We’re all familiar with situations where the boundaries seem obvious. The wedding ring on an attractive coworker’s finger, traffic lights at a busy intersection, the nondisclosure agreement a new employer makes you sign. Codes of conduct, rules, and boundaries—whether implicit or explicit—help keep society from descending into chaos.

The same should be true within the contact center environment. Boundaries certainly do exist here, particularly with regard to customer privacy. For example, technologies are already available and widely used that can mask credit card data from being recognized in customer interactions with contact center personnel that are monitored or recorded. But with so much customer data being collected across so many different channels, deciding when and how to use that collected and typically private data can be tricky. The boundaries between CX helpfulness and what could be potentially considered as CX “big brother” aren’t always clear.

The resulting ambiguity reaches its peak when the “big data” that inherently should help both contact centers and their customers to enjoy a better experience meets the moment of truth in a customer engagement—i.e., when the CRM (and related) rear-view repositories of customer information are available to the contact center agent when the actual customer calls.

What and where are the limits here? Does that big data repository give the service representative permission to address areas beyond what the customer has called about? Just because it’s on the screen? Or should that data only be used to help deal with and resolve the specific issue at hand?

You could argue that…it depends. And ask the rhetorical but key question: Have we provided sufficient training to our contact center and customer engagement personnel to ensure that they’ll use their (best) judgment?

Some Answers, More Questions
Let’s look at two real-world examples, one on the contact center technology side and one on the end-user side:

  1. Providers of cloud-based contact center technology typically collect all the contact center metrics for their clients. Number of calls, duration, occupancy level, agent idle time, and the like. Their clients are paying for the agent seats on a cloud-based monthly pay-as-you-go model, which means the client can add seasonal or event-driven agents on demand, and similarly scale down as needed.Is it in the best interest of both the technology provider and their client for the provider to see a pattern in the contact center data that would suggest from that “big data” that the client could actually provide even better customer service by modifying some internal threshold and reducing the number of agents? Of course it would. Even if the provider is forfeiting the revenue associated with those reduced agent seats. Why? Because their goal is (or should be) for the contact center client to provide the best possible customer service and customer experience…not for the provider just to maximize the account revenue.
  2. The insurance industry is, arguably, built on actuarial tables, historic customer and demographic information, and risk calculation. In other words: data, and lots of it. Some of the finest and most highly customized contact centers are deployed within the insurance industry, from sophisticated backend databases and CRM tools (big data) to personal touches like providing customers the option to speak with the same agent they previously had spoken to if that agent is available, and having the contact center software make that direct connection.Does all that informational data—macro at the total customer-base level, micro at the individual customer level—give the agent permission to upsell or cross sell? Is there a subtle but crucial difference between asking the customer “Do you also have auto insurance?” and saying “I can see that you don’t have auto insurance”? Maybe their “discount double-check” policy could save the customer money or provide a policy with better coverage. Isn’t that the goal for both the insurance company and the customer? However, if the agent says they “saw” but didn’t ask, is the agent (and the company) somehow abusing the power of the big data that’s available at their fingertips?

There may not be a clear-cut answer, but it’s an important question and a fine line to navigate carefully. People tend to appreciate proactive CX, but only when an agent knowing too much about them doesn’t cross the line—even with the best of intentions.