Build a Contact Center for the New Digital Era
After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
- Identify the components of your digital strategic roadmap.
- Build a shortlist of technology vendors.
- Manage vendor relationships.
In the contact center you have to have a much broader view into the changing consumer landscape. A big part of your job is to understand the customer service industry because, as a leader, the rest of your organization is turning to you for those insights.
Setting a strategic roadmap for your teams and for your business is one of the most critical things you can do as a leader. It defines your vision for the future and your long-term plan. Your employees will appreciate you as a leader if you’ve planned for years to come.
To create a strategic plan, there are some basic questions you need to answer first. As a leader, you have to decide what evolving technologies are needed to help the business achieve its long-term goals. Evaluate the demand for that technology and assess how that might evolve in the coming years. Determine what new products will come into play. Once you have a good understanding of these things, you can build your strategic plan.
Now it’s time to consider staffing when crafting your strategic plan. Think about seasonal fluctuations in demand, and what that means for resources. If you want to scale, you’ve got to ensure you’ve got the right people in place. Also look at mergers and acquisitions planned for the future. Consider regulatory changes that are coming and how those changes affect your clients or third-parties. Then really think about competition. Who are the new competitors that are coming into the market?
We’ve talked about demand; now what you need to do next is align that with your projected supply. Start by listing the different costs associated with supporting your long-range business plan, then review your projected resources. Doing this allows you and your team to spot any existing gaps. If you come with solutions in hand, you’re on your way to creating a solid strategic plan.
Your strategic roadmap will come into play anytime you need to get buy-in or investment in your projects and ideas. Being a good leader means you’re able to articulate how your team’s needs fit into the company’s overall business value.
Gone are the days where service agents are handling customers by phone or email; the contact center is now a hub of real-time problem solving via chat, video, and text. That means, as the leader, you must remain one step ahead of the latest technologies to ensure you’re creating an optimal customer experience.
One way to do this: Build a shortlist of technology vendors now.
When you're choosing a technology supplier, make sure they understand your long-term vision for your team (again, this is where the strategic roadmap comes in handy) and what you want to accomplish in the next three to five years. Make sure they can articulate how their technology will map to your business needs and challenges.
Here’s what you need to ask yourself when building a list of vendors:
- Do their capabilities map to our strategic plan?
- Can they solve more than one challenge?
- How easy is it to build on our platform?
- How easy is it to integrate into our existing applications?
- What's the cost of integrating with our existing applications?
- How complicated will the integration be?
- What kind of support will we get?
- Will we be able to escalate issues when something go wrong?
- What kind of product innovation and thought leadership will they provide?
- What are penalties and the warranties in the SLAs?
- Can this company actually compensate us when something goes wrong?
If you’ve taken the time to understand your own requirements, building a shortlist of vendors should flow pretty easily. The most critical thing is to make sure decisions are based on future demand. You want to make sure that you do it right the first time. The cheapest solution becomes very expensive if the vendor isn’t adaptable.
New technology vendors can be some of your greatest partners because they're the ones that push you to think about your future needs. Where's the technology moving? Where are the investments happening in the industry? Once you've got your technology partners, how do you create a strategic partnership? When you're a leader, you're the one who’s accountable for the overall processes or solution this technology delivers. You need to ensure that you've got a partnership with senior people on the vendor side. If there’s a crisis, you don’t want to be talking to an account manager who doesn’t know you personally or doesn’t view the business relationship as a partnership.
You always want to challenge the technology vendors and even the service providers to integrate with your team and become a strategic partner. Strategic partners should show you how to optimize the technology. The vendor should be able to speak to the innovations that affect your industry.
The last component to a good vendor relationship is having a governance committee that oversees the partnership. That can include procurement, the operations team, and possibly someone from legal or audit. This committee will provide visibility and transparency across the organization. It will keep tabs on how the relationship is going and if everything is done through the proper channels. It also helps you ensure managers aren’t taking kickbacks or anything like that.
Now that you know how to get the perfect vendor relationship in place, you can start thinking about communicating your goals to the C-Suite. In the next unit, you’ll learn about getting agreement and support from other leaders so you can get funding for your goals and realize your vision.