This is the season where individuals—and organizations such as contact centers—make their wish lists. Yet with budgets both household and corporate limited there is no allowance—or tolerance—for unused or misused items; the penalties include reprimands and threats to cut back on how much is given next year.
Therefore it is essential that the items that go on the lists reflect critical and provable needs for which there are no on-hand or lower-cost substitutes. There must also be evidence that indicate these investments will be used and benefits quickly realized. The payoff is that in the well-run outfits, the centers that do just stand a greater chance of having more of their wishes granted.
So how can contact centers improve the chances of just that? Here are some tips:
1. Take a hard look at centers’ and at parent organization’s business processes and ask the question: “can we work smarter i.e. make fewer mistakes?” (Thanks Convergys for making that point some years ago).
The reasons why most people who dial/write to contact centers is because they have problems: product and service issues that may have been prevented if the items and services, and service in question were designed and delivered right. Taking steps to ensure it will lead to fewer contacts: and more customer satisfaction and possibly higher revenues both per-buyer and from new ones attracted by raving fans via social media. That translates to less seats, licenses and boxes and simpler and more affordable applications
2. Check for—and find ways of using--shelfware. There is nothing like the virtual dust gathering on unused items to draw the wagging fingers of CFOs. Pay special attention to complex multifeatured solutions such as CRM software and all-in-one-suites like workforce optimization applications
3. Consult with the agents and supervisors who use and those who must support the products i.e. the help desks. They will give critiques on what they use and offer suggestions how to improve them or whether the items should be recycled or trashed
4. Take an “are these investments truly necessary” approach. Make, check and re-check the business case for them. Treat what is being written on the list as if it is coming out of your pocket: which it is one way or another
5. When feasible, pilot. If not obtain or if need be conduct in-depth research
6. In the specifying, avoid the bells and whistles and the nice-to-haves. Don’t overbuy for the future. Focus on the now-and the near-now needs. This sector, the technologies and vendors change so often it doesn’t pay for functionalities that may be needed around the corner
7. Consider modular or better yet open-sourced applications that permit easier add-ons when need and budget permit. Open-source offers some insurance in case a supplier or line goes belly-up because you can use core (non-proprietary) applications
8. Plan to double-up on the due diligence. Get on the social networks to ask your counterparts in the other contact centers. Listen and analyze to the gripes on social media sites. Read news and feature stories (where better than those on TMC?). If the candidate suppliers are publicly traded delve into their reports. Check out any speculation that these companies are buying others or may be bought out themselves, which could mean enhanced investments or support for the products/services, or the end of the solutions’ lines. Ask hard questions such as about the benefits, usability, installation, support, product/service lifespans and the vendors’ financial stability. This is and will continue to be a buyer’s market. Negotiate smart and fair
9. Learn how to play corporate politics to get budget allocations. Make allies in other departments i.e. we scratch your backs, you scratch ours. Speak the corporate not contact center language i.e. “higher per customer sale”, “higher lifetime revenue” rather than “first call resolution”. Too often contact centers have been relegated and treated as cost-drains as opposed to profit/goal-contributors because they don’t pick up and play by the rules
10. Check out the Buyers’ Guide in the Decmeber issue of Customer Interaction Solutions. Click/call the companies listed
And may your wishes come true.