Published: November 12, 2013 | Comments
Last month I had the honor of participating in a panel discussion (Beyond the Hype: A Real World Look at Cloud vs Premise Based Services) at the International Customer Management Institute’s Call Center Demo and Conference in Atlanta. The packed event spanned three days and included call center tours and a variety of sessions filled with valuable information for contact center management.
If you work in the industry you know that contact center managers are highly skilled leaders who constantly balance the need to manage people, processes and performance. Contact centers are demanding places. It takes tenacity to implement and manage a complicated array of outbound marketing campaigns and inbound service and support programs that consistently surpass team KPIs. It takes focus and determination to hire, nurture and retain a workforce of agents and supervisors that may be geographically dispersed and increasingly work from home offices. It requires a firm hand on the wheel to implement processes for maintaining quality standards, correcting errors and achieving high CSAT and Net Promoter scores. And it requires that you juggle these demands while developing plans for how to adopt new and innovative technologies that can help streamline operations.
It was no coincidence that the conference was organized around four key themes: strategy & leadership; operations management; technology management and people management. During my session and throughout the course of the conference where I met with Five9 customers and conference attendees, it became apparent that contact center management needs could be clearly described under these four pillars. These pillars can also provide a framework for building strategies to improve contact center performance.
Keep an eye toward the future and develop plans early
During the track on strategy and leadership attendees were repeatedly reminded to keep an eye on the “big picture” and focus on staying a step ahead of the competition. Much of the conversation was around how gain a competitive advantage by embracing new forms of customer support to provide a better customer experience. The need to plan for the future was highly visible at the event with overflowing sessions on topics like “How to embrace social customer care”, “The impact of emerging channels…” and “Mobile customer service in 2013”.
During the event we were excited to announce our acquisition of SoCoCare, a leading solution for social, mobile and community customer care. We fielded lots of questions from attendees about how social and mobile care could be tightly integrated into the contact center so that traditional KPIs could be maintained. Many attendees also wanted to know how they could embrace social care without overwhelming agents with spam and information that didn’t require their attention. We were able to answer these questions and offer more insight into the benefits of integrating social and mobile care into the contact center. If you’d like to learn more about how social customer care can help you build better customer connections I encourage you to read our new whitepaper.
Focus on streamlining operations and removing barriers to success
During the conference a full track was devoted to developing actionable ideas for how to optimize contact center operations. Streamlining operations has to do with building effective process and removing barriers to your success.
Many of the questions posed were around how solutions can put more control into the hands of the contact center manager and her team. Managers were looking for ways to make changes quickly and get campaigns up and running without depending on their I.T. department or outside consultants. We demonstrated to substantial interest how solutions like ours allow administrators to use an intuitive web-based UI that makes it easy to upload calls lists; manage campaigns; create routing strategies; assign agents to skill groups and access reporting.
Make sure your technology is working for you
A third conference track was devoted to technology management. The focus of the sessions was on how to cut through all of the clutter and determine which features and technologies are really important and which were just “bells and whistles” that make solutions more complicated without adding real business value.
During our panel discussion we had a lively debate around the merits of cloud vs on premise solutions. Attendees expressed mounting frustration with increasingly bloated on premise products, complaining that it takes longer and longer to deploy new releases. They also expressed frustration with promises of solutions to problems that are never actually implemented. During the course of the session I was able to describe many of the reasons that organizations are embracing cloud offerings to provide immediate solutions to business problems. (For a summary of some of the most importation reasons please take a look at this presentation)
Put strategies in place to build, nurture and retain your team
The fourth track focused on people management. Although much of the content focused on strategies for managing staff, there was also substantial discussion around how technology could be employed to help develop a highly motivated and productive team.
During our panel discussion, Matt Zemon, President of American Support described the benefits of building a virtual contact center that employs both on-site and at-home agents. Those benefits include the ability to source highly skilled agents without geographic limitation as well as the ability to improve retention by providing more flexible work options for staff. He also explained the need to focus on training new staff and of actively monitoring and coaching new agents as they come up to speed. He explained that it is critically important to have tools to monitor and coach at-home agents to ensure that they don’t become isolated and frustrated.
There was also much discussion about using work force and quality management applications to improve team performance. Many attendees described the challenges associated with forecasting, scheduling, managing workforce shrinkage and monitoring agent interactions. We were able to explain to much interest how our multi-tenant cloud version of the NICE application suite could be used in tandem with our Virtual Contact Center to help manage agent teams and customer care campaigns in a seamless and integrated manner.
Many thanks to the folks at ICMI for putting on such a terrific event and for offering us the opportunity to sponsor and participate in the conference. I was impressed by the content, level of the discussions and the quality of the interactions. Conference attendees will certainly be able to have a major impact within their organization by focusing on how they can embrace technology that works for them to improve contact center operations, better manage their teams and provide a better overall customer experience.