Dave Ogden, Solutions Consultant at Aspect Software
Getting a motor vehicle MOT tested can be an inconvenience, but it is a vital part of ensuring that our cars, vans and motorcycles are safe and running at their optimum efficiency. Just as our cars need consistent health checks to ensure that all the intricate and intertwining technical mechanisms are working correctly, it’s important to take a look at the contact centre regularly in order to identify any ‘parts’ that don’t work, need replacing or could do with tuning to ensure they’re working at their optimal performance. The contact centre needs to have its own inner workings examined and assessed to ensure it isn’t chugging along the hard shoulder at 40mph when it could be gliding in the fast lane at 70mph.
An in-house strategist might conduct such examinations, but most contact centres are not currently hiring senior strategic people on a permanent basis, meaning programmes do not receive a fresh perspective. This brings into question how often people actually take the time, with unbiased eyes, to review and evaluate current processes. Without this fresh perspective, legacy software can often escape appropriate scrutiny, as longstanding managers might be reluctant to question their original investment. Regular reviews will prevent out-dated elements going unnoticed and prompt the necessary updates that will allow the contact centre to maintain pace with the available technology and increasing customer expectations.
As consumers demand ever-higher standards for their customer experience, contact centres continue to strive to deliver this through efficient processes. But there is a tendency among IT managers to think that once software is in, it’s in, without questioning its continued performance. Is it still performing its major function effectively or can it be improved? This is not about overhauling current systems, but instead, placing an emphasis on cutting costs and improving efficiency.
In an environment where technology and customer needs are constantly evolving, a yearly health check is the best way to ensure you are getting the most out of your technology.
Slow lane software and the technology fast lane
It’s no secret that technology is changing and progressing at an astonishing rate in the 21st Century and the contact centre environment is no exception. Social media is a prime example of this. Despite its almost universal use across wide customer demographics, companies were slow to embrace it for business purposes. While this is changing, the negative impacts of not embracing online and social media environments are plain to see throughout current media reports.
With so many modern contact channels for companies to incorporate, the temptation to simply ‘add-on’ new software packets to existing solutions is understandable. However, little consideration is taken with regards to how these installed technologies interact and whether they are fit for purpose with other existing systems. Is there significant and unnecessary overlap between these intertwining programmes that can be identified and remedied with a simple review?
Creating the most efficient unified communications package is central to optimising performance and ensuring true value. Regularly monitoring, reviewing and adjusting existing programmes is the best way of ensuring that contact centres have the most effective solutions and that subsequent software additions do not compromise the efficient setup already in place.
Avoiding roadside breakdowns and sticking to the Highway Code
Payment demands on deceased customers, double contacts and over- or under-charges can all be traced back to inefficient and out-dated software and operating systems. While there will be unnecessary direct costs associated with such blunders, it is the cost of the reputational damage that is the most important and long lasting. Comparing this vast cost with the expense of an annual software MOT demonstrates the value of such an external review.
On the regulatory side, Ofcom consistently updates its regulations and ensuring compliance with these is vital for operating the contact centre. But these are not the only moving hoops to jump through. With contact centres operating across a number of sectors, there are also numerous industry specific regulatory bodies to consider, such as the FCA (formally the FSA) in financial services. As these rules and guidelines continually change, it is important to regularly check that systems still comply and are kept up-to-date. Keeping pace with the regulatory requirements of your business is central to a contact centre’s ability to provide its customers with the highest possible level of service.
Get in a mechanic
Having someone from outside of the company to perform an annual review of your systems and software allows companies to gain an external and impartial perspective on possible improvements in efficiency. It is important to have someone that will have a level of detachment from the internal team to ask the difficult questions, such as “Why do we use this software/hardware?”, “Can the current use of the technology be improved to give us a competitive advantage”.
This ability to challenge the status quo is crucial to a thorough review. Without this, a willingness to tolerate legacy systems as ‘acceptable’ because ‘that is what we have always done’ is likely to take a hold. This could grind the contact centre motor to a halt, as it is left trailing in the wake of those that have embraced such technological advances. These changes do not have to be drastic. Simple efficiency increases or adjustments are often sufficient due to the regularity of the update. But such opportunities are rarely realised through internal measures, as someone who is not external will most likely lack the industry knowledge of an outsider, with access to the successful practices employed by other companies.
Keeping the contact centre engine running at peak performance and efficiency is crucial to holding pace with the technological environment in which it exists and the customer expectations to which it subscribes. Just like any other well-oiled machine, this needs to be updated and improved on a regular basis if it is to maintain its cutting edge status. Annual reviews of software and systems by an external advisor, will allow contact centres to achieve just that, not only to stay ahead of the curve, but also to prevent the public fallout that can occur when legacy systems inevitably backfire.