The contact center is the heartbeat of an organization’s CRM. It’s also an area where contact center technology can lag and daily operations function on outdated customer service technology.
The problem is that a major contact center technology overhaul is an expensive and overwhelming project to tackle. Some organizations even go so far as to hire a specialized IT team and pay extra in fees -- over a period of years -- to support a legacy system instead of upgrading.
For contact center management one big question is, When is the right time to overhaul contact center technology?
If an organization hasn’t upgraded since the Y2K “scare,” or if the system no longer meets current business needs, then it’s time to evaluate the current system and plan a contact center technology overhaul.
Key indication a technology overhaul is needed
The first key indication that a contact center needs a technology overhaul to modernize and enhance customer services is when an organization can no longer meet its business needs.
Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting LLC and author of The Real-Time Contact Center, says that organizations typically stick with a system until they reach the point where the organization is literally unable to meet its obligations.
“The first thing to look at is what your business needs are. With new technology in the marketplace there are thousands of features and functions out there, but determine what you need first,” she explained.
The tipping point for most contact centers is the age of the system. If the contact center equipment is younger than five years old, a technology overhaul to expand business services usually wouldn’t be considered until the equipment was depreciated.
Common contact center upgrade scenarios
A number of common scenarios may require a contact center to change systems and applications. Some situations involve equipment or application upgrades, while others entail a complete technology overhaul.
One situation is when a voice-only contact center wants to expand to a universal queue. In this case, a technology overhaul is often required as older voice-only solutions don’t support customer routing and queuing functions for email, chat and Web self-service.
Sheila McGee-Smith, president and principal analyst for McGee-Smith Analytics LLC, said that another good reason for a technology overhaul is when the cost of maintaining contact center equipment is no longer feasible.
Running a contact center on aged equipment is expensive. Older solutions typically run on operating systems and applications that vendors no longer support. Often, organizations need to hire specialized IT staff and programmers to manage daily customer service operations.
“Contact centers pay through the nose to maintain systems that vendors no longer support,” McGee-Smith said. “Many of these costs can be eliminated with a contact center technology upgrade,” she said.
How to make the case for a technology overhaul
Realizing the contact center technology needs an overhaul is only part of the battle. Contact center managers also need to convince decision-making executives within the organization that this costly and potentially lengthy project is necessary.
McGee-Smith said there are a number of ways to make the case for a technology overhaul. A good place for contact center managers to start is with vendor ROI tools.
“Key vendors in this space have developed ROI tools and will sit down with contact center management and work through the return on investment,” McGee-Smith noted.
In using these tools, companies need to start with a certain set of assumptions and then vary those assumptions based on their own business considerations.
For example, if a contact center solution is expected to produce a 20% increase on self-service conversions, but the customers are less sophisticated, companies may want to revise that to a 10% improvement rate instead.
Any ROI tool used to calculate the benefits and cost of a technology overhaul needs to have this type of flexibility and allow for changes on key parameters to best match business expectations.
McGee-Smith recommends making the case for a technology overhaul with a self-funded roadmap. This methodology requires that organizations gather data on existing expenditures (e.g., trunks, equipment and operational expenses) and then analyze trends, usage, redundancies and unused resources. This data helps in the design of the architecture and plan to implement the solution.
A self-funded roadmap, according to McGee-Smith, is the best way for contact center managers to build the case to show the benefits from a contact center technology overhaul.
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