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Contact Center Transformation: The Starting Point

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With an abundance of automation tools available in the contact center space, deciding where to begin your transformation can be overwhelming. Tools such as analytics, artificial intelligence, knowledge base, virtual assistant, natural language processing, and robotics can all provide value and improve efficiency, but making broadscale multiplatform and procedural changes in one fell swoop can backfire by introducing multiple steep learning curves for agents and supervisors who must continue to perform their function while changes are happening. Rather than implementing massive multiplatform and procedural changes overnight, most organizations will benefit from taking an incremental approach that ensures new technologies are quickly adopted throughout the organization, without negatively impacting the client base.
 
While making gradual adjustments may be the best option, transforming in a piecemeal fashion without first creating a strategic roadmap with holistic high-level design may cause duplicate processes and built-in system inefficiency. It’s critical to undertake needs assessment and fact-finding missions with stakeholders before purchasing or turning up any individual component. In addition to considering organizational goals, a solid contact center transformation plan requires a bit of specialized sleuthing.
 
Once you identify the organization’s goals for the contact center, you must then quantify departmental requirements and pain points for existing processes. Doing so is key in developing a prioritized, incremental approach to transformation. Meetings with executive-level staff will cover overall corporate goals, while front-line and departmental staff may bring up pain points and requirements. Your needs assessment must include key stakeholders at all levels within the organization because understanding these issues will determine which priorities can best streamline the new contact center.
 
Identifying which tools are currently in use, and how they’re being used is equally important to documenting pain points. While established and supported tools may be easy to identify, a surprising number of ad-hoc, unsupported tools, and processes may have also been created to fill gaps in existing technology—representing a “shadow IT” component that is often present in larger organizations.
 
Because these quantifying tools have been implemented at the department level to address specific requirements deemed vital by front-line workers, third-party vendors that provide them are considered saviors by the groups that deploy them. Vendors delivering these tools are all too eager to get their foot in the door by offering discounted services which then become entrenched in the corporate culture. Meanwhile, staff may have an outsized opinion of the product’s capabilities because it performs one function they need well. Industry salespeople are adept at positioning themselves as advocates with the front-line staff, creating resistance to change.
 
The role of “shadow IT” is often overlooked during the needs assessment phase of transformation projects. Unless the replacement technology can replicate the function that current tools provide, these components will continue to thrive in parallel with the supported solution—but outside of the view of advanced reporting, analytics, and intelligence provided by the new technology—thus missing key advantages of an integrated, omnichannel solution.
 
In addition to shadow IT, adjacent applications with features that overlap with contact center functions may also exist. For example, some customer relationship management (CRM) platforms are successful with digital channel interactions in addition to traditional CRM functions. Once embedded using digital channel components of CRM, salespeople may convince the staff that “adding a voice channel” is easy and a logical alternative to procuring a contact center-focused solution. Once this occurs, convincing front-line staff that the CRM solution isn’t the best fit for all contact center requirements can be challenging.
 
Additionally, departments may have created customized reports by exporting data from existing systems into spreadsheet format which is then massaged to provide specific information. Understanding these ad-hoc, homegrown reports is equally important for ensuring the replacement solution provides the information deemed critical for successful adoption. You should pay careful attention to specific reporting requirements encapsulated in existing custom reports.
 
While incrementally transforming a contact center is the best approach, creating a strategic plan, roadmap, and holistic architecture prior to implementing any components is critical to ensuring adoption and efficiency. A comprehensive needs analysis, which includes quantifying all existing tools and processes, is an important first step in formulating a successful plan.

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"SCTC Perspective" is written by members of the Society of Communications Technology Consultants (SCTC), an international organization of independent information and communications technology professionals serving clients in all business sectors and government worldwide.

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