The HotLine Magazine Archives
For The Profession of Cloud/SaaS Product Support
By Mikael Blaisdell

An important moment in each new customer contact center assessment project happens when the client’s senior management team is shown that establishing and running an effective customer contact center is a matter of Strategy, Process(/Workflow), People and Technology — and the crucial aspect is the alignment of these elements into a smoothly functioning profitability engine. The center’s chances for success are highly dependent upon decisions made from above, well outside the boundaries of the operation itself. The whole of the center, in turn, reveals a lot about the company which built it and how its leaders truly regard their customers.  What is your center saying about you?

Unfortunately, in too many companies, misalignment of these elements from either inappropriate executive decisions or neglect produces an expensive chaos within the contact center and dissatisfied/lost customers on the outside. Typically, whatever beneficial results that are produced in spite of the disarray are solely due to the individual employees of the center, succeeding by going above and beyond their duties. The problem is that extraordinary efforts, by their nature, are not sustainable, and sooner or later, those employees will burn out and leave, taking their skills and precious knowledge of customers and products with them. Those are substantial losses that threaten the company’s long term viability and success.

Here’s what the picture should look like.

The Pieces of the Puzzle

Strategy is the beginning point, and includes such matters as the company’s definition of its products (are you selling a box or a relationship over time?), where and how the bulk of the profits are to be realized, who “owns” the customer relationship, whether the company is more focused on making new sales or on selling into the base of existing customers, etc.

Process is about which access channels for incoming service requests are to be offered (phone, e-mail, web, chat), the workflow/routing of cases through the channels, prioritization, escalation, reporting and so on.

People covers both the organizational deployment of the various departments and skill-sets, and the training and management of the individuals themselves.

Technology, and the metrics it provides, supports the other three elements and their alignment. It also builds and maintains a wealth of data about the customers and the interactions of the center.

The BreakthroughIf the Strategy is well thought-out and communicated properly, it should drive most, if not all, of the Process decisions. From that beginning, the organizational deployment of the team and the building of their knowledge inventory may be directed. Decisions about which technological tools to install and how to use them are also largely dependent upon the framework thus established.

Companies who want to turn misaligned and inefficient customer contact centers into tuned, powerful and competitive machines are invited to start by taking a serious look at the elements of their operation and their alignment.

May 1, 2007