Contact centre systems have come a long way in the last 20 years, and with the advent of smartphone technology, we can do business and interact in more ways than ever – sometimes all at the same time. However, many contact centres are still behind when it comes to upgrading their technology, with budget often cited as the main roadblock. But there’s a lot which can be done to improve operations and service levels on a limited budget, if you have the right technology as your foundation to begin with.
You may be familiar with the philosophy of ’continuous incremental improvement‘, aka ‘kaizen’.
Kaizen: a Japanese term meaning ’improvement‘ or ’change‘. In a business context, it refers to the idea that everyone – from frontline staff right through to the CEO – is actively engaged in improving the organisation’s performance by making ongoing improvements to processes, policies and systems.
The term came into our consciousness as an approach to life and business, we can also apply it to technology-based systems. In fact, the idea of kaizen fits beautifully within the contact centre realm, and its fast-paced evolution as new technologies continually come into play.
By building on and adapting your existing systems – developing the things that work well; ironing out the things that don’t – you’ll boost your brand, your team’s productivity, and create an experience your customers will remember for all the right reasons.
A kaizen contact centre
All change starts simply. If you’re thinking of applying the principles of kaizen to your contact centre, the first step is to ask your staff and customers for their ideas on where things could improve. Once you have that first round of input, it’s important bring changes in gradually – remember, kaizen is a philosophy of continuous improvement, so it must be sustainable over the longer term. You need to be able to continue business as usual – maintaining your customer service standards – as you develop, improve and upgrade.
Recently, we posted tips from our CEO Sol Rabinowicz on contact centre strategic management, in which he extolled the virtues of three key principles. You can apply each of these principles into your planning and consultation process as you start your contact centre modernisation journey.
- Avoid solving a problem with a bigger problem – in this case, you may be overdue to modernise your contact centre, but if you change too much too fast without thinking about the consequences for your customers, you and your team could wind up dealing with a bigger headache on your hands.
- Don’t get caught up in the hype of new technologies and methods – think about what your staff, your customers, and your business need, before getting carried away by the Next Big Thing.
- Keep it simple – all complex systems start from humble beginnings, evolving over time to get to where they are. Your contact centre is a complex interplay of people and technology, inside your business and out of it. If you’re striving to make improvements that will enhance everyone’s experience, you need to allow for trial and error, time for your staff and customers to adjust as your contact centre evolves towards its end goals.
A place for voice calls
While you and your team may be exploring new avenues in contact centre technology, be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water: Voice is still an important part of contact centre service, and building strong customer relationships.
According to Capterra, in a survey of customers in the US, phone was the chosen channel for most calls, ahead of email, face-to-face, live chat, mobile app, self-service, search engine, social media, online community, text message or chatbot. (And looking at that long list of alternatives gives a small hint as to why that might be.)
The same survey showed respondents’ primary pet peeves with customer support were:
- getting only an automated phone service or IVR;
- not being able to talk with a live person.
Customers clearly want to have the option to talk to someone to help resolve their issue.
A modernised contact centre isn’t just about tech tools like apps and bots. It still needs to have that human touch to create a positive, differentiated customer experience. So while customers may expect to have more control over how they get in touch with you, they still need to know you’re there for them when they need to discuss a specific or more complex problem.
Good, better, best
Your contact centre does not need to offer an exhaustive list of options for customers to engage with you, because the “what” is not as important as the “how”.
Take a closer look at your existing systems and speak with your staff and customers about what works well, and what problems they encounter. Ask them for ideas and suggestions as a way of gaining some insight into what area you could target for improvement first. This kind of engagement will boost your brand image with your staff, who’ll be more motivated at work, as well as with your customers, who’ll feel they’re being heard.
The aim is to improve the customer experience, without compromising current service standards; without introducing unnecessary disruptions to your business; and without blowing your budget.
As computing power and technology advance, people’s service expectations grow exponentially, and the customer experience becomes a leading differentiator in the marketplace.
Keeping up is vital to remaining competitive, but it needn’t be an onerous process that ends up becoming bigger than Ben Hur. Avoid making change for change’s sake. Stay connected with your customers, and introduce change that will add value for them. You’ll still be keeping pace with the market, while building a solid reputation with your customers, your staff, and your business partners.