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Contact Centres: Five common mistakes and how to fix them

Since being coined in 2012, ‘digital transformation’ has become an umbrella term for the boundless technological evolution that has taken place in the years that followed. For contact centres, the changes have been momentous and have revolutionised customer experience.

Most notably are the shifts from sole reliance on voice channels, and the adoption of new technology. Contact centres are gradually moving towards an omnichannel operation, combining both traditional voice communications and digital alternatives, including email, messaging, social media, live chat, and video. These new technologies have brought greater insight into how the contact centre operates, aligning with customer behaviours and changing demands.

However, a dark shadow has formed over digital transformation. It is widely accepted that around 70% of all digital transformation projects fail, with over 90% of executives admitting that they had failed to hit the objectives agreed at the start.

Below I discuss the five common mistakes that contribute to this high failure rate across digital transformation projects, and how contact centre operators can avoid making them.

Mistake 1: Starting with the technology

It’s important to remember – but so easy to forget – that technology is an enabler. It is not designed to sit at the heart of digital transformation projects, but more to facilitate the evolution and contribute to achieving wider business objectives.

For contact centres, this translates to delivering unwavering quality customer experience, which means understanding what works best for each customer. For example, trying to force all individuals down the digital route is too simplistic, and equally, there’s no strategic value sitting a group of millennials down with headsets and expecting them to operate the phones all day. There are two aspects to consider here: agent comfort with a particular channel and the preferences of the end customer themselves. If either are out of sync, it is likely that the experience will be compromised.

Whatever your goal is, it must remain front and centre of operational strategy. That is why it is so important to identify exactly what you are trying to achieve before you measure success.

Mistake 2: Using systems in silos

The next pitfall takes place once contact centres have invested in the necessary technology to drive their projects. All too often we see teams overly dependent on these shiny new tools, wrongly convinced that technology has the capabilities to solve every problem when, in fact, the opposite outcome is more likely.

Introducing new tools and systems often result in operational siloes, working independently to each other. Teams should integrate their technology where possible, making it easier to align with the latest customer demands. By reviewing all systems and touchpoints, contact centres will very quickly identify the tools needed to suit all requirements. The last thing you want is your agents trying to navigate three screens whilst also relaying feedback to the customer.

Your operational processes should be joined up across your business where they are needed, and therefore your decision-making process for new technologies should be made with the full IT stack in mind, as opposed to a singular view of the contact centre.

Mistake 3: Going for the ‘Big Bang’

With the promise of new processes and smarter working within tangible reach, contact centres often fall foul to skipping a few steps. Teams need to think about an iterative change approach and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

If a voice contact centre opts to introduce email channels, the subsequent changes and training needed will be fairly minimal. However, if they decide to renovate their entire offering, bringing all customer contact activity together into a single pane of glass as an omni-solution, they must think about how to integrate each element – and gradually.

This level of change doesn’t just mean an overhaul of technology. It also involves bringing in teams with specialised skillsets for voice and digital channels, so the business needs to consider how these changes will impact their resourcing and training plans.

Mistake 4: Ignoring employee experience

The way a contact centre operates is entirely dependent on the type of business. For example, when dealing with life-or-death situations, agents don’t want to be juggling multiple channels such as voice, email and social.

Adopting a ‘blended’ approach – combining both voice and digital channels – can be of great benefit to contact centres, but only when the skillsets and strengths of the agents are considered. If you decide to move someone who’s solely worked through social platforms and sit them down with a headset, then they are likely to need training or at least adjustment time. Without adequate support, such a move will likely cause stress for the agent and the resulting customer experience will suffer.

There is no rocket science here. If you play to your agents’ strengths, you’ll boost your business’s performance.

Omnichannel is the perfect approach to provide balance to your workforce and to improve both their experience, as well as that of your customers. With omnichannel, contact centres can provide a single pane of glass approach, meaning a voice agent, for example, can still see interactions with this customer through different channels in one viewpoint, even if they haven’t handled this customer’s interactions in the past. This enables contact centres to provide enhanced agent and customer service.

Mistake 5: STOPPING

By its very nature, digital transformation is a constant evolution – which means it doesn’t end. Too many businesses ‘tool down’ once they feel the transformation is complete, but customer demands will never stop changing and new technology is introduced every year. Contact centres operate in a dynamic landscape – being agile to change is paramount.

Communication channels are evolving as generational preferences and trends change. TikTok is becoming a dominant social platform right now but will likely be superseded by other competing platforms in the future.

The only constant is Change. Businesses need a flexible tool to facilitate agile adoption when the time is right. Monitoring customer and user experience journeys will help identify opportunities for improvement and efficiency. Once the systems are implemented, businesses should monitor and assess how they’re being used and whether any inefficiencies remain.

The way forward

Each of these mistakes are easy to make but even easier to fix. I leave you with five key points that contact centres should keep front of mind throughout all digital transformation projects, to avoid becoming part of that 70% failure rate:

  1. Focus on the wider business objectives, and don’t ignore the bigger picture.
  2. Think about wider implications of implementing your new Customer Contact solution, assess how these changes will impact your teams and their operations.
  3. Plan, plan, plan! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and too many changes made all at once could lead to greater challenges.
  4. Lean into agent skills; contact centres will better service their customers when they champion their agents.
  5. Keep evolving. Remember, there’s always a next step.
Written by Jason Roos, CEO at Cirrus