In my recent travels, I was having dinner with a client and experienced an epiphany: Many businesses may be turning customers away and not even know it.

The client I was dining with is a contact center executive at a consumer products company in an emerging market. He lamented the fact that his customers won’t use alternate support channels like email, chat and SMS, much less video. He said they still prefer voice calls.

Yet as we ate dinner, he kept pulling out his smartphone to check emails and exchange texts with employees, vendors and customers. It was clear that both he and they were very comfortable using those alternate channels.

Hmmm… The proverbial light bulb went on.

It made me wonder: How many companies could be missing some percentage of revenue growth–or at least opportunities to improve customer experience–because they underestimate their customers?

Clearly, adoption of consumer technologies such as smartphones and tablets lags today in some emerging markets simply due to cost. But that’s changing rapidly. Think about the opportunity it represents.

Technology adoption will accelerate quickly in emerging markets as purchasing power there expands. It’s already happened in the BRIC countries–Brazil, Russia, India and China. And a new wave of emerging markets is cropping up across Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

How can your company take advantage of the opportunity this represents?

Take a look backward
If you haven’t already, map the journey of your typical customers from end to end. Take an outside-in look at your contact center operations and learn what your customers want from you and how they expect to get it. Then dig deeper into the data and make sure you pinpoint where they are happiest with their interactions and where you can improve.

Put together a playbook
If your company or your competition has advanced contact center operations in established markets, go back and document how and when they introduced new channels. What worked and didn’t work? Which channels were introduced because of customer demand, and what trigger points made the business case to invest in each channel?

Be very specific about those triggers so you can recognize them next time.

Be ready
With those new insights, you’re now ready to look at emerging or underdeveloped markets. Assess the opportunities there, and if conditions aren’t favorable, repeat the assessments in a few months. When “the stars align” according to your playbook, pull the trigger. Chances are, you’ll be ahead of your competitors and first to market with something new that customers will value.

If you think outside the contact center and look at your business the way your customers do, you may have an epiphany too–and many great opportunities along with it.

Let me know when you do.