A Call To Action

Marilyn Saulnier is the Director of Global Contact Center Consulting at Interactive Intelligence.
Marilyn Saulnier is the Director of Global Contact Center Consulting at Interactive Intelligence.

I was recently asked by an executive at my company about how excited contact center leaders get over cool new technology. “How jacked up would they get over smart watches or voice biotmetrics? If we could give them what hey wanted in future technology, what would be on the list of cool things that they would salivate to get?” He was sincere, and I was honestly touched by his genuine interest in our hopes and dreams.

I was also caught off balance. I’m guessing that indicates how infrequently someone actually asks me what I want these days. Uncharacteristically, I was at a loss for words on how to respond. After a few minutes of stammering and collecting my thoughts, I came to the realization that contact center people are mainly doers, executors, the tactically driven team that gets things done. We’re not dreamers. We don’t go tilting at windmills. We take action. We fix things. Successfully managing the incessant demands of contact centers requires us to be wired for action. We’re in the weeds trying to figure out how many customer contacts we’re going to get in the next hour and for the next year. For all channels. And the average handle times for all channels and all queues. And, how many agents will be on FMLA or will call in sick. The list goes on and on. We need to plan the future NOW and we need to have our finger on the pulse of what’s going on right NOW and take action to make sure that we meet our objectives for our customer experience. No excuses. We get it done.

A Call To Action
A Call To Action

But maybe it’s time for us to play a more powerful role in our destiny. Maybe instead of reacting to the cool technology that comes our way, we should state our case for what we want. Better still, what we need. Our world has morphed in complexity and that trend will continue as customer demand for SMS, mobility and video increases. Outbound dialer is becoming the proactive tool for contacting the customer before they contact you. Big data is rolling down the tracks and will change the way we do business with our customers in a major way. It’s daunting, I agree, but it’s coming.

So what do you say? How about we rock our own world before it gets rocked for us? I can hear feet stomping, hands clapping and liberating cheers from contact centers across the globe! Let’s do it!

Unleash Your Pent-up Creativity

It is going to take stepping out of our comfort zone and discipline to make this a priority over the long list of things on your to-do list. Open your Outlook calendar and find a day when you can dedicate one hour to the future of the industry in which you have invested so much time and energy. Between now and then, let your mind wander, and extend the challenge to your team to come up with some ideas. If you are most creative when you’re alone, close your office door during the scheduled time and let your thoughts take shape. Let your staff manage without you for an hour. They can handle it.You’ve trained them well. If you brainstorm better in groups, gather your team in a meeting room with a white board and let it rip.

Recently, I was on a business trip to western Michigan, northwest of Grand Rapids. I was driving back to the Grand Rapids airport across 60 miles of country roads with 40 mph winds and blowing swirling snow causing whiteouts. During that drive, I expressed my undying love for GPS. I don’t know who came up with the innovative, cool idea or who took the idea and made it happen, but I love them all. And, whoever thought they would ever actually make a car that could parallel park itself? I don’t need it, as I happen to be an excellent parallel parker. But I’m grateful to those who came up with the idea and those who made it happen. Now everyone will be able to parallel park as well as me and city street parking will be much more orderly.


Here are some thought starters to get your motor running:

  1. What about translating speech to other languages in real time? This was an idea posed by my colleague. Think of it. When a caller speaks Spanish, Mandarin, German, it will automatically be translated to the language you choose. Very cool. Wish I had thought of it myself.
  2. Today, with speech analytics, we can word spot keywords and phrases for servicerelated and competitive purposes. What else can we do with speech analytics? What about marrying it to WFM and having it tell us what to do next instead of letting us figure it out? Am I on to something?
  3. Surely the agent desktops could use some cool technology. There are loads of opportunities for more coolness there. I’m drawing a blank here. What are your ideas?
  4. How about supervisor’s aprons (need a cooler name, of course) that display their team stats? They could just look down and have their finger on the pulse of all the information they need. Thin, lightweight. So much easier than being tied to their desktop or wallboard monitors. Even easier than carrying an iPad that you know you’ll put down and forget where you left it. Think about it.
  5. Video kiosks? Have you been to a casino lately? Played blackjack with a life-sized video dealer? Productive, efficient and cool way for casinos take to your money. Surely there’s a lesson for us to learn from the casinos.
  6. IVRs are certainly in need of more coolness. They are still very functional and certainly serve a useful purpose in identifying callers and helping us route calls. Natural language speech is a definite opportunity. What about fingerprints or retinas on an app to authenticate a caller? What else?
  7. I’d really, really like you to get your creative juices flowing around forecasting, planning, scheduling and real-time management. In our multichannel, multisite, multiskilled world, we have multichallenges. Let’s really let our brains loose on what cool technology could harness the multibeast and enable us to restore some harmony and work-life balance in our lives. Maybe with the extra time you could take up yoga, golf or basket weaving. Maybe get to know your kids again.

I’m getting the hang of this and it’s actually a lot more fun than I expected. Try it. I bet you’ll be surprised at how much pent-up creativity you have, too.

– Reprinted with permission from Contact Center Pipeline,

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