Thanksgiving Turkey

For the past 32 years, the Butterball Turkey Hotline has offered advice to anyone overwhelmed by the prospect of cooking the perfect holiday bird. Last year, the company introduced a smartphone app, Facebook live chats, Pinterest posts and other social media tools. The big news this year is that for the first-time ever, Butterball has hired men as part of its line-up of expert turkey cookers — a response to the fact that men are taking a more active role in the kitchen.  

But what does any of this have to do with contact centers?

The Butterball campaign is often cited as a model example for branding and marketing. As the holiday shopping season kicks into full gear, let’s look at five important lessons contact centers can learn from Butterball. The hotline, after all, is in fact a contact center staffed by expert turkey cookers.

1. There’s business value in being helpful

The Butterball hotline is all about helping customers have a better holiday — no matter what type of turkey the caller is cooking. In the age of social media and the sharing economy, one person helping another is still the ultimate social behavior. For contact centers, being helpful is not just about warm-and-fuzzy. It is the way to build a brand and a business in a direct and immediate way. Butterball has continued its hotline campaign every year for the past 32 years for a simple reason: it works.

Simply fostering a culture of altruism can be a step in the right direction. But being helpful often requires more than a culture and desire to help: agents need the right tools, information and skills or expertise to solve the issue at hand. This leads to the next lesson.

2. Intent matters

When a customer or potential customer contacts your company, it is typically for one of four reasons:

  • To complain
  • To get help or solve a problem
  • For additional information to help them in their buying decision
  • To buy something

Butterball knows exactly why people are calling its hotline — to get help so they’ll have a wonderful Thanksgiving. The company therefore staffs the hotline with experts who can help them with that specific goal.

Yet, it’s a lot more difficult to understand the intent all the time across a range of products and services and across an increasing number of communications channels (phone, web, chat, social, mobile and so forth). It is common nowadays for customers to have multiple interactions with a company over multiple communications channels all for one specific goal. Collectively, these interactions make up a single engagement, and it is not always easy to connect the dots.

Thanks to new analytics capabilities, though, understanding customer intent is now something any contact center can benefit from, even in light of this growing complexity. And once contact centers have a handle on customer intent, the next logical step is to analyze their data to better understand the best course of action for any scenario. Through the smart use of technology, contact centers can actually become more effective at being helpful. This leads to more rewarding engagements for customers, agents and the contact center.

3. Know your agents’ strengths

Tied closely to lesson No. 2, contact centers can greatly improve their effectiveness by connecting each customer with the right agent — the agent with the right skills, the right expertise, the right temperament and a track record for working with the specific type of customer with a specific type of need.

For the Butterball hotline, that again is relatively easy to do. The company knows people are calling the hotline for one primary reason. So they specifically hire and train people who know how to throw a great holiday feast.

But how can companies emulate this day-in and day-out across a range of products and services? It can only be achieved if contact centers know as much about each agent as they know about each customer. While companies have traditionally kept close tabs on agent performance data, it is now possible for any contact center to conduct advanced analysis on agent performance against customer intent and business outcomes. Such analysis is proving to be transformative for contact centers by revealing patterns that lead to desired outcomes that can be repeated.

4. Every interaction is an opportunity to build a relationship

It is often said that business is all about building relationships — with investors, partners and customers. Yet, given the expanding ways customers can engage with contact centers and the variety of technologies and systems contact centers use for each type of communication, it has become exceedingly difficult to build relationships with customers. Contact centers have made it very easy for customers to communicate with them, and they have become very efficient at handling each specific communication. But how can contact center agents possibly make personal connections with customers when they have no real context around all the interactions that the customer has had with the company?

Stitching together all the interactions in a customer engagement can help. It provides continuity and helps contact centers gain a deeper understanding of the customer perspective that can lead to immediate and measurable improvements in the way customer needs are approached. Only when contact centers understand engagements across the entire customer journey can they build closer relationships with customers and deliver a truly differentiated experience.

5. Contact centers are strategic assets

Finally, and perhaps the most important lesson of all, the Butterball Turkey Hotline vividly demonstrates why contact centers should be viewed as strategic assets that drive business and build brands.

Although it is simply a temporary, specialized contact center, the Butterball hotline has been a brilliant and effective branding campaign. By being helpful, by understanding what the customer’s intent and needs are, by connecting them with people who are uniquely prepared to help them in a kind and friendly way, and by understanding and constantly adapting to new technologies, ways of communicating and cultural trends, Butterball has built a widely recognized brand. It gets extensive positive media coverage every holiday season and helps thousands of people who simply want to provide a wonderful holiday to their families, which builds loyalty and goodwill.

With new thinking and technologies, any company in any industry can transform their contact center into a strategic asset that gives them a distinct competitive advantage and an engine for driving sales and lasting customer relationships.

Title image courtesy of Butterball.