Whether in the product business, or in services, a company’s brand image is shaped by how customers feel about interacting with the company. The impression they take away from a call to the business’s support or contact center has a lasting impact that can be either good or bad. Customer facing operations are crucial. As a business grows or undergoes other strategic changes, it may require updating its contact center operations as well.
Arnab Mishra is Senior VP, Products and Solutions at Transera, a cloud customer engagement and analytics provider. He believes any changes should be made to the contact center only based on the dynamics of how the contact center is interacting with customers. He shared three basic questions that businesses can typically use to determine whether they have outgrown their current solution:
How is the business reaching out to customer? If the business’ outreach strategy is shifting, then it may be time to look for a new solution which better meets the demands of that strategy.
Is the business growing geographically? Expanding to new areas typically requires adding agents to new locations or outsourcing, and either case usually creates the need to move to a new provider.
At what stage of its lifecycle is the business? A young, expanding company may need a solution capable of handling a growing number of customer interactions, whereas a more established business will typically focus on a customer analytics solution to retain their large numbers of customers. In either case, changes to how they are interacting with customers can mean that their current solution is no longer providing the service needed, and it’s time to switch.
The backend and technology infrastructure of the contact center solution also play an important part. Mike Burke, VP Sales & Business Development at IQ Services, recommended checking for the following red flags in the infrastructure:
- Inability to offer an omni-channel interface to key customer groups, for example lack of social media interaction engines.
- Incompatibility with emerging technologies & expectations such as Secure SIP, interface to the PSTN, WebRTC, Speech analytics etc.
- Absence of functionality that reduces customer effort such as self-service, click to have an agent call back when available rather than waiting on hold for several minutes.
- Difficulty in scaling to handle seasonal peaks.
Weighing the Trade-Off
Infrastructure changes can be quite challenging for any business, especially changes of this magnitude and need careful evaluation. A thorough cost versus benefits analysis has to happen when weighing the trade-offs of changing providers. Mishra advised, “If your business has evolved significantly since you last decided on a contact center solution, and that solution is no longer meeting your requirements, then it is no longer a question of risk vs. benefits and becomes more of a necessity that you move to a new solution. On the other hand, if the changes to how your business interacts with customers have been minor, then moving to a new system likely isn’t worth it.”
Burke advocates focusing on customer service experience over technology performance. “Check the Total Cost of Operation (TCO) and do an Return on Investment (ROI) analysis, including the adverse impact of current technology/platform dysfunction on customer service experience. Trace the steps of the customer service experience.”
Mishra added, “It’s also important to consider the larger timeframe here, since most contact center systems have been in place for a decade or longer. Evaluate the benefits of moving to a new solution over an extended time period, and if you see that your business is likely to go through significant changes, then it’s time to move on”.
Mitigating the Risks
If the evaluation indicates that the contact center solution must be changed, there are a few main risks to watch out for while considering a new solution. Mishra talked about some common risk factors to be considered, “First is the functionality risk, which refers to whether the new solution is capable of performing all of the functions that you need it to. Related to this is system quality risk, which deals with the new solution’s ability not only to perform the necessary functions, but to do so reliably and efficiently. Finally, vendor relationship risk concerns the vendor company itself, and how well they treat their customers. Fortunately, all of these risks can be effectively mitigated with a bit of precautionary planning.”
To manage changes in the implementation, Burke advised, “If basic functionality is implemented differently, mitigate the risk through a detailed discovery and process documentation for the new implementation. Arrange adequate training for the customer service representatives and support teams. Test to ensure migration faithfully regenerates the previous integrations and operation.” To avoid risk due to custom integrations, Burke recommended sticking with standard APIs during development.
Mishra added a final word of caution, “Do some research on the side about potential providers. Look into both the provider’s history of performance with other customers, as well if they have a set service level that they adhere to or guarantee certain services to provide assurance to the customer. Along with their capability, also evaluate how committed they are to the transition.”
Thanks to Customer Experience Report for the article.