Shakespeare once suggested that the labels we give things don’t really matter. While it is futile to word-duel with the Bard, I suggest he may be wrong. The words and the labels we give things matter.
For example, take the name of a common workplace in our industry. For many of you, the answer likely is "contact center." Yet I recall a time when the common answer would have been "call center." And, while I can't quite recall exactly when the name began to shift from one to the other, I certainly do recall why the name changed—these workplaces weren't just about phone calls anymore.
Everyone started excitedly talking about multimedia. We speculated that maybe the new email channel would divert some of the ever-growing flood of phone calls. And web sites! New opportunities arose for customer self-service. Maybe, we thought, customers will solve their own problems! Things were going to be different. And they were—but not always exactly how we imagined.
And so, call centers became contact centers. We've been calling them that for a long time now. During that time, even as change has only accelerated, the name has somehow remained. But if you listen carefully you can hear a new name beginning to emerge—customer engagement center.
Why a new name? The key difference between a contact center and a customer engagement center is the time horizon involved. A contact center performs in the now. A customer engagement center performs in the now yet is guided and informed by previous interactions regardless of channel.
A customer engagement center is both reactive and—more importantly—proactive. The ultimate realization of success in a customer engagement center is when the business model is described as B to I: business to individual. Goodbye to broad customer demographics. Hello to individualized customer engagement.
The key difference between a contact center and a customer engagement center is the proactive, context-sensitive, cross-channel interaction. This transformation requires another escalation in the employees' skills, knowledge, business sense and authority. It goes well beyond efficient and effective. It requires more employees to be engaged.
What words would you use to describe your workplace? Call center? Contact center? Or Customer engagement center? Which workplace would you prefer?