.

A smaller, more custom provider will look at your program strategically and offer creative suggestions for improvement.

For example, Harte Hanks was working with a health insurance client that was trying to enroll new customers. It was a sales program, but all they were doing is mailing a kit and hoping customers would mail in the hard copy application—our contact center was hired only to answer questions people had on the application. We suggested that the client pilot phone enrollment as a way to simplify the process for seniors facing daunting paperwork and increase the likelihood of enrollment. By adding phone enrollment with licensed agents to their customer support program, the insurance provider’s enrollment rate went from 30% to 70%. The company also saw a 31% year-over-year increase in sales, and a 38% increase the following year (check out some of the other work we've done to support this insurance provider). 

As another example, we work with a large entertainment provider to offer customer support for their online streaming services. They came to us because, at the time, online streaming was brand new to them, and they knew we had done similar work for other entertainment brands. Our team was able to identify and fill a few holes in their organization and their processes, such as the lack of a tech guru that really understood their app and how it functions. We empowered our own employee to learn the app inside and out and step into that highly technical role for the client. They wouldn’t have thought to ask for this person on their own, and a huge contact center provider wouldn’t be able to offer it—but the brand was happy to formalize the role the next time the contract came up for renewal! This effort played a big part in helping us to develop an extremely positive relationship with the brand and helped this entertainment provider to improve their support experience.

2. Your program is a priority, no matter the size.

The big guys don’t entertain smaller scale projects—they won’t even talk to you if you don’t have a 500-10,000 seat program. More agile boutique contact centers have an appetite for smaller to mid-sized projects and have the know-how to design, implement and deploy custom programs. And some are actually excited to test out your innovations and drive program enhancement through pilots.

We did just that while working with a global consumer electronics brand to provide customer support across a variety of channels, including phone, email, chat, social media, and online communities. They decided they wanted to offer video chat to help their app stand out from the competition. They hadn’t done this before. We hadn’t done it before. But we were certainly up for the challenge. From setting up new CRM tools to developing the training and the support process, to hiring the right people—and even building the backdrops for the videos—we put this pilot together for the brand and made it work, all within 60 days. They are now able to offer customers an additional channel through which customers can choose to communicate with the brand.

3. Flexible, nimble organizational structure—allows for quick changes in your organization.

I tell my account directors: The client’s business is your business. You own it. Go do smart things for your customer. 

Boutique customer support organizations are more enabled and empowered to make decisions at the manager and director level for specific client needs, including assuming reasonable risk in offering solutions. This means they’re faster and more flexible around making change—and in this business, change happens by the hour. In other words, you won’t get bogged down with processes, protocols and lead times.

Many of our clients will call us and say, “We have an idea but need help with how to effectively execute it.” Within 24 to 48 hours, we can have our entire development team in a meeting brainstorming with them to work through the idea and solve for their latest challenge.

5. Access to top leadership for executive level presence on your program.

Along with having a nimble team for decision making, a boutique contact center also means access to executives to be part of those decisions. Account directors at Harte Hanks are only two steps away from company leadership—whereas they’re more like six steps away at larger companies. With a more custom contact center, you’ll have executive level presence and attention to help with speed and agility around your important business decisions.

6. In-house IT and development to set up your technology—or just manage it for you.

Providing a consistent customer experience across channels while also achieving your specific business goals requires the right technology. Boutique contact centers have the in-house IT and development to help you to bring the right tools on board—or better manage the ones you already have.

When we first started supporting a professional sport’s league’s streaming services, they did not have one technology for support across channels, so there was no consistency in their customer experience. This also meant less than ideal analytics capabilities and reporting. We led our initial conversations with the team by introducing Oracle CX—a single solution to manage all of their customer support channels for more flexibility, consistency, better analytics, etc. They chose Harte Hanks to help them implement and manage this solution.

In another case, we built a completely customized tool for a well-known quick service restaurant (QSR) to modernize their support and improve customer satisfaction. Our dedicated agent team now receives their customers’ concerns and logs them into our own CRM tool—the CRM notifies the relevant restaurant location via a custom web portal. The restaurant location must go into the portal and acknowledge that they’ve read the concern and replied to the customer, which provides closed loop dispositioning and improves accountability to the customer. With this tool in place, this QSR’s corporate team knows which locations are having issues and what types of issues they’re having—and is able to proactively address problems. The brand has since seen a 31% improvement in overall CSAT.

At the end of the day, know what you’re looking for.

What it really comes down to when choosing a contact center is knowing what you’re looking for—and price is not normally the most important thing you should be evaluating.

Instead, make sure you know what you’re trying to do or achieve…and then find a partner that has demonstrable expertise in this area. Your prospective partner should be able to show you their track record of achieving the same or similar goals for someone else. Ask for and talk to the contact center’s referrals and listen in on real call samples (caller names can be blocked for privacy).

And don’t forget to consider the real benefits of a boutique contact center.

 

About the Author

Rusty Langford

In his twenty-five plus years in the customer services industries, Rusty has been involved in all aspects of direct marketing and customer management. He is currently responsible for client management for all contact center programs at Harte Hanks. He has a broad array of customer experiences, including traditional customer support, multichannel support (including social support programs), lead management and web-based initiatives for clients like Samsung, Microsoft, Major League Baseball, HBO and Barnes & Nobel.

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