Thoughts after ACCE 2012 Seattle


It was two years ago that I learned about ICMI’s annual ACCE conference and decided to attend the event in New Orleans. It was a refreshing experience — not too crowded, less technology propaganda, more business-oriented sessions, and a decent international flare. Since then I made up my mind to make an annual trek to ACCE, but alas I had to miss it in 2011.

I was glad to be able to go this year and got to also visit Seattle for the first time.

First of all, what a beautiful city. How do you Seattle residents get any work done?! The bustling downtown, the cool bay, the lush mountains, and whenever the sun decides to break through the clouds — the city unveils another dimension of herself to the world, sometimes unknown and unseen even to a native dweller. Starbucks started in this town (the original store is in Pike Place Market), but there are plenty of other notable coffee shops everywhere. Seattle runs on coffee.

Many well known corporations also have headquarters in Seattle and its surrounding area: Amazon.com, Clearwire, Costco, Cray, Expedia, Microsoft, Nintendo of America, Nordstrom, RealNetworks, T-Mobile USA, and Zillow.com… These are just some of the diverse companies based around town.

Okay, enough city envy. What about ACCE?

‘Social’ is here, yet so far away

As with any other conference related to contact centers and customer service, the topic of social media continued to crop up. It was part of a keynote, there were multiple sessions about it, and ICMI encouraged attendees to tweet with the official hashtag #ACCE12. Too bad not many attendees were Twitter-savvy (or intentionally avoid it?), but at least a good number of exhibitors kept an eye on the tweet stream and stayed engaged throughout the event.

Most contact center managers or directors in attendance had social media on their radars. However, many stayed on the poolside still afraid to jump into the water. Either they didn’t know how to swim (how do I use social media?) or they didn’t have a floatation device (what resources do I need to prepare for it?).

Incorporating social media into the contact center is indeed a tricky proposition. In fact, sometimes it could even become a distraction or a trap. Adopting this channel into the contact center definitely requires the same considerations and planning as implementing other channels, like chat and email.

It’s probably a good thing that the majority of people are taking a cautious approach to social media, and not letting vendors any opportunity to stuff it down their throats amid the hype.

People and processes first

We all love cool contact center technologies, but it’s the agents — the people — in the centers who interface with customers. It’s also the processes they follow to serve customers’ needs.

Most often than not the customer could care less about your IVR platform, routing design, and multichannel capabilities. No technology can erase an unpleasant interaction with an agent. (Well, unless somebody invents the memory eraser gadget in Men In Black.) Eight-six percent of consumers will ditch you after just one unpleasant experience (Source: Harris Interactive, Customer Experience Impact Report).

Which is harder: running a small center or a large one?

The Small Call Center Summit was held on the last day of ACCE. It was an opportunity to hear about the pros and cons of managing and operating a small contact center. In attendance were folks who run centers varying from five agents to 50 agents. The challenges of managing a small center may not be unique, but they seem more dire in nature due to the small size and constant struggle for more resources.

Just think: in a contact center with 10 agents, if only two are absent then you’re faced with a 20% reduction in workforce. That spells certain disaster for the day’s service level…

But obviously it’s not easy running a center with 1,000 seats, either. Which do you think is harder?

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