Use a Contact Center Maturity Model to assess your center, and define a roadmap for success.
Maybe you’re a contact center manager who says, “We are doing OK, but it’s a struggle to keep up with the pace of our business today,” or “Customer experience is a never-ending battle.” Or you’re a consultant or in a contact center supporting role and looking to add to your performance support toolkit. If this sounds familiar, all signs are pointing you toward a commonly used contact center performance improvement tool—a maturity model assessment.
A maturity model is a set of competencies organized into a logical framework which are assessed according to a rating system of ascending maturity, or capability, levels. The top levels within each set of competencies reflect mastery in that area, while the bottom levels point to potential areas of improvement. This diagnostic tool is used as a springboard to identify recommendations to improve the contact center’s performance in areas that are most critical to customer satisfaction and the contact center’s bottom line.
This is increasingly important in an industry landscape that offers proliferating technology choices, conflicting best practices, and an essential, new business strategy every week. With more choices than ever before, a maturity model assessment can help you cut through the clutter, objectively assess your contact center, and define a reliable roadmap for the future that is tailored to your organization’s business strategy and cultural fingerprint.
Applying our 100-plus years of contact center experience, the Interactive Intelligence contact center consulting team recently developed a contact center maturity model and a supporting process to use this diagnostic tool to drive change for our customers. Keep reading to learn about our tool and our approach, as well as how you can—with some time and know-how—develop your own maturity model.
A Maturity Model Assessment Development Process
1. Create a framework of key contact center competency areas.
Our goal was to create a holistic, easy-to-use model to bring structure and clarity to the contact center assessment process. To begin with, we used the consulting team’s industry expertise and customer input to create a framework of assessment categories covering key contact center competencies. While we refined these categories throughout the process of developing our maturity model, we were satisfied that they collectively covered all aspects of contact center management and strategy. (See the Sample Contact Center Maturity Model Scorecard for a list of the categories.)
2. Identify ascending maturity levels.
Next, we created a corresponding hierarchy of maturity levels to assess each competency. A four-level scale offers enough detail provide a meaningful distinction between the levels without becoming overly focused on inconsequential differences between levels. (See Table 1.)
3. Define maturity model assessment competencies.
Now it was time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on the heart of the maturity model. With our high-level structure of competency categories and maturity levels, we began the painstaking work of defining the competencies within each section. Our goal was to define an exhaustive list of contact center competencies within each level. (See Table 2.)
As we worked to create our competencies, we continuously reminded ourselves that the scale wasn’t intended to measure “worst” to “best,” with the intention of pointing customers toward “best” in every category. A contact center may be—and should be—happy to sit at a Level 2 or 3 in the “Technology Strategy, Planning & Management” category, if technology isn’t their key differentiator. Maybe having amazing team members who provide personalized support for a unique product is where that contact center chooses to invest their resources. In that case, they would look to focus their resources on achieving the highest level of maturity in the “Customer Experience” and “Performance Management, Training & Coaching” categories.
4. Develop a Maturity Model Assessment scorecard.
In addition to developing the comprehensive framework of categories and levels, we created a scorecard to clearly illustrate the assessment results. During an assessment, evaluators rate each competencies using the four competency levels, and the end result is a snapshot of the results in each category and subcategory.
This snapshot allows contact centers to quickly identify their areas of achievement and opportunities for improvement, within the context of the organization’s and the center’s business model and strategies.
In the example in Table 3, the contact center was an “employer of choice” in their geographic area, with a loyal, competent workforce and mature performance management processes. Over time, they relied on their capable employees’ ability to work around outdated technology and the cracks were beginning to show in still-excellent-but-noticeably-declining employee satisfaction. This scorecard was a warning flag that, while there was competent leadership and strategy, the contact center’s infrastructure was fraying and not on par with their competition.
5. Develop a recommendation roadmap based on the maturity model ratings.
Armed with the detailed information gathered during the maturity model assessment, the competency ratings, and a deep understanding of the contact center’s goals, strategy and culture, it’s time to create a recommendations roadmap to guide the contact center toward concrete, practical action.
Using the maturity model as a framework, the recommendations roadmap includes comprehensive recommendations by category/subcategory and ensures that all aspects of the contact center’s strategy and operations are holistically addressed. (See Table 4.)
Depending on the level of detail desired, additional criteria can also be included to identify initiatives with the biggest impact or return on investment, and integrated support within the recommendations roadmap to encourage forward movement. These include:
- Level of Effort (High, Med, Low): This, combined with Impact, allows the contact center to filter recommendations by items with low-effortmedium or high impact, also known as “low-hanging fruit,” or put a lower priority on high-effortlow-impact recommendations.
- Impact (High, Med, Low): While impact is often interpreted as the outcome or payoff of implementing a recommendation, it can also be used to assess the importance of implementing that recommendation. Using our previous example, while a recommendation to improve technology might address a Level 1 rating, if technology is not strategically important to the contact center, this may be assessed as “Low Impact.”
- Responsible, Start/End Date, Status: We encourage action by identifying who would be responsible for the implementing the recommendation, mapping out timeframes for completion, and encouraging stakeholders to track status of each “to implement” recommendation.
Maturity Model Assessment: DIY or Hire Help?
While self-analysis is a great place to start, there is a key drawback. We each see our contact center operation through a lens that is clouded by our role, beliefs and biases, our history within the organization, and many other factors. This makes it incredibly difficult for any manager within the center to accurately self-assess. In addition, the most important output of the assessment is the recommendations that are the result of a clear-eyed, objective assessment and a consultant’s expertise.
A contact center maturity model assessment is a good addition to any contact center leaders’ toolkit. When faced with a dizzying array of options to improve your contact center, this type of assessment can provide much needed clarity and a path forward to the future. Whether you self-assess or work with a seasoned consultant, here’s to finding the path to your contact center’s the brightest future. Good luck!
Authors’ note: If you’re interested in viewing your contact center through the lens of a maturity model framework but aren’t sure how to start, email [email protected] for a free Interactive Intelligence Contact Center Maturity Model self-assessment. While this is a scaled-down, “lite” version of the complete assessment, it’s a great introduction to the framework and provides insight into how scoring and recommendations can be organized.