Digital transformation is a constant requirement for many industries today. Look around and it’s clear that almost every industry is being reshaped because of changes in how customers communicate and technologies such as the mobile Internet. But in this environment of constant external change how do you manage change within your organisation? I’m going to explore this question of change management and digital transformation over a series of four articles, starting with this one.
Consultants used to talk about the “future state”. This was how you wanted your company to look or operate. Transformation was all about defining this future state and then working backwards to the present day. All the required steps could be planned and a project plan created.
This was certainly true in the contact center environment. The contact center used to be a far more simple operation than it is today. Defining how to change or improve a contact center was largely focused on increasing or decreasing the number of agents and upgrades to the systems being used.
However, in the past few years the customer journey itself has dramatically changed. Customers used to learn about a product thanks to the efforts of your marketing team. They would engage with the sales team and only after a purchase would there ever be a reason to contact the customer service contact center. Now customers engage brands with questions and conversation at all stages in the journey from awareness to post-purchase. Customers form a genuine relationship with brands.
So the very function of a contact centre has been transformed by customer expectations. In addition, the number of channels that customers use to communicate with brands has exploded. Customers now expect to access your brand 24/7 using the channel they prefer – and they want to be able to hop from one to another. Starting an interaction by email, but then continuing it by telephone or Facebook.
In this fast-moving environment it’s difficult to even consider the old consultant model of the future state – who knows what customers will expect from you next year? It’s better to break down the business and plan for the attributes your contact centre will need. I’d suggest that there are five key areas that can be managed within a framework:
1. Skills: your agents need to be much more highly skilled today. They need sales and marketing expertise in addition to product knowledge and communication skills. They are no longer just answering post-purchase phone calls – they are the face of the brand on every social network in addition to speaking with your customers everyday.
2. Communication: you need to create a framework that allows new channels to be introduced easily. Communication channel preferences are constantly evolving so you cannot fix the contact centre on what works today.
3. Process: many existing contact centre processes are designed around managing groups of agents on phones. Think about how you can create a more flexible environment that works for any type of communication.
4. Technology: Customer expectations mean that hi-tech systems today are outdated tomorrow. You cannot constantly install new technology, but you need the flexibility to be able to change, rather than locking down your technology for years.
5. Metrics: every contact centre needs to measure performance for monitoring and billing, but in this more complex environment all those metrics that worked in the old contact centre may no longer be relevant. For example, First Contact Resolution works as a measure for voice calls, but is meaningless on Twitter.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be exploring these questions of change management with a focus on moving from a traditional to a digital contact centre. Moving from A to B may not be a direct path in such a complex environment, but as I have highlighted in this initial article, there are areas where frameworks can be created that allow change to take place in a controlled way.