CIOs Don't Let Your Contact Center Be Mudville

In the baseball classic "Casey at the Bat," the home team, Mudville, was behind by two runs. The crowd -- 5,000 people strong -- believed if Casey, the team's star player, could make it up to bat, Mudville could win. However, expectations were low, with too many weak hitters in front of Casey.

But wait... after the first two batters fail, Flynn and Jimmy Blake somehow get on base, bringing the mighty Casey up to bat. Now expectations from the fans go from low to extremely high, but on the last pitch, the mighty Casey strikes out and the whole crowd goes home unhappy.

The story says a lot about expectations and how people react to results. Had Flynn struck out ahead of Casey, maybe the fans go home saying, "We tried, and we'll get them next year." But, because Casey made the last out, as the story goes, "There is no joy in Mudville."

In a previous post, "Voice... the Schrodinger's Cat of the Contact Center," I discussed how voice was becoming simultaneously less and more important to the contact center. Here I'd like to draw out the importance of voice a little further.

Emotional Swings

Consider the example I gave in my previous post, in which I described how, getting frustrated using the American Airlines app, I stopped and instead called into its contact center. At that moment, my expectations of American were low. I called in, and upon discovering the agent knew exactly what I wanted to do, my expectations rose from low to high -- and American has its Casey-at-the-bat moment. The question is, do I leave delighted, or am I like those in Mudville with no joy?

American has obviously heavily invested in creating a high-quality mobile application and an omnichannel contact center to raise my expectations (Flynn and Jimmy Blake are now on base!). Had I called in but couldn't hear the agent fully because of choppy voice quality or had the call dropped, that would have been the equivalent of Casey striking out. American's investment in the contact center would have been wasted because poor voice quality meant it couldn't meet my high expectations.

IT leaders responsible for modernizing the contact center certainly have to worry about enabling omnichannel capabilities, machine learning-based predictive communications, and other advanced features. But none of these will matter if the voice doesn't have the quality people have come to expect. You must understand a rock-solid, reliable voice experience has been, and will continue to be, the foundation for contact centers.

Voice Quality Considerations

Below are some considerations for CIOs looking to ensure their companies have the best possible voice quality so their contact centers can meet high customer expectations.

  • Cloud Based -- At one time you could have reasonably argued the merits of on premises versus cloud, but in most cases today questioning whether cloud services are superior to on-premises deployments is hard. From a cost perspective, the cloud may or may not be cheaper, depending on how long the company plans to keep the equipment -- but the argument of "to cloud or not to cloud" isn't about cost. Digital businesses need to be agile, and the cloud gives the ability to rapidly scale up and down when required. Also, as machine learning and predictive analytics become more widely adopted, businesses won't have the compute power to perform these tasks in their own data centers.

  • Global Reach -- Even regional companies should think globally, positioning themselves to take advantage of overseas customers or hiring contractors in different areas. Also, with so many industries undergoing consolidation, CIOs must be prepared for possible M&A activity. Cloud contact center providers must have the ability to deliver voice services anywhere in the world.
  • Regionalized Voice Services -- Achieving the global reach specified in the previous bullet is achievable in two different ways. One is to have a single or few data centers, and offer services out of region. The risk with this is that traversing long distances over the Internet or even a private network can impact voice quality. The second is to look for a service provider that can offer services in whatever region your company does business, as this will lead to a consistent global customer experience.
  • Built on a Modernized Architecture -- In technology, the pace of change is accelerating and predicting the next "big thing" is difficult. With the right architecture, you don't necessarily need to know. Instead, with a highly flexible software architecture and DevOps-based continuous development model, a service provider can quickly add new features and services to keep up with technology shifts. This may be difficult to understand from looking at a service provider's Website, but spend the time to ask how quickly the provider can add new services, what kind of architecture is in place, and talk to reference customers. Continuous success requires continuous change, so make sure your cloud provider can enable this.
  • Ecosystem of Cloud Partners -- Customers can get frustrated when they have to constantly repeat the same information over and over, but this is the norm when agents are working with systems that aren't integrated. Ensure your cloud contact center provider is able to talk to other leading cloud solutions, such as Salesforce.com, Zendesk, Oracle, and Microsoft. A large cloud ecosystem also provides a bigger base of contextual information for predictive interactions.
  • Carrier-Grade Reliability -- A cloud service may be great and offer a wide range of bells and whistles, but it provides no value if it's not up and running all the time. Ask the cloud contact center provider what its reliability number is -- and note that there's a big difference between two-nines and four-nines. Your customers will notice.

The contact center industry has changed a lot over the past few years. The one constant has been that customer's want and expect a high-quality experience, and that means best-in-class voice must be table stakes. Choosing the right provider requires some homework, and due diligence but will avoid having the contact center turn into Mudville.

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