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How to Win Funding for a Contact Center Improvement Project and Elevate Customer Service
contact center improvement

Good customer service has been shown to produce quantifiable results, from increased repurchases and customer retention to increased advocacy of the brand. Customer service leaders dealing with common contact center challenges know they must invest in modernizing their technology. But securing the budget to do so is a challenge.

To win funding for a contact center improvement project and justify the cost of needed investments, the first step is to create a strong business case that will win buy-in from key stakeholders.

One thing we’ve learned in our 22 years of creating unified customer engagement centers is that the way companies approach customer service generally falls into two categories: CX Focused and Cost Focused.

For your business case to inspire the necessary action, it must also communicate the business benefits of the improvement in language that’s familiar to your organization.

How to Win Buy-in from Key Stakeholders

A 1-point improvement in CX Index scores can help a company increase revenue by $175 million annually, according to Forrester research (Win Funding for your Customer Service Project, February 2019). Organizations are increasingly aware of this and many are investing accordingly. CX-Focused customer service is beginning to take root.

Customer obsession has surpassed efficiency as the primary driver of customer service. A survey of global networks and telecommunications decision makers working in customer service departments found that more respondents rated improving customer experience a critical priority than reducing costs. 

Still, many organizations don’t have a CX strategy, and thus many teams need to work in a cost-savings centric environment. We still work with companies that see the contact center as a cost center first and foremost.

Both kinds of companies exist, and we work with both. 

Below, we’ll walk through the benefits of several different contact center projects and present them in both CX-Focused and Cost-Focused language so you can see the difference.

If Your Organization is CX-Focused

If your organization is CX-Focused, the barometer for success or failure of any contact center initiative will be communicated in CX metrics like Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI or CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Effort Score (CES). 

These “gateway” metrics are linked to corporate financial metrics, and thus a positive impact to CX metrics translates into increased revenue. Movement in CX metrics are directly tied to reciprocal moves in wallet share, repurchase rates, long-term loyalty (reduction in customer churn), etc. 

While CX-Focused organizations see the contact center as a profit center, focusing on improved CX also naturally reduces costs via efficiencies by making things simpler and easier for customers. 

So if your initiative is to introduce a solution that will allow you to add and manage multiple channels, you might frame the CX business benefit in terms of “agent enablement” rather than “agent productivity” which would tend to perk up the ears of a Cost-Focused organization more than a CX-Focused one. 

If you aim to increase visibility into your contact center operations, you might focus on the ability to identify poor customer experiences and problematic agent performances as the primary benefit of analytics rather than lower IT and support costs, even though both are true.

If Your Organization is Cost Focused

If your organization is cost focused, it’s likely trying to contain costs and resources even as customer demands grow. It may be reducing or reallocating resources. Your measurements are likely cost centric, such as self-service usage, cost per transaction, interaction, or channel, handle time, and so on. 

So if your initiative is to reduce technology silos and unify disparate platforms, you might frame the business benefit in your business case as “smoother, faster calls and improved agent efficiency” rather than improved customer experience and agent satisfaction.

If your initiative is to introduce more self-service, you would focus on the projected operational cost reduction of steering interactions toward lower-cost channels — chatbots versus voice — instead of focusing on how chatbots make things easier on customers and increase Customer Effort Scores. 

4 Steps to Calculate the ROI of Your Initiative

Regardless of which kind of organization you are, you need to calculate the ROI of your initiative to win funding. To do so, follow these four steps:

1. Determine the Benefits

For a CX-Focused organization, the key thing will be to increase customer satisfaction by reducing the customer service effort, and seeing it reflect in CX metrics. Examples include better enabling your agents with knowledge and tools, ensuring customers can reach you on the channels they prefer and making it easier for customers to self-serve by providing access to information and intelligent conversational chatbots.

For a Cost-Focused organization, focus on similar areas, but with agent productivity and reduced operational costs in mind. For example, agent productivity becomes about the tools that help reduce the time an agent needs, while bots offload a portion of interactions completely and introduce lower cost channels that customers want (e.g. chat) to enable the organization to have lower cost interactions on those channels.

2. Capture the Costs

Capture the costs in these areas:

  1. Technology and infrastructure costs of expanding an existing system or adding new systems
  2. Services and labor, whether you’re using internal resources and / or hiring an external team
  3. Training for the agents and supervisors, so they can be effective from the get-go

3. Assess Business Adaptability

Businesses now have to be agile by continuously adapting to changing customer needs. Ensure that the solution or changes take this into account. Does the adaptability increase with the solution?

4. Understand the Risks

Different types of risk must be analyzed to provide the confidence that the funding is well placed.

  1. Project or Deployment Risk: How risky is the implementation of the new or expanded technology? Quantify the risk of cost overruns or delays in achieving the business value.
  2. Success Risk: How likely is it that the success criteria, which identifies the expected benefits, is correct? This is typically shown through the depth of the research data used to determine the business value.

In Summary: A Checklist for your Business Case

While your focus would be on the 4 points above, here are a few additional points to consider when developing your business case:

  • Tailor your message to the key decision makers involved in the process
  • Look for at least a 12-month payback period
  • Base your benefits on facts, case studies or proof of value so it clear and easy to believe
  • Think like an accountant. How you are delivering value will usually be secondary to how much payback and how quickly. Make sure your numbers stack up.
  • Align yourself to an executive sponsor who can champion your initiative at a senior level when you’re not around
  • Don’t ask for too much, prove the benefits case in the most economical way and if it’s successful, returning for more funding to expand the initiative will be easier with proven benefits
  • Remember you will be competing with lots of business case proposals so try and make your proposal appeal to the strategic initiatives from senior management as they will be more likely to fund your proposal if it delivers on their priorities and goals

If at first you don’t succeed, try again! A rejection doesn’t mean you should give up. It could be the result of bad timing. Budgets may be on hold until the next financial year. If you truly believe in what you’re doing, multiple submissions will demonstrate your passion and may help you get that approval!

Nail Your Contact Center Improvement Project with Aria Solutions

Have a contact center improvement project you want to start? Contact us today for help developing a strong business case that helps you achieve your business and customer service goals.

Aria Solutions has empowered 550,000 agents and completed over 1,200 successful projects.

Our customers don’t just see us as contact center experts or vendors. They see us as a part of their internal team responsible for building strategies and direction, recommending technology and providing direction on how the solution should be implemented.

Thanks for reading!

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About Noel Roberts

Noel Roberts serves as Aria Solutions’ Chief Technology Officer and VP of Marketing. He co-founded Aria with Robert Church in 1997. Prior to Aria, Noel founded Synapse, a software development company where he provided senior software development expertise in telecom peripheral equipment and computer telephony systems. At Aria, a big part of his role involves helping enterprise-size contact centers with full assessments, business, IT and CX strategy, roadmap development, and technology and vendor evaluation and selection. In his leisure time, Noel likes traveling and going to the rustic lake cabin with his family, reading about science and tech, and playing with new tech gadgets.

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