10 Tips for Implementing Innovative Technology into Your Call Center
The pace of the tech evolution is picking up.
If you keep on top of your latest tech solutions (whatever your industry) and are trying to figure out the right product for you, one of the main challenges you have to overcome is identifying a solution that will still be relevant for the next year, or five. You need to navigate your business in the direction that will best balance resources invested versus benefits ripped from innovation.
But finding it is just the beginning. Innovation is worthless without good implementation. Without the right people guiding the organization and providing employees with the necessary training, tools and work procedures that put innovation into proper use, even the best tool will be sitting on the shelf (or hidden on your agent’s dashboard) untouched.
Recent innovation in call centers
Customer Service and CX has been at the epicenter of a whirlwind of innovation that’s still ongoing. And call centers that have had a relatively safe and structured technological infrastructure over the last two decades are now experiencing no less than a technological revolution driven by customer’s demand and an expanding interface with customers.
At the epicenter of customer support sits the contact center, staffed with support agents who have one of the toughest jobs out there – solving customer problems and keeping customers happy. The first priority for a CSA is to be attentive to the person they are speaking to (who is quite often not too happy) and genuinely help them. In addition, the CSA has to deliver on his and his team’s KPIs, stay updated on the company’s offerings, new products, etc. It’s a tall order for anyone.
So it comes as no big surprise that most CSAs have a difficulty adapting new technology. Whether it’s a new CRM and a new dashboard he has to learn, or worse a whole new method of delivering service such as omni-channel, chat first, or augmented visual support which demands an agent learns new scripts and protocols. With so much on an agent’s mind even before change is knocking at his door, it’s no wonder he’d rather continue on autopilot when he can. This tendency is at the heart of the challenge innovative tech companies have to confront when building their products and planning the implementation process.
Taking the first step
What’s the solution? Innovative tech companies and corporate leadership has to build solutions and processes that empower agents to move forward and to step out of their comfort zone for a minute in order for everyone to gain in the long term. In the words of the very wise Lao Tzu, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” For customer service agents that first step is often the toughest.
The journey of digitally transforming your call center is critical to keep your business on track. The first step is crucial and depends on your team’s openness and motivation to help you find the best solution and deliver the best possible service. Below are the ten rules (earned with sweat and blood) you should follow to turn employees into new tech champions.
1 Focus on the Benefits
New technology is worthwhile only if it delivers value, and ideally, it should deliver value on all levels – to your customers, your employees and the company’s bottom line. If this is not the case, you will have significantly more resistance. If this is the case, when you introduce a solution to your team, focus on the benefits for them. What will their lives be like once this solution is successfully implemented. Why is it better for them? Give them a vision to aspire towards. Give them a better future to imagine. Then get specific by making sure your management staff and agents have a clear idea of how a particular tech solution can help by positively impacting the business’ ROI and hopefully the bottom line. You’ll get employees on board faster when they see how it will assist them, making their jobs better and easier.
2 Motivation Starts at the Top
Employees may “fail” to use new tech in the short term but only if the powers that be (i.e., management) allow it and look the other way. Adoption starts with the business’ leaders encouraging use and trickles down to other key personnel like team leaders championing the tech and its benefits. Executives should drive the process while looking to team leaders, who know employees well, to better understand the right methods for encouraging usage.
3 Give It the Attention It Deserves
If you bring new technology into your call center without properly introducing it, you can be sure you’re heading towards failure. That means two things: first, design the proper process for introduction and second assign the right champion to the process – a capable owner that will drive the process and has something at stake. The process needs to include a proper introduction and training as well as ongoing milestones, feedback, sticks and carrots. The champion you pick needs to be dedicated and have a deep understanding of the technology and its benefits, but more importantly, someone that the team relates to and believes in.
4 Find A Very Specific Use Case
To demonstrate how great technology can change the workplace, you need to have a clear use case you can start with. A supervisor should be able to draw a straight line from the technology to the use case without it getting interrupted. This will help everyone in the call center see the value and potential impact. It will also serve as the first ‘must use’ situation for the technology. This goes back to the idea of the first step. You have to implement and get your agents to start using a technology when the trigger is clear, the process is clear, and the desired outcome is clear. Make it as easy as possible for your agents by structuring a clear procedure for them.
5 Start Small, Then Scale
There are few reasons why it’s better to start small and then expand.
- When you start small you have more control and you can chose the most appropriate people to test the change and then lead the change.
- Most of the time you will be limiting your risk by testing a new technology with 10 of your agents as it will cost less and demand less resources than doing so with a 1,000 agents.
- You are bound to make some mistakes in the beginning – choosing the wrong use case, building a procedure that’s less than perfect, missing the KPIs that matter most, or not finding the best way to incentivize your agents. It’s best to get through this learning curve and then have a validated process when you introduce the technology to your complete operation.
6 Technology, Meet the KPIs
Choosing the right KPIs, making the right priorities in cases of conflict between KPIs, and incorporating those insights into your feedback system to your agents is critical to the success of implementing new technology. When bringing in new technology, make sure that the KPIs associated with it are fleshed out. Which KPIs will be affected? What kind of change should you expect to see realistically? How will they be calculated? Where will the data come from and who will be responsible for delivering it? Make sure you have a control group that is valid.
Step back and look at the big picture. Disruptive technologies often affect more than just one department so measuring the overall effect on the organization is important because it is the only KPI that will give you the real value of a new technology. Sometimes a new business procedure will put pressure on one department while alleviating pressure on another one. It is important to identify these possible pitfalls in advance and build compensation packages or strengthen the departments that will suffer to help the company. It is the people who object to change who will be prepared to use this information against you so be prepared to win this potential battle.
7 First Impressions Matter
Everybody speaks about first experience for the customer. It applies to your agents just as much. Your agents have to have a good experience the first time they meet a new technology and the first time they use it with a customer. During the introduction of a new technology control the environment to ensure the experience is positive. During implementation have your tech champions (who we mentioned above) on hand during the first few weeks to reassure employees and assist when necessary. Even if you do everything else right, missing out on this step will mean you have lost the fight with resistant employees, and maybe even others.
8 Easy To Use Equals Happy Agents
When your call center agents are in a room learning how to use this new disruptive technology, it means they are not at their desks doing their jobs. Training your agents as quickly as possible is key to keeping everything and everyone on track. Make sure the system speaks the same language as your agents so they can easily use it. Simplicity, reliability and an intuitive interface are imperative as is a bug-free solution. A revolutionary technology that is not user friendly will fail. We can’t stress this enough – implementation is tough. Make sure the technology itself is as simple to use as humanly possible.
9 Self-Service Support, Training and Tutorials Are Necessary
Just as you provide your customers with a self-service portal that they rely on, your agents will need the same support for any technology they need to work with. Easy support access, in the form of how-to videos, troubleshooting guides, and knowledge bases need to be available for every step of the solution. If you get employees to adopt this new technology and grow to love it, they will take the time (even if it’s 60 or 90 seconds a day ) to learn a new feature or understand how to solve an issue they encounter. And, they will likely share this with teammates. This will ensure continuous engagement and in-depth implementation of the tool. They can learn and improve at their own pace on their own time.
10 Gamify the Workplace
Last but not least help your agents help you. Gamifying is coming up as the way to motivate teams and we’ve seen it succeed again and again. Fun competitions & simple prizes will go a long way with your staff.. Be creative with the process and encourage your agents to share success stories with their teammates. Find catchy tag lines, run a scoreboard, throw a party for everyone when you hit the 1000 successful watchamacallit. Not only will it help with successful implementation, it will get your agents excited about the next implementation.
In an age when change is the only constant, managing change is crucial.
You can’t control it. You don’t know what will work and what won’t. What you can is engage in the best process and do everything you can to test whether a solution works for your company, employees and customers or not.
Preparation is key. Test the waters. Make sure the technology is easy to adjust to and functions in a way that will help agents do their jobs more efficiently. Focus on the technology’s benefits, make it as fun and as easy as possible and remember that some bumps are to be expected. But, if management supports the tech initiative in a way that is palpable, employees will follow.