It’s like falling in love again: How to renew positive relationships with contact center technology and those who deliver it. The following are tips for optimizing technology at each phase in the project lifecycle, and pursuing the most positive relationship between a technology, its users and those they must rely on for success.
The planning phase follows strategy and vision, defining the business case and requirements, and finding the right solution(s) and vendors. The theme of the best practices here is: Work together.
- Use a cross-functional team. No contact center technology should be hoisted upon unknowing and uninvolved users, and no contact center technology should be acquired via an “end run” around IT. All parties have to live with the solution from an operational, technological and support perspective. A collaborative process ensures buy-in across the organization and reduces finger-pointing.
- Define the technology needs to meet business and operational needs; don’t do technology for technology’s sake. Define a business case together.
- Collaborate on requirements. Work top-down to define business requirements, then move to functional, technical and vendor requirements (including their role in implementation and support). One of the hardest things for project teams to do is focus on the “what” not “how” during the planning stage. Leave the details for later.
Implementation may feel like it primarily involves IT and the vendor/distributor. But involvement of the right operations staff at the right steps — including analysts, process designers, trainers and some frontline staff — can make the difference between a system that is just “in and working” and a system that is delivering value on the investment.
- Work together on design documents. The users need to sign off on designs and help to test, so they need to play an active role in design. Don’t just recreate the existing environment and plan to make changes later. This approach is too often used to get something in and working, usually with the result that you spend lots of money on a new system to do exactly what the old system did, and that’s the way it remains.
- Be careful and thorough about testing, and involve users. A proper contact center technology implementation involves many types of testing — functionality, usability, end-to-end, integration, load and failure/recovery, to name a few. Carefully define what you will do in-house and what the vendors will do (which is usually very little). Involve the users in at least the functionality and usability testing, including resolution and regression testing. Spending the proper time with the proper resources on this step will help to ensure that the technology delivers on expectations.
- Define, conduct and monitor a collaborative pilot. When the new application has a big impact on users — either internal or external (customers), make sure that a pilot is a key part of the project plan. Piloting is the only way to work out the kinks in a production environment with real users. A pilot can help to optimize processes, technology and its application to business needs.
Support is an oft-neglected element of ensuring technology success. The nature of much of our contact center technology and how it is delivered today requires well-defined governance processes and clear roles and responsibilities for both internal and external resources.
- Define how you will measure technology success. It is often difficult (or undesirable) to go back and assess whether you achieved what your business case anticipated. Taking steps to assess whether the technology delivered is a sure path to optimizing value and ensuring credibility on your next project.
- Define how you will monitor technology success. Things change. Performance can degrade. We’ve seen way too many places where screens are no longer popping, IVR success rates have decreased or voice quality begins to degrade. Someone needs to keep an eye on the technology to ensure that it continues to perform to expectations. Develop an ongoing monitoring plan and consider tools to help monitor, depending on the nature of the technology.
- Define and communicate routine operations, administration and maintenance (OA&M) plans, service level agreements (SLAs) and governance plans. Proper “care and feeding” ensures that technology is reliable, available and performs well. SLAs ensure that everyone is operating under the same principles for prioritization, response and resolution of day-to-day needs, as well as issues. Well-communicated and understood plans can go a long way toward creating love between users, IT/ telecom and vendors/distributors.
Lori Bocklund is Founder and President of the independent consulting firm Strategic Contact. email@example.com
– Reprinted with permission from Contact Center Pipeline, www.contactcenterpipeline.com