Thursday, August 07, 2008

Integrating online channels into government contact centres

An area where I've achieved limited traction (so far) in my agency is over integrating online channels into our service delivery contact centres.

Phone is a primary customer engagement channel for our agency and will continue to remain important as a way to reach customers who are financially unable or choose not to use online.

However, just as the marketing and communications industry is now addressing the challenge of reaching customers who no longer engage with television or print (The last episode of The Gruen Transfer discusses this), customer contact centres are beginning to have to consider how to support online channels to engage customers.

This is summed up in an article in ComputerWorld, Contacting Gen Y the Web 2.0 way, Phone and email are no longer enough, says Nortel,
Company contact centres need to accommodate Web 2.0 channels such as social networking to stay in touch with Generation Y — those in their 20s and early 30s, says Darren Leffler, a Sydney-based product marketing manager with Nortel.

Phone and email are no longer enough, he told a TUANZ audience last week. Rather than seeing themselves as the centre of a marketing and support realm, and the contact centre as the interface to a ring of customers and prospects, companies need to become fully participating members of the online communities, “because that’s where Generation Y are”.
Contact centres tend to use complex technology platforms, replacing them maybe twice a decade.

Therefore any government agency - or other organisation - currently considering replacing their existing contact centre platform needs to be looking very closely at how to integrate all currently existing channels into their offering, even if they have no plans to begin to support the online channel for several years.

After all, a government agency should be customer first, not phone first (or online first).

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