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Friday 29 January 2010

Ambitions to Perform

I attended an excellent event delivered by Sabio, one of our strategic partners, last week. Focused around the Sabio Best in Class benchmarking framework called Insight, the agenda covered individual areas of focus for Contact Centres each illustrated perfectly by a case study. Targeted at Operations Directors, IT and Senior Contact Centre Management, the event covered Demand Management, Automation, Accessibility, Optimisation and Efficiency in the Contact Centre from a strategic and underlying technology perspective. The balance between prescriptive advice, practical reality and input from the attendees was refreshing. As were the case study presentations, for once not all about how great things are but illustrating real examples of the progress and real performance improvements that each company had made, with the recognition that there were still many things that need to be addressed and that much of the time they were fire fighting.

HomeServe talked enthusiastically about how they had improved resource optimisation through forecasting and identifying the key factors that influence call volumes. However they accepted that their forecasts would never be 100% accurate because of factors that they couldn’t predict such as the more recent freak weather conditions. They talked about the progress they had made in multi-skilling through simplifying the desktop, making it easier to train agents and to broaden their remits. The result of this was their ability to successfully blend work between teams to address forecast anomalies better but recognised that there was still progress to be made here to make it seamless.

Egg spoke about managing demand and driving greater automation, their desire to move customers to self service wherever possible whilst admitting that in some cases automation was not possible and that the customer would have to call and speak to someone. Egg uses extensive measurement and monitoring processes to identify contact trends that can be addressed by the business. On the whole their move to self service continues to be successful for the majority of transactions but they explained that it was important that if the customer did have to resort to calling that the integration between the channels was seamless and the customer service levels were consistent.

In a very energetic presentation from Lego, the senior customer services director described in detail how Lego were working towards achieving better customer accessibility. Lego were unique in their desire to increase direct customer engagement to ensure that they continue to grow and meet customer needs. The recognition that their customers were multi-lingual, spanned generations and that the majority of Lego is sold during what they called Main Season or to the rest of us – Christmas has massively impacted their contact centre strategy. They needed to achieve improved customer contact across multiple segments whilst recognising and developing Lego as an emotional brand that their customers felt part of and involved with. Something that they realised they lost sight of in the early part of last decade, but had since 2007 been striving to put right with some excellent success rates.

Finally a presentation from Telefonica O2 Ireland that talked about delivering operational efficiency through measuring in call performance, aligning the agent with the customer needs and the work that they have been doing to segment the customers and align service requirements to those segments but doing this within the unique challenges of the local market.

These sessions in addition to some interesting conversations with many attendees led me to believe that the priorities of senior contact centre directors both in operations and IT are many and varied but that the underlying principle they are looking to achieve is the right level of customer service.

There are many areas on which they can focus their attentions in order to achieve their business strategy, technology being one of them. This led me to think that the key defining factor in any technology implementation within the contact centre has to be its impact on the customer. There are so many technology options that will deliver clear business benefits but where should they focus to improve performance – it was made clear that they should begin with the customer journey looking at the major pain points. Ultimately much of that customer journey is controlled by what is going on at the agents desktop. There are some technologies that will have a more wide reaching impact than others, Enterprise Mashups being one where quick wins can be made and strategic value delivered. One thing that was clear is that companies with extensive sector and technology expertise as demonstrated by Sabio can clearly help to bring together the strategy and technology elements to address these pain points, reduce the fire fighting and help contact centres to meet their ambitions to perform.

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