If you've worked in the corporate world for a while, you probably know that the budgeting process can be frustrating. A friend of mine lamented recently that the funding for his contact center digital transformation initiative was trumped by a new in-house project management tool.
With the funds diverted to another aspect of the business, the contact center had to go at least another year without real-time data from its legacy automatic call distribution (ACD). It also meant his operation couldn't meet customer demands for self-service, seamless omnichannel experiences, digital interactions, and more.
When he was done venting, I told my friend what I'm about to share with you.
Some business leaders still view contact centers as high-cost and are reluctant to invest in new contact center technology. They may still think of contact centers as "break-fix" operations, not realizing that they have conversely become the hub for building stronger relationships with customers by delivering satisfying customer experiences.
A best practice for successful contact centers is to educate business leaders on the contact center's elevated role within a business, which is part of technology investment approval. An equally important part is developing a compelling business case for investing in technology that aligns with even the most skeptical CFO’s budget parameters.
Company executives act as stewards of the business's capital. When it comes to expenditures and investing, they typically approach them from a "biggest bang for the buck" situation, which can be tricky to navigate. Modernizing your contact center technology can produce plenty of "bang," but it helps to determine the key benefits of investing in innovative technology and package them in a way business leaders can understand and appreciate them.
The building blocks of a contact center investment business case
Has a child or teenager ever asked you for money with little to no explanation; in other words, "just because?" Most parents are quick to respond with questions of their own: “What is it for?”, “Are you willing to earn it?”, or “Why do you want to spend money on that?”
Parents probe to get more facts from their kids so they can make an informed decision about handing money over. Similarly, business executives expect to receive facts to make decisions about your technology investment request, but unlike a child or teenager’s lack of foresight, you shouldn't make them probe for the information. Clearly layout in your business case. Justifications like, "our current technology is old and clunky" won't fly. Business leaders want to see a multi-year profit and loss (P&L) statement for your initiative that includes tangible benefits and calculated numbers.
A good P&L statement alone may not be enough to convince executives to allocate funds. You also need to tell a good story that illustrates the need for the new contact center technology. Contact center leaders should be able to:
- Articulate the current problem(s)
- Explain how the new technology will solve the problem(s)
- Show the financial benefits of the solution, which ought to outweigh the financial investment
- Align the investment to the organization’s strategic goals
Let's say you're pitching a contact center technology investment business case to your CFO. It helps to document the business case in an easy-to-digest executive summary consisting of a no more than 10-slide presentation, or a few-page report. Here’s an example below.
Current problem: "Sharon, I understand you have some questions about my funding request. Let me give you some background. Do you remember when, several months ago, you asked me for a report that showed weekly voice, chat, and email volume for the previous year? You also wanted average speed to answer, average handle times, and abandon rates on that report. Believe it or not, that took one of my supervisors ten hours to assemble; far too long.
“I have a problem getting good management data from my contact center systems. As you know, contact centers are fast-paced operations and need to be managed closely. Real-time reporting enables contact center leaders to ensure customers are quickly taken care of and that we're optimizing agent capacity. But I don't have the real-time, consolidated reporting I need to effectively manage my contact center. This negatively impacts customer satisfaction, labor costs, and problem management."
The solution: “I propose investing in two new applications to address these problems: a new ACD and reporting software. We've outgrown our old legacy ACD. It doesn't provide real-time information and I frequently need vendor support to get historical data from it or to alter standard ACD reports. In addition to better access to operational data, a modern ACD will also provide us with more routing capabilities. If you recall, not too long ago our biggest customer contacted the CEO because they were upset about their average queue hold time, which stood at around 10 minutes. We risked losing a valuable client because of outdated technology. That scenario will never happen again with a new ACD because we can give our VIP customers priority routing.
“New reporting software will provide flexibility and a consolidated view of operations. We can customize our own reports, which means that the ten-hour reporting task you gave us should be reduced to minutes. And did you know that the CEO recently asked us to begin supporting text messaging? As we add more service channels, it becomes increasingly important that we have a consolidated view of how all our channels are performing."
The benefits: "The good thing, Sharon, is that these new technology investments should quickly pay for themselves. I'm estimating the following financial return:
- Reduced labor costs due to better management - $X
- Increased customer retention due to higher customer satisfaction - $X
- Increased customer share of wallet due to higher customer satisfaction - $X
- Reduced volume due to better problem resolution - $X
- Labor dollars saved by not creating manual reports - $X
- Cost savings from elimination of legacy system support - $X
“Additionally, the new corporate CX team wants some of our data for customer journey mapping and these new systems would make it much easier to provide that data on an ongoing basis. From what I understand, you are one of the executive sponsors of the customer journey mapping initiative, correct?"
When you give a presentation or present an easy-to-digest report of a formalized business case, telling a good story that accurately and vividly paints a picture that helps keep the audience's attention and emphasizes specific pain points is important. But be sure to follow your story with some tangible benefits.
The heavy hitters in the contact center technology investment game
Getting your business case approved isn't only vital for the improvement of your operations; it will have a far-reaching impact on most touchpoints along the customer journey. In other words, the full business bottom line is at stake.
As consumer preferences shift toward digital customer service, businesses can meet expectations by implementing flexible, digital-first CX platforms, which is key to staying relevant and successful. When campaigning for funds, a detailed set of specific benefits of these platforms will resonate most with decision-makers.
Now let’s cover the top three things to include when making the case for contact center technology investments.
1. Reduce the cost of contact center interactions through customer journey orchestration
A unified CX platform that enables automation and self-service and streamlines every interaction reduces your cost per contact in every channel. To gauge the opportunity for your business case, it's helpful to benchmark against industry cost per contact averages. Through extensive research, ContactBabel calculated the following costs per contact by channel in their Inner Circle Guide to Omnichannel.
How do your costs compare? Is there room for improvement?
Imagine the cost savings if you moved just 10% of your agent-assisted volume (voice, chat, etc.) to automated self-service channels.
Let's do a simple calculation. If your contact center handles 300k voice interactions a year at an average cost per contact of $7.46, your total cost is $2,238,000. Now assume you're able to move 10% (30k) of those voice interactions to IVR self-service.
Your new total cost would be (270k * $7.46) + (30k * $.50) = $2,029,200. The difference, $208,800, is a tangible cost savings that should get your CFO's attention.
A unified CX platform makes these kinds of savings possible because they offer effective self-service capabilities such as conversational IVRs and chatbots. An industry-leading conversational IVR empowers your customers to solve their own problems by speaking naturally about their issues and needs. Chatbots facilitate similar outcomes for web, social media, and mobile app customers.
But journey orchestration and optimization aren't just about self-service. Some of the other applications that can help you improve CX and streamline interactions include:
- Automatic call distributor (ACD). A good ACD helps improve agent productivity by correctly routing interactions on the first attempt. This means agents won't have to waste time transferring misrouted contacts or putting customers on hold while they figure out how to help them. Squeezing inefficiencies out of agents' activities will yield significant financial benefits.
- AI routing. AI routing makes an ACD even more effective by matching customers to agents based on factors such as personality and preferences. This level of personalization enhances CX, and the increased likelihood of customers and agents understanding each other could lead to shorter handle times.
- Predictive dialer. For contact centers that conduct a lot of outbound campaigns, a predictive dialer is a must-have. Predictive dialers predict when agents will become available and begin dialing before current interactions are done. This maximizes agent productivity, increases revenue, and can reduce cost per call.
Reducing interaction costs through customer journey orchestration should be a prominent part of your business case benefits. Check out the eBook Cultivating a future-proof customer journey strategy to learn how to optimize every journey touchpoint in your favor.
2. Increase contact center revenue through greater customer satisfaction
If you have an outdated, on-premises contact center solution, you know that it’s sometimes a bumpy ride for your customers. Do any of these complaints ring a bell?
- "Your agent didn't know the make and model of the expensive appliance I bought from you last month."
- "I had to repeat my issue over and over again as I was transferred to multiple agents."
- "I had to wait forever to talk to an agent. My previous bank gave me the option to have an agent call me when they were available."
- "Why didn't you respond to the comment I made on your Facebook post?"
Today's consumers are customer service savvy. They do business with many organizations and can easily tell bad service from good. When your legacy contact center technology creates friction within the customer journey, it leads to lower customer satisfaction.
Avoiding revenue loss can be one of the benefits in your business case. But the benefits don't stop with reducing customer churn. Highly satisfied customers are likely to purchase more products and services from you. And they'll recommend your business to friends and family members. Revenue from increased customer lifetime value (CLV) and new business should be distinct business case benefits.
Deeply satisfying interactions require an industry-leading CX platform that can deliver smooth, end-to-end journeys. When researching your upgrade options, look for the following capabilities.
- Artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence fuels many modern contact center applications, and businesses leverage AI to improve CX. AI ensures your customers don't have to wait too long in the queue, makes agents more effective and empathetic, and quickly spotlights emerging problems. Ultimately, AI helps eliminate the friction that leaves customers dissatisfied. To drive your point home, show your decision-makers the Deloitte study that found that “73% of executives said they are pursuing intelligent automation for their business, up from 58% in 2019.”
- Interaction analytics. Interaction analytics software is a team of data analysts, QA specialists, and supervisors all rolled up into one powerful, easy-to-use tool. It leverages AI to analyze every interaction from every channel, and its output can be used to determine customer sentiment, identify training and quality opportunities, and determine contact drivers and trends. Interaction analytics empowers contact center leaders to proactively manage factors that impact customer satisfaction.
- Reporting. Speaking of proactive management, contact centers are rich with data, and business leaders need accurate, flexible reporting tools that transform that data into actionable insights. Good reporting tools let users design their own reports and come with a multitude of out-of-the-box reports. Reporting software easily consumes data from other systems to provide a more consolidated view of performance.
- Omnichannel routing. If you support both voice and digital channels and don't use omnichannel routing, your customers might face some rough transitions when they try to move across channels. Omnichannel routing effectively eliminates the need for customers to repeat themselves, improving customer satisfaction and experience. Added bonus: it also improves the utilization of your multichannel agents.
- Customer surveys. When you include benefits in your business case, you're essentially "signing up for them," which means you need a way to measure outcomes. Customer survey software allows you to measure customer satisfaction anytime in any channel. This capability enables you to determine if your technology has the expected impact. The survey tools can also be used to proactively manage other KPIs, such as Net Promoter Scores and customer effort scores.
Executives who still think of your contact center as a cost center will be pleasantly surprised to learn that you can generate more revenue for the business with a few well-executed strategies.
3. Prevent high agent attrition and promote engagement with better contact center technology
You know agent attrition is painful and expensive, but have you ever put pen to paper and calculated how much it costs to replace an agent? McKinsey estimates that agent attrition costs as much as $10k - $20k per agent. Even if you can keep a handful of agents from turnover each year, those savings will quickly add up and help justify your technology investment.
Modern contact center technology improves agent engagement and reduces attrition. It provides a better overall experience using state-of-the-art systems in place of outdated software.
Aside from the general user experience, there are many software features that improve agent engagement by giving them more control of individual performance and work schedules, providing more development and coaching, and ensuring workload is steady but not overwhelming.
Let's discuss some of these engagement-improving capabilities.
- Workforce management. Workforce management software is essential to agent engagement. This is the tool that ensures workloads are balanced across agents so specific agent teams don't suffer from burnout. Additionally, good workforce management software allows agents to view their schedules and request adjustments through features such as shift swapping and shift bidding. In addition to agent engagement, workforce management applications help better manage labor costs, another benefit you can include in your business case.
- Quality management analytics. Successful contact center agents value constructive feedback because they want to improve their job performance. When you have AI-powered quality management analytics, you can provide agents with more targeted feedback and training. Agents will appreciate the opportunity to improve.
- Real-time interaction guidance. Real-time interaction guidance provides additional coaching while interactions are happening. The software leverages AI to detect customer sentiment and then coaches agents on soft skills that can improve customer satisfaction. Agents should find the additional coaching engaging, especially when they see their improved CSAT scores.
- Performance management. Performance management software provides perpetual data that allows for real-time visibility and continuous agent and process improvement. Working with such intuitive dashboards, contact center supervisors and management gain much more insight into agent performance and can create customizable KPIs for agent satisfaction, which leads to increased customer satisfaction.
Improving employee engagement is a great way to increase agent retention. Additionally, engaged employees will put in extra effort to help you meet your organizational goals, so you should also see a bump in your KPIs, including customer satisfaction.
Yet another crucial facet of agent retention: training and onboarding. Agents cannot yield beneficial output if they are ill-equipped to handle escalation and complex interactions from the outset. Sufficient onboarding and subsequent ongoing training allow agents to be thoroughly versed in your contact center platform and leads to much longer tenure at the organization.
With all of this information in mind, are you ready to make your case for new contact center technology? You can learn more about building the best business case from the on-demand webinar Cloud Contact Center Solutions: Building a Business Case.
What’s next? Put your contact center technology initiative in motion
Gaining approval for your contact center technology business case isn't an impossible mountain to climb. In fact, Gartner found that “70 percent [of CFOs] intend to increase their spending on information technology” in 2021, so your business leaders may already be primed to invest. But gaining funding requires due diligence, a compelling story, and tangible financial benefits. A modern CX platform can help you reduce costs, increase revenue, and improve agent retention. Quantify these benefits to create a case your business leaders can't say "no" to.
Other contact centers are upgrading their technology to keep up with customer and competitive demands. To get a more macro view of technology investments, download the complimentary ContactBabel report, State of Contact Center Transformation in the New Digital World. Get started on your digital transformation today!
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