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September 2005

Contact centers are sophisticated and complex operating environments, among the most technically advanced departments in most companies. It’s been a great 30 year ride for the contact center market place, and the next five to ten years are likely to be the most exciting, as we move into the next generation of contact center systems and best practices. The question is where you and your organization stand – are you content to sit on the sidelines and watch the revolution in the contact center market or are you going to do what it takes to make sure that your organization achieves a competitive edge?

Contact centers are people-intensive environments and any organization with a large staff count has to care about productivity. On an annual basis, companies have every right to expect contact centers to improve their efficiency and make contributions to the corporate bottom line. While this is expected, it is not enough to make a contact center successful in today’s competitive market, where the primary differentiator between competitors is service quality.

We all know that it isn’t easy to consistently deliver a great customer experience. But if that is your contact center’s only goal, I’m sorry to say that you’re wasting your company’s valuable resources. Contact centers need to change what they do with information that customers – internal or external – share with them. Can you take the information that your customers give you when they call, email or chat with one of your agents and use it in real time to benefit your company and the customer? Or, are you continuing to motivate and reward your agents for moving on to the next caller, at the expense of wasting tremendously valuable customer insights shared at the point of contact?

Customers don’t care what you did for them yesterday; they only want to know what you can do for them today and tomorrow. Your customers are freely sharing invaluable information with you – and they’re not doing this out of kindness. They share information because they want you to do something with it. When a customer threatens to close an account, most of the time it’s a dramatic way of saying, “I’m not happy! What are you going to do for me to keep my account?” Or, in the context of a complaint, a customer may suggest a way to improve your product. Your marketing group may be investing hundreds of thousands of dollars on focus groups to find this very idea, only to have the information be ignored or untapped in your contact center, for lack of systems to capture and use it.

Companies that are able to capture, analyze and use customer information in real time will have a strategic advantage over companies that stick to past practices and principles. Contact centers that engage and respond to customers in real time will optimize their performance and provide an outstanding customer experience. They’ll reduce operating expenses – the mantra of contact centers – and contribute to top and bottom line revenue.

I’m not suggesting that you turn your back on everything that you’ve already accomplished in your contact center. On the contrary, you’ve built a great foundation. I am suggesting that you and your contact center can make recognizable contributions to your company’s overall sales and revenue objectives with some changes in how you do business today. Not every contact center is going to sell, nor will every contact center up sell or cross-sell. Some contact centers will convert to profit centers, others will remain dedicated to service and still others will concentrate on help desk, HR, collections and a variety of other functions, just as they always have. This isn’t going to change. Regardless of your contact center’s focus, you now have new tools and technology at your disposal to lead your organization into the future. It’s up to you to take advantage of the opportunity.

In August, I published a book called The Real-Time Contact Center: Strategies, Tactics and Technologies for Building a Profitable Service and Sales Operation. This book is about the future of contact centers. It features strategies, best practices, return on investment models, best practices, technology, management approaches and checklists for transitioning reactive, cost-oriented contact centers into real-time, engaged, proactive, revenue-generating profit centers. The Real-Time Contact Center provides a road map for the future of contact centers and your future success. The book is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and all major book sellers. I invite you to read the book, explore its value to your contact center, and let me know what you think.

Ask the Experts

What are best practices for deploying and servicing contact center systems?
Here is a list of best practices for implementing and maintaining contact center solutions:

Deployment

  1. Do it right the first time.
  2. Plan the implementation. Do not leave anything to chance.
  3. Implement as quickly as possible without impacting the current operating environment.
  4. Minimize impact of implementation on operations – agents, supervisors, managers and customers. Customers should not be aware that an implementation is going on.
  5. Implement at a time that is convenient for the client.
  6. Assign a project manager to be responsible for overseeing all aspects of the project. Make sure the client knows who is in charge and who to speak to about any concerns.
  7. Provide client with detailed project plan for the implementation. It needs to be easy to follow and must explain which internal groups and third parties need to be involved or on hand for the implementation.
  8. Provide client with detailed checklists that indicate what they need to do and when.
  9. Assist client with any preparatory work.
  10. Make sure carriers are ready for the implementation.
  11. Follow up with client to make sure all preparations are completed before beginning the implementation.
  12. Provide training in advance and make sure end users – agents, supervisors and managers – are comfortable with the new technology before cutting over.

DMG Consulting LLC is a leading independent research, advisory and consulting firm specializing in unified communications, contact centers, back-office and real-time analytics. Learn more at www.dmgconsult.com.