When service is in a silo far from marketing and sales, customer journeys become disconnected. And that hurts the customer experience (CX). Gaps widen between customer expectations and an organization’s priorities; loyalty and wallet share vanish into that gap.

Putting the contact center at the center of your customer experience helps close the gap and align priorities. And it improves both customer satisfaction and business outcomes.

One key theme at the 19th Annual Customer Contact East: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange event was how to make the contact center indispensable. Over the course of the highly interactive event, facilitators shared their advice and best practices on doing just that.

Here are recommendations in 4 key areas.

1. Reframe the Contact Center as a Center of Excellence

Show how the contact center positively affects the business and its profitability. Track the financial impact of improvements to service levels, processes and customer satisfaction. Where possible, build sales within the service operations to offset costs.

Have a central repository for data, such as a customer data platform, that enables users from across the organization to track relevant customer experience KPIs — customer satisfaction, Net Promoter Score (NPS), handle time, customer effort score (CES).

Additionally, create shared dashboards that include KPIs and Voice of the Customer insights — and any other data that can serve to inform not only the customer service team, but also other functions. Send regular email updates across teams to highlight key data points and drive stakeholders back to the dashboard for details.

The recent “The State of Customer Experience” report from Genesys finds that sharing data is a priority for CX leaders globally: 42% of CX leaders surveyed for the report prioritize enhancing their data capabilities for real-time analytics and reporting, which will help orchestrate and optimize end-to-end customer journeys.

These insights also allow leaders from across an organization to make changes that positively affect not only service, but also complementary functions like marketing and sales. Contact center leaders should access service-related data to highlight the business benefits to those other functions.

2. Collaborate Your Way to Success

Host cross-functional team meetings with groups like digital, marketing, product and sales. Key stakeholders attending the meetings should be a matrix of team “owners” who can drive change within their team’s operations. Ensure these meetings include representation from frontline agents, too. And don’t just gather their perspective, build engagement.

Set these meetings at an appropriate cadence for your business (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly). During the meetings, share KPI trends and VoC insights, including customer sentiment data. And gather feedback from those cross-functional colleagues. It’s essential to understand other teams’ priorities and what outcomes matter most to them when determining CX priorities. This will lead to stakeholder buy-in and follow through.

Collaboratively create action plans to address any issues, make any needed updates and identify low-risk use cases when testing new technologies — all while building an employee-centric company culture.

3. Build Employees Engagement and Trust

According to facilitators at the event, a lack of trust in senior leadership is the top reason employees leave a company. That lack of trust also hampers risk taking and the willingness to change, which ultimately impedes agility and innovation.

Several speakers recommended taking a new approach to leadership to build engagement and trust. That approach begins with transparency and includes modeling behaviors, such as adaptability and taking calculated risks. Eliminate phrases like “We’ve always done it that way” and “We’ve tried that before.”

It also includes empowering employees and showing trust in their ability to perform their work successfully — and providing them with the tools, training and working environment to be successful.

Contact center leaders should use KPIs to align performance outcomes with business goals and build coaching plans. When using KPIs like NPS or CES, ensure that what’s being measured matches what you intended to measure — especially when using customer feedback for coaching or rewarding performance.

4. Fix the Actual Problem

When a customer contacts a business, that company might provide a new product or a refund or a repair. But has this fixed the actual problem? Or is there still a fundamental need it hasn’t addressed? Finding and meeting that need is vital to ensuring customer loyalty.

And when CX leaders zoom out to view the broader operations, it’s essential to look for underlying issues — not just what’s showing on the surface.

Similarly, when reviewing customer feedback, consider customers’ actual behaviors before embarking on a change initiative to be sure you’re changing the right thing. What do they say they want compared to what actions they’re taking and where they’re spending their money?

For example, travelers might say they’re willing to pay for roomier seats, but their buyer behavior shows that most always choose the cheapest seats available. And, while many customers say they prefer self-service, most still want the human connection of a phone call, according to “The State of Customer Experience” report.

One healthcare provider eliminated self-service in the IVR after discovering customers who prefer self-service visit the website and anyone who calls wants to speak to an agent. This improved customer satisfaction by simplifying online and call center experiences, resolving customers’ issues faster and in the channels they prefer.

Aligning Around the Customer

Companies that put the contact center at the center of CX are best positioned to bring cross-organizational priorities into alignment. This will improve both customer satisfaction and business outcomes.

CX executives who build out their contact center as a center of excellence have the opportunity to serve as the Voice of the Customer, bringing customers’ priorities to the rest of the organization. At the same time, they can help other functional leaders align those customer expectations with their business priorities, so everybody wins.

Happy customers become loyal customers. Properly measuring experiences – as they happen – and throughout the entire customer journey is key to satisfaction, trust and loyalty.

An award-winning editorial leader who has covered CX and marketing for the majority of her career, Ginger Conlon is currently thought leadership director at Genesys and co-host of its Tech Talks in 20 podcast and CX Green Room livestream show. Additionally, she serves on the Environmental Defense Fund’s Digital Advisory Council. In her prior roles as chief editor of Direct Marketing News, 1to1, and CRM magazines, she set the editorial vision and strategy, which led to increased readership, reader engagement, and revenue. She’s a sought-after speaker and has been cited on several lists of notable industry insiders to follow on social media. Ginger received a DMCNY Silver Apple lifetime achievement award for her contributions to the marketing industry.