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Customization is Part of Life

Your agents practically live in your contact center’s CRM. Brandon Caudle covers the three levels of customization that should be considered for making them feel at home.

We customize every facet of our life.  Let’s face it, when it comes to how and what we eat, drink, wear and use, we want it our way.  From our smart phone apps to how we decorate our homes, we have an ever-expanding number of options, generally limited only by our own time and wallets.

You don’t put a lot of time and thought into downloading a 99-cent app for your smart phone, but we certainly stop to think when a tailored suit or dress costs much more than one off the rack.  And if you have ever started a home renovation project, the thought rapidly comes to mind, “do I really need this?”

Of course, we could argue that we don’t have to have that cool Smart Phone App, the tailored suit or dress or the custom kitchen or backyard, but they certainly make us look and feel better, and in general make us happier.  Those customizations, however, require resources of either time or money.

Similarly, contact center agents practically “live” in their CRM systems, and a business’ success often hangs on how comfortable the agents are with using the system eight hours a day.  While all CRM systems “work” fresh out of the box, the more that they are customized to fit your business, the happier, and more productive, your agents will be. 

As with all things, there are various levels of customization, and with those levels, associated costs, in terms of resources or money. 

Using the home renovation example above, as the self-inflicted victim of a four-year DIY project, I learned that there are three levels to any type of customization, which apply equally to your home or CRM system.

Level One Customization (The Easy Stuff)

As anyone who has wandered the aisles of Home Depot know, there are some home renovation projects that (almost) anyone can perform.  These include hanging curtains and painting a wall, both of which give your house a personal feel, raising your comfort level immediately.   

In your CRM system, there are numerous settings that your administrator can adjust to bring a quick degree of comfort to your agents. While not all are intuitive, as with your Level One Home Customization, a quick call to your vendor’s support line or an Internet search usually yields the results that you need. Your CRM admin can usually handle these issues in their sleep, and is the reason why you hired them in the first place.  For those companies that don’t have a dedicated CRM Admin, you can usually get by with this falling under “other duties as assigned.”

Level Two Customization (Skills Required)

Unless your home was custom built, it’s only a matter of time before a more intense level of customization creeps into your brain, becoming more of an irritation until you declare that you simply must have new appliances!  While installing a new faucet, sink, toilet or dishwasher are completely feasible to many people, this generally enters into the realm of serious DIY books, videos, classes, and all too often, a call to the local handyman.

Similarly, your CRM system can only do so much Out of the Box, and once the new home smell wears off, you start become annoyed at the limitations that become increasingly apparent day by day.  While they aren’t stopping the work from getting done, they are at the top of your wish list, and much like a top of the line dishwasher, implementing correct configurations, workflows and approval processes for your CRM system makes your life easier every day.
Your CRM admin knows how to do this work, as this information is usually gained through classes, certifications, participation in user groups, and most importantly, experience.  If your CRM admin doesn’t have the skill set, there are plenty of resources for hire to fill in the gaps and customize your system at a mid-level. 

Level Three Customization (Ninja Expertise Level)

This is the kitchen renovation project that we all drool over on the Home and Garden Channel. It’s big, it’s massive, and it will change your life forever giving you the “Cadillac of Kitchens.” And you will never, ever, be able to do this on your own.  This is the project that requires carpentry and plumbing skills that only years of experience can yield, which for most of us means bringing in the experts.

Just as your personal life becomes easier with a kitchen island that maximizes your kitchen work area, a fully optimized CRM system reduces handle time, puts knowledge at the agents’ fingertips and maximizes productivity. This level of customization requires not only technical expertise with your CRM system, but also a deep understanding of contact centers, from processes to knowledge management to best practices.
There is a plethora of options available to you, and just as you may approach home renovations in a phased approach, you should also decide which level of customization is right for your Contact Center at this point in time.  It doesn’t require a Herculean effort to calculate the Return on Investment for specific improvements that, like an upgraded kitchen, provide a fiscal return that significantly increases the value of your contact center.  Your agents will be happier, your metrics and customer satisfaction numbers will improve, and your management team will appreciate the positive changes that this brings to the company.

Brandon Caudle is VP of Account Management at Stone Cobra, where he works with Ninjas, and a seasoned service desk and IT professional. [email protected]