Look beyond the technology in contact centers

StartupCamp Telephony co-founder and Bay Area emerging communications strategist Larry Lisser has a good post, “Contact Center Conundrum,” about the most challenging task facing contact centers: adequately servicing customers to their satisfaction. Years of whizzbang communications technologies may have increased efficiency, but not customer satisfaction. And the cost savings from business process outsourcing didn’t translate into happier customers either.

Yeah, there’s definitely something wrong. In Larry’s own words:

For one, many companies have outsourced, or shipped overseas, portions of their contact center environment. This results in disparate systems, platforms and processes that are not easily synchronized. And to begin with, contact centers are beasts that have been built over time – often in pieces – so getting systems to talk nicely with one another is a full time job. If even possible.

Furthermore, there are silos in the contact center decision making process. Operational types actually run the centers, Web teams run what happens on the Web, and Marketing, while sensitive to how the contact center impacts customer relationships, has little say in the operation of it. Yet increasingly, the innovation coming from new and older companies alike now delivers features, functionality and value propositions directed at all three of these stakeholders. Imagine for a moment the sales process. My sentiments, exactly.

Perhaps most telling from this study is that integration and interoperability between systems remains – if maybe indirectly – the single biggest roadblock to the adoption of modern forms of customer interaction. We’re all too familiar with the dreaded…’Please give me your account number’…only seconds after you entered it into an IVR. Well, this very same issue is now haunting the evolution of multi-channel communications.

Reminds me of a story I saw on TV once about the dabbawala of India. These are people who ride bicycles during the day to collect lunches from families to then deliver them to the respective office workers. Highly analog, nothing fancy. But here’s the impressive part:

In 2002, Forbes Magazine found its reliability to be that of a six sigma standard.[4]

More than 175,000 or 200,000 lunch boxes get moved every day by an estimated 4,500 to 5,000 dabbawalas, all with an extremely small nominal fee and with utmost punctuality. According to a recent survey, they make less than one mistake in every 16 million deliveries, which makes it a Six Sigma (99.9999% error-free) organization[5]

Indeed, it’s not always about the technology.

In fact, it’s more about the people, isn’t it?


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