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The CFO Playbook for Customer Care Innovation

Recent global economic trends may motivate some leadership teams to make across-the-board cuts to their operations. However, the savviest executives will selectively optimize their operating budget to sustain strategic imperatives.

Just 7 percent of Chief Finacial Officers (CFOs) plan to decrease customer service spending over the next 12 months, according to the latest market study by Gartner. Moreover, 21 percent plan to increase customer spending, and 72 percent plan to maintain spending.

"In response to inflation, supply chain disruptions, and a tight labor market, CFOs will make trade-offs in spending that affect customer service and support (CSS) leaders," said Sarah Dibble, Director at Gartner.

CSS Business Technology Market Development

Their essential function is not a top priority for cost-cutting, compared to commercial real estate expenses or facility management and finance, which are most likely to face budget cuts next year. 

Nearly all CFOs will prioritize digital transformation investments, focusing particularly on business technologies that enhance current revenue streams or launching new digital products and services.

According to the Gartner assessment, wise CSS leaders should therefore prioritize the technologies that meet these criteria to make the strongest business case for investment by their CFO.

Some CSS leaders will provide a business case for automation to reduce costs. For example, digital self-service channels deliver cost savings for organizations -- costing $0.09 per customer contact compared to $14 per contact in assisted service.

Another technology area that will better help serve customers is conversational artificial intelligence (AI), which is expected to reduce contact center agent labor costs by as much as $80 billion in 2026.

CFOs will also look to ramp up investments in employee hiring and compensation, but increase scrutiny on consultants, contractors, office buildings, and some other commercial real estate.

"Service leaders with large budget allocations in the latter of these categories should be prepared for increased scrutiny, as well as have contingency plans in place," said Dibble.

For instance, there may come a time when a contact center facility in an expensive location needs to be closed, transitioned to remote work, or the frontline talent is unable to handle contact volume.

CSS leaders should demonstrate how they help to achieve ROI objectives by increasing customer loyalty, especially when dealing with loyal customers that have their own financial stresses.

Outlook for Online Customer Care Innovation

Other CSS actions include: Influencing the C-suite on cost reduction and avoidance; migrating volume to digital channels and self-service; improving, automating, or eliminating inefficient processes; assessing outsourcing options and partnerships; and contributing to the top-line by developing business value enhancement strategies.

That said, with few exceptions, I anticipate many commercial and government CFOs will collaborate with their CHRO and CIO to ensure flexible working options and digital workspace solutions enable the ongoing transition to an Anywhere Workplace model.

The demand for highly skilled digital business talent is top-of-mind with the C-suite and unlikely to change in the near term. In fact, within those forward-looking market leaders, demand for digital-skilled customer care reps could increase in the coming months.

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