Getting What You Paid For From your Contact Center Technology
By David Raia, Research Analyst, BenchmarkPortal
It should come as no surprise to any Contact Center Manager that a trend over the past several years has been the increasing influence of their IT organizations in the selection and purchase of Contact Center technology. Typically, all budget responsibility for technology resides within the IT department, whose influence on tech purchases is great, regardless of the end-user.
For the most part, IT departments exercise prudent stewardship and generally provide serviceable hardware and software to the Contact Centers they support. However, in far too many cases, the design and selection process for Contact Center technology acquisition may be done without benefit of relevant input from the end user organization.
Or, at best, the Contact Center management team may be invited to review the selection, more often than not, at rollout or implementation kick-off meetings. There are a few of things wrong with this approach, and, unfortunately, most of them impact the end-users in the Contact Center…and, ultimately, their Customers. To name a few:
- The new technology has not been optimized to make full and best use of the features provided.
- Prior capabilities of the old technology have not been included or accounted for.
- More complex user routines may be required to produce desired results.
- Changes to Customer participation have been overlooked and/or not communicated.
- Existing processes must be “retrofitted” to accommodate changes in technology processes.
- “Enterprise Solutions” may be cost effective, but “One size may not fit all”.
- Business cases may be overstated and Technology dollars saved may simply be shifted to Contact Center resource dollars, or worse, ignore Customer defection implications.
And you probably have a few observations of your own.
This is not meant to be yet another of the Armageddon scenarios which have become so popular of late. It is rather an amalgam of observations distilled from a significant number of consulting engagements over the past several years. The engagements have been both pre- and post- design and they support the notion that end-user input is uber-critical to both the implementation success and effectiveness of the technology selected.
Unfortunately, in many cases the consultant is brought in after the “damage” has been done to try to provide process improvement or reengineering to accommodate the issues uncovered. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are in free fall. Customers are up in arms. Agent satisfaction and turnover are headed in the wrong direction. Budget impacts are out of control. Can anything be done…Today…Tomorrow… Beyond?
Fortunately, the answer is “yes” and you can thank those who have learned the lessons the hard way.
If you find yourself with new technology that you just don’t understand or that just doesn’t seem to be doing what you need it to, or if you believe that the new technology may provide more capabilities than have been implemented in your center…seek professional help. And do so as soon as possible. Dollars spent on solid operational consulting today will more than pay for themselves in your operating budget tomorrow. A professional assessment of your operations and the technology supporting them can yield both short (low hanging fruit) and long (continuous process improvement) cost savings.
A competent professional Contact Center consultant has the knowledge and experience to help you get the most out of your new tools. They know the business and the user requirements questions to ask you and your team that will maximize the effectiveness of the existing design or the tweaks necessary to improve user –friendliness and efficiencies. Consultants also speak fluent IT and can translate your needs into actionable requests that your IT team can and will support.
Take the time to investigate the cost, credentials and assessment approach of bona fide Contact Center professional consultants and weigh that against the cost of not taking a proactive stance.
There is just no substitute for being at the design and decision table when it comes to your Contact Center technology acquisitions. The question is how do you get there … and stay there!
Executive level support is clearly critical in establishing a place for you at the decision table and you and your team in the design sessions. User and design requirements are the single most essential aspect of Solution Design.
What problems do you need to solve? Your Executive sponsor needs to know that you know and that you are knowledgeable of capabilities and are interested in these phases of the selection process. The Customer Service Executive must be made aware of the Customer Satisfaction and Budget implications of technology decisions. He or she can go across organizational lines and secure the involvement of your team in the design and selection processes.
Establish open relationships and clear lines of communications with your IT counterparts (level to level) and chair regular sit-downs (you provide the coffee and doughnuts) in order to have early warning and possible input to technology considerations currently on the table. Solicit periodic JAD (Joint Application Development) sessions with IT analysts and your team to get ahead of the design curve and provide some realistic insight to user needs and issues.
Finally, keep yourself informed. The pace of change in Contact Center technology is quantumly greater than it was just a couple of years ago. You can’t help yourself unless you know what’s going on. Thoughtfully read trade publications and review all of the many e-mail solicitations that you may receive from vendors and Contact Center support groups for new ideas for your organization. Join Forums and Blogs and ask questions with which you may be struggling. Contact Center forums are among the most cooperative, knowledgeable and helpful gatherings that you will find. Once you get to the decision table, make sure that you are viewed as adding value in order to be invited to all of the meetings.
Once you have established an efficient and effective technology platform, establish a balanced set of metrics in both cost and quality that will allow you to regularly assess your performance and develop a long-term strategy for your next big technology investment. If your Contact Center measurements are aligned with business goals and direction, they can be used to create a Continuous Process Improvement Plan and a viable “Roadmap” to your technology strategy of the future.
To keep yourself honest and create achievable “stretch” KPI targets for your team’s pursuit, look to the best in class for your business. Where does your performance stand in relation to the best in the business? Until it is on a par with theirs, there is more work to be done and more improvements to be made. What technology enablers have these best-of-breed employed to achieve their position? There are a number of articles and studies that make that information available to you. Make use of them. Again, Contact Center consultants are familiar with Industry technology trends and have worked with those companies that have succeeded in harnessing the newest and best to achieve their lofty goals and KPIs.
Have you been puzzling over how to ensure that you have the right technology for your Contact Center? It doesn’t matter if it’s already installed, being developed or part of a long term Customer Service and Support strategy. It is not too late. There are things that you can do today that will ensure that your technology is right for you…Today…Tomorrow…and Beyond! Get involved!
BenchmarkPortal is the leader in Call Center Benchmarking, Call Center Training, and Call Center Consulting. Since its beginnings in 1995 under Dr. Jon Anton of Purdue University, BenchmarkPortal has grown with the contact center industry and now hosts the world’s largest call center metrics database. Now led by Bruce Belfiore, the BenchmarkPortal team of professionals has gained international recognition for its call center expertise and innovative approaches to Best Practices for the call center industry. Join our community today by benchmarking your call center with one of our Benchmarking Surveys on our website. http://www.BenchmarkPortal.com