Despite all the excitement around contact center technology capabilities and innovation, many centers continue to fall short when it comes to getting value from their investments. Our recent “Future of the Contact Center Survey” showed that skepticism continues to lurk out there for new technology, such as bots and artificial intelligence. I’m not surprised. When technology is pursued in a vacuum or amid the glow of “shiny object syndrome,” it’s not on the path to success. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Technology can be absolutely transformative. This Tech Corner will provide “top tips” for getting it right—because it’s more important than ever! It all boils down to the fundamentals of defining, planning, selecting, implementing and supporting technology (see Figure 1).
Strategy and Planning
Strategy is the starting point, defining the “what, why, when and how.” Whether you have a steering committee or just need to submit your budget priorities to management, your technology plans need to provide a compelling value statement, an attractive return on investment, and minimal exposure to risk. It also must demonstrate a clear expectation of resources needed and the people and process changes that accompany the technology. If you haven’t thought things through, you shouldn’t put yourself through the approval process!
Collaboration and Relationships
Strategy requires a cross-functional team of business and IT leaders, working together to identify priorities and develop plans and requests for budgets. While the CC often has the lead role in defining the “wish list,” that list has a better chance of success when engaging others across the ecosystem. This collaboration should apply throughout the implementation phase and beyond. Figure 2 provides examples of the things you need to collaborate on for ongoing support and management.
Vendors are an increasingly important part of the collaboration and relationships needed for technology success. Cloud solutions, managed services, and solution capabilities that require specialized expertise all elevate the vendors’ role in helping centers succeed with today’s technology. Examples abound: artificial intelligence applications, complex user interfaces for things like bots, workflows for process automation, and network and data services for fraud prevention, compliance, and authentication, to name a few. So, as you pursue solutions that have high reliance on the vendors, make sure things are well-documented and communication channels are wide open. Convey that you need them to be a trusted partner (not “just a vendor!”) and actively manage them to focus on and deliver capabilities that meet your specific needs.
One more thing to keep in mind is that in our fast-changing industry, you must keep up to date, together (CC, IT, vendors and others—like the risk management team), so you can apply new capabilities in a timely manner. Sign up for vendor email updates, go to vendor events, network and learn. And do it together with your IT/CC counterparts!
Do… the Hard Work
I’m taking the positive approach and labeling this list with “Do” instead of “Don’t do,” but the messages here come out of problems we’ve seen countless times. Here’s the list of important things to Do:
- Develop a strategic plan,document it, socialize it and keep it up to date.
- Build a business case,and while that means financial analysis, in many cases, some initiatives can be justified as “must do”—such as reducing risk or remaining competitive.
- Carefully select your vendors,because they are more than just a commodity provider; consider functionality, technical issues such as architecture, integration, and redundancy, implementation and the services that go with that step, and support and how they stand behind their product.
- Create a project planof your own for each project (don’t just rely on the vendor’s plan); address the people and process changes that go with the technology implementation.
- Make changes day oneand define and pursue phases as appropriate. I can’t emphasize this one enough—do not just replicate what you have when you implement new technology!
- Ensure integrationis part of the plans and implementation so that your systems work together, and your agents aren’t the integration point.
- Test appropriatelybecause you know what happens when you assume it will all work just fine!
- Make sure you’ve put the people and processes in placeto use and manage the technology effectively (frontline and support).
- Make roles and responsibilities clear(again, document, socialize, update)—for implementation, configuration changes, support, testing, monitoring, etc.
- Designate trained, qualified people, and give them time to apply and support technology (not an “in your spare time” job!).
- Follow upto make sure your ROI is being achieved, and adjust if it’s not.
- Actively manage vendor performanceand hold them accountable.
The Relentless Pursuit
Contact centers are by nature very reactionary, with legendary “fire-fighting” skills creating many a great customer success story. However, one of my frequently used lines is, “the tactical swamps the strategic.” Getting technology right is about not letting the day-to-day fire drills stop the ongoing activities to plan for, implement and optimize changes. This relentless pursuit is perhaps the most compelling, single thing that needs to change with contact center technology. The passive, in our spare time, we’ll get to it later approach has held centers back from achieving their goals for too long.
Use the “Do” list and our “Top 10” checklist (see the sidebar) to get everyone on the right page and on the same page to drive technology success and value. The time you invest should pay dividends noticed by your staff, your execs and your customers.