A contact center consultant recommends changes in People, Process, Technology and Methodology as CX assessment; to implement transformation, a call center needs to commit to actions.

By Peg Ayers

The decision to engage a contact center consultant is not made lightly.  Discussions may take place over weeks, months or even years, identifying problems in need of solutions, perhaps trying ideas that don’t solve those problems, and eventually deciding experts are needed.  Here at ApexCX, for example, we are often called in to complete Strategic Assessments, where we analyze all aspects of a contact center and make a significant number of transformational recommendations within our four pillars of People, Process, Technology and Methodology.  When we present our findings to senior leadership, they are always enthused about the depth and detail we provide, and they are anxious to move forward.  All are optimistic as we conclude our engagement.

Sometimes, though, we get another call, perhaps a year or two later, asking for us to return because things haven’t turned out as well as hoped.  Of course, many transformation initiatives fail. In fact, research from McKinsey and Company shows that 70% of all transformations fail.  We’re happy to do this, of course, but disappointed that the roadmap we provided did not produce the results we envisioned.  When we return, we find that the problem was not the roadmap, but the execution of the plans we’d made together with the organization.

We’ve found four main reasons for long-term lack of success after a consulting engagement:

  • Lack of Knowledge
  • Lack of Money
  • Lack of Engagement
  • Lack of Ongoing Support

Lack of Knowledge

One reason a contact center organization calls us for help is that they simply don’t know what to do next.  We provide detailed recommendations in an extensive report, and they almost always include a training component.  Recommended training may be contact center leadership training, technical training (often provided by the vendor) for platforms and applications used in the center, basic supervisory training, or another type of training that fits that contact center’s need.  If this training does not take place, it is nearly impossible for the current staff to implement our other recommendations.

We also see that while we have a provided detailed recommendations and roadmap and discussed the implementation of the recommendations, the center leadership often confronts nuances and unexpected elements during execution that fall outside of their knowledge and training. This is a ‘devil in the details’ challenge. The tendency here is often to ’wing-it’ and rely on the omniscient knowledge of Google to solve the problem. Unfortunately, this approach is seldom successful.

Lack of Money

When contact center consultants are engaged by senior leaders, those leaders are invested in the result—they want success in the contact center and are willing to pay experts to provide guidance.  While many of our recommendations can be done for no or minimal cost, we sometimes recommend investment in technology or training that will cost money.  We always provide justification that shows the benefit of each investment.  If senior leaders walk away from the final presentation and then fail to invest in the contact center, some initiatives on the roadmap may not be funded, and this may lead to failure for those initiatives and others.

Lack of Engagement

It’s not uncommon for senior leaders to engage consultants without total buy-in from contact center leadership.    The contact center may believe they know exactly what to do, but they lack money and support to make it happen.  They often believe there’s no way somebody who doesn’t know their specific business can come in and figure anything out at all, much less make reasonable, actionable, and useful recommendations.  These people are usually won over quickly, once they see the consultants are listening and working respectfully with them.  They begin to realize that many contact center issues are universal, and they are not the only ones.  And they notice that the consultants have the ears of senior leadership, which may get them the money and support they’ve been wanting.  By the time of the final report, then, contact center leadership and the consultants are aligned.  Once the consultants are gone, though, contact center leadership may revert to old habits rather than work the plan as agreed.  Without the support of the consultants, it’s easy to get confused about specifics of the plan, or implement parts incorrectly, or out of sequence, with poor results.  This leads to a lack of engagement on the part of the contact center leaders and a tendency to write off the remaining recommendations. This situation can be further compounded by senior leadership that feels that, once the consultant’s report and roadmap are in hand, they can move on to the next challenge, confident (rightly or wrongly) that their contact center leadership will execute the plan.

Lack of Ongoing Support

While working with the consultants, contact center leaders are supported and encouraged.  Regular meetings uncover information that leads to informed conclusions and recommendations.  Leaders can call and email to ask questions and seek clarification.  When the consultants leave, contact center leaders are again on their own, and this may lead to discouragement which may cause new initiatives to fail, or not to be tried at all.

What to do?

Having invested in bringing in contact center experts, senior leadership should also be invested in long-term success for the center.  Our most successful clients have benefited from the following:

  • Initial and Ongoing Training
  • Regular Follow-Up Discussions
  • Long-term Mentorship

Initial and Ongoing Training

Lack of training is often the biggest issue confronting a contact center that is failing short of expectations.  Investing in training will pay dividends to the organization and must be seen that way:  as an investment and not an expense.  Hiring and replacing employees is one of the biggest costs in a contact center.  Our calculations for a variety of clients have added up to several thousand dollars per new hire.  Well trained contact center leaders, especially supervisors, will increase employee engagement, retention, productivity and quality, creating significant savings for the organization.

Regular Follow-Up Discussions

Senior leaders and contact center leaders should plan to meet with the consultants by phone on a regular monthly or quarterly basis, to discuss how the plan is being implemented and any roadblocks that have appeared.  This helps to address problems while they’re still small and, while it can happen at no cost to the organization, it can save significant time, money, and frustration.  This will encourage senior leaders to invest the money they need to into the contact center organization and to stay aligned with the objectives.

Long-term Mentorship

Contact center leaders need support as they embark on new initiatives and implement recommendations.  In many organizations the contact center leaders are the only contact center professionals in the organization. There are no internal mentors they can look to for contact center or customer care and support guidance. Placing a consultant on retainer for a specified number of hours per month keeps them handy for questions, allows them to hold regular training sessions, and gives the contact center leaders the support and expert knowledge they need to attain their goals.  Some of our clients have described this approach as a ‘part-time’ Chief Customer Officer’, the ‘Easy Button’ or the ‘bat-phone’, as they can get expert counsel from a professional knowledgeable about their center organization and their specific roadmap, goals and objectives.

Set Up for Success

Initial engagements with contact center consultants occur to solve specific contact center problems.  They are expected to lead to long-term success.  By seeing training as an investment, following up regularly with the consultants and entering a long-term mentorship arrangement, the organization can create that ongoing success, long after the initial engagement has concluded.

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(Mar 8, 2021)