Tag Archives: Project implementation

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

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!

4 Steps to Take Before Jumping into Your Next Contact Center Solution

Throughout our 22 years of experience, Aria’s developed a methodology that we use to help our clients achieve unified customer engagement centers.

In our last blog, I discussed common contact center challenges and shared how four organizations overcame them.

Those challenges — siloed technologies, inflexible infrastructure, introducing or maintaining multiple channels, limited agent visibility — are some of the most common obstacles facing contact centers today.

Whether your contact center is facing one of those challenges or you’re aiming to expand your center’s capabilities, the first step is not choosing a technology or contact center solution to fix the issue.

First, you must:

  • Assess the contact center to determine the problem you’re out to solve
  • Quantify the benefit of solving that problem with a business case
  • Create a strategy and roadmap to fix it
  • Create parameters so you can adequately judge/compare technologies and solutions

This blog will take you through each of the four steps.

Step 1: Assess the Contact Center

The first step is assessing your contact center so you truly understand what problem you’re out to solve. This is more challenging than it may seem.

Before jumping into an assessment, go back to the vision or direction that the company has defined and the objectives that have been laid out, as circumstances often change. A company might be striving to provide high touch service to help own a niche market, and good customer experience is important to that.

To meet these objectives, the company will need certain capabilities, which might not be possible to meet with the current technology. Thus, an assessment will be required to understand the gaps that need to be filled. Examples could be adding digital channels, conversational enabled self-service, or having a single view of the customer across all departments.

But in the world of customer engagement, one challenge is often tied to, or related to, another.

For example, if you’re looking to better enable your agents at their desktop, you’ll likely find that changes will be necessary to the routing system as well as to the IVR or bot. You have to look at the contact center holistically to properly understand the challenge you’re facing and to identify appropriate solutions.

If your gap requires adding digital communication channels so your customers can reach you more easily on their channel of choice, the impact of that change will be felt throughout all areas of the contact center, from the“front door,” to routing, to how agents are enabled to handle the new channel — even to how workforce management schedules get created.

Action items:

  • Examine your current contact center operations to assess processes, prioritize gaps, and identify efficiency opportunities affecting business objectives and the customer experience
  • Evaluate the existing technology, providing recommendations on how to better leverage it, and where new technology could be of benefit
  • Build a comprehensive and holistic report of your contact center, covering all the systems that make up a contact center solution, such as ACD, WFM, routing, QA, digital channels, customer journeys, self-service (IVR, voice and chat bots), and CRMs

Step 2: Make the Business Case

Now that you have identified the gaps that need to be filled in your contact center, the next step is to quantify the benefit of filling those gaps.

Creating a business case and conducting ROI modeling for each potential change will help you understand the immediate and long-term financial results you can expect, win the support of other stakeholders and identify must-have features for when you are comparing solutions in Step 4.

Action items:

  • Identify key cost items, such as cost per call or interaction, or their cost elements such as labor cost per hour and interaction volumes
  • Identify all activities that consume your agents’ time. With siloed systems, activity might be captured in different systems
  • Include future growth projections

Step 3: Create a Strategy and Roadmap

Now that you’ve clearly identified your contact center’s goals and backed them up with a business case, it’s time to create a strategy and a step-by-step plan to get it done.

Action items:

  • Create a list of actionable recommendations to fill the gaps identified
  • Identify the initiatives/technologies required to implement these recommendations, which could include:
    • System integration or silo management
    • Omnichannel engagement
    • Cloud migration
    • Business analytics
    • CX analytics
    • Workforce management
  • Create a roadmap that includes a timeline to complete each initiative, important milestones, opportunities to quantify progress made, an objective measure of success (call center KPIs, customer metrics, business metrics, etc.)

Step 4: Identify a Contact Center Solution Vendor

Now that you’ve adequately assessed the challenges facing your contact center, tied them to a business case, and created a roadmap and strategy to overcome them, it’s time to identify an actual solution. Easier said than done.

There are countless options to choose from. New technologies aimed at contact center challenges seem to appear every day.

Action items:

  • Identify budget for a new contact center solution based on the business model in Step 2
  • Find solutions that offer all required technology, must-have functionalities and support levels based on the recommendations in Step 3
  • Identify the capabilities, fit and risks associated with each solution considered

Aria’s Methodology

Throughout our 22 years of experience, we’ve developed and refined our approach to delivering CX solutions to help our clients achieve unified customer engagement centers, including some of the world’s biggest organizations.

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.

For the past 22 years we have empowered 550,000 agents and completed over 1,200 successful projects.

We invite you to learn more about our team or contact us today if you’d like to talk through your contact center challenges with one of our experts.

Thanks for reading!

How to Increase ROI for Your Custom Development Projects

It’s an exciting time to be in IT these days! Digital transformation is gaining in popularity, one element being the move of IT infrastructure to the cloud. Many different platforms that are available today provide a lot of opportunities to build exciting functionality through custom development and platform integrations.

On top of that, companies are looking for more options to provide their customers with self-service opportunities, either through customer portals or through bots using traditional and modern service channels such as telephony, SMS, or instant messaging apps like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.

All of this requires a significant number of process automations and system integrations, which allows companies to build custom solutions for their internal and external services, so they can provide better customer service and more efficient processes.

Why is all of this important?

Because companies that ignore the digital transformation will miss out on the next generation of customers, and continuously lose ground on their competition, which will be faster and better at delivering business value.

Why digital transformation is affecting project development

Software development is at the heart of the digital transformation!

Here are some examples of contact center and business cloud platforms, innovating for the digital transformation era:

Overall, more and more companies are transforming their applications into platforms or at least investing heavily into APIs that allow for deeper integration.

Unfortunately, the increasing demand for custom development comes with a maintenance cost attached. And that cost can vary significantly, based on the quality of the architecture and implementation of any given solution. If a company relies on an integration to submit orders from their CRM to the order management system, the integration becomes an additional point of failure (in addition to the two systems involved). An error in the code could prevent the orders from being submitted, and in a worst case scenario, this error might not even be noticed right away.

In theory, those automations provide a defined business value, but the reality is that this value is reduced by technical debt accrued during development. This includes not only errors in the implementation that cause the integration to fail, but also the additional effort needed to implement new business requirements in the future. The latter is very difficult to track, since there is no reference point to what a “perfect” system looks like. Nevertheless, it exists, and I have seen simple feature requests take a substantial amount of time refactoring the initial solution because it did not follow best practices.

This brings us to the last question: What can be done to reduce the negative effect that software quality issues can bring to a project or a business solution?

3 steps for improving the quality of your projects

I recommend the following 3 key steps as a starting point to improving the quality and outcome of your custom development projects. There are obviously more things that you can do, but from my experience, the following actions are essential for maintaining the ROI of any project.

1. Use software design patterns and development best practices

Design patterns have been proven to be successful when it comes to increasing code quality in a product. Not only do they introduce consistency between developers, they also ensure that the developed code is easy to understand and extend as your business solution evolves. Applying those patterns even to the smallest components will help to reduce bugs and, consequently, maintenance costs further down the road.

2. Introduce quality processes and automated testing

These elements are core to any software application development these days. First of all, any code developed, whether it is big or small, should be tracked in a version management system such as Git. It is critical that developers can review the history of a file to understand the context of how it evolved. With that, it is also possible to introduce code reviews as a standard process of everyone’s work. Any changes should be peer reviewed to ensure that standards are followed, and to reduce the risk of introducing errors. Adding automated tests, such as unit or acceptance tests, will further improve the quality of the solutions. While code reviews ensure the quality and correctness of the implementation at the current time, automated tests are there to detect regression introduced by future modifications of the code. All automated tests should be executed every time a new change is introduced to the environment.

3. Add Reliability Engineering

This step is the most difficult. Reliability Engineering extends the solution by building a framework of utilities and services that business solutions use for the implementation of the use cases. Those utilities and services are designed to handle malfunction of the business logic by recording incidents, raising alerts, applying strategies of self-healing, or possibly even initiating a restart of an entire system or component. For example, in the situation described above where the integration between the CRM and order management system would fail, notifications could immediately be sent out to IT that the integration is broken. If the reason for the failure was a connection timeout, which could mean that the order management system does currently not have enough resources available to process the order, the integration could queue the record and process it at some later time, assuming that more resources will then be available and the order submission will succeed.

In the best case scenario, human intervention is not needed, but if it is, it is important that every failure is handled consistently. While it is understood that production issues will occur, the goal of the framework is to detect those early and to collect critical diagnostic information that will significantly speed up the root cause analysis. Reporting this information will enable IT to make the right decisions to solve the issue quickly.

It should be noted that many of today’s cloud platforms have these features baked in. The key is to utilize their framework to make sure application and platform issues are handled in the same fashion. There obviously must be a balance between value and implementation time when deciding what reliability features should be included in a solution.

Nonetheless, any steps taken in this area will further secure the ROI, by ensuring that the final solution will work as expected. If it does not, it will have the smallest impact possible on the organization.

The value in following these steps & breaking down silos

It needs to be understood that any of these steps will add development time for the initial implementation of any use case. However, it should be noted that this time increase is mostly just theoretical nature. In practice, if those measurements are not applied, a project typically requires more time for bug fixes and re-work of those use cases, often exceeding the time spent adding those quality processes.

Breaking down the silos between enterprise systems adds a lot of value to the organization. This is an important part of the 4th industrial revolution. However, the applications that link those systems together are becoming a critical element for a company’s operations and must therefore be set up using strategies that ensure quality and flexibility for the future. This let’s your organization focus on continuous expansion rather than chasing the mistakes made in the past.

Enable Orchestrated Routing for Customer Journeys, Mobile and More!

Although voice is still the primary channel customers use to interact with contact centers, representing 54% of all interactions handled, according to Dimension Data, digital is on track to overtake phone by end of 2016.  Your business needs to keep up with this trend of customer preferred channels by developing an awareness of each customer journey. To do so, you’ll need to migrate to automated, or orchestration-ready, routing.

If you are an on-premise Genesys customer and still on Interaction Routing Designer (IRD) driven routing strategies, but looking to enable capabilities like customer journeys, mobile, and Virtual IVR through your routing strategies—first things first—you need to move to Composer routing.

The transition to a new routing platform can be onerous. It’s important to understand whether your contact center requires the transition. If it does, consider these factors before making the move.

How Do You Know if this Transition is Right for You?

  • You and your team find it increasingly hard to alter the existing solution in a timely, effective manner. Your current system may be unable to support the requested changes or has gotten to a point where it is no longer maintainable.[su_spacer size=”10″]
  • Your team has been tasked with implementing a mobile customer service initiative. Tying customer service more closely to mobile use is a smart strategy for companies but older platforms may not support this or other modern functionality.[su_spacer size=”10″]
  • You want to integrate self and assisted service interactions. To do this, you need the convenience of a common development platform, which is not available in IRD.

Challenges with Typical Transition Approach

If we were to explore the typical transition approach, truth is, it’s easier said than done.

The transition from Genesys IRD to Composer and Orchestration Server is a platform change that requires the new application to be designed and developed from the ground up. This presents challenges:

  • Documentation on your current IRD routing is often limited or non-existent.
  • Features in place for years may work, but may not be well-understood.
  • As enhancements were added over the years, the code has become more complex.
  • Reverse engineering existing strategies is time-consuming.
[su_spacer]Ultimately, the main concern with this approach is that it’s risky and can take many months to implement. The longer the project takes, the higher the cost.

Best Practices and Considerations  for Planning a Routing Migration

Routing is the center of the universe for contact centers.  It drives most of your agent-assisted customer experience, ensures the use of agent resources are optimized and enables reporting and analytics.

Making the transition to orchestration should be planned carefully.  Here are some considerations for a successful implementation that ensures you are meeting your business needs well into the future:

  • Keep the initial Orchestration routing implementation basic and plan for enhancement phases. A routing assessment from an experienced Genesys Systems Integrator can help in developing a project roadmap.[su_spacer size=”10″]
  • Evaluate skillsets and tools available to your routing developers and administrators.
    • Do they have the open source development skills or Composer development experience from other Genesys platforms like IVR?
    • Is there adequate tools and processes in place to manage version control when changes are required to the routing solution?[su_spacer size=”10″]
  • Consider implementing a pre-built routing solution vs. a customized solution. Knowledge of new Genesys Orchestration routing components is a key input into the design of the new routing solution.

Include the Upgrade to Orchestration as Part of a Different Project

Transitioning to orchestrated or automated routing doesn’t mean you have to obtain funding for a routing upgrade project. Likely there are other initiatives you’re already planning where you might include an upgrade to orchestration, such as:

  • A Genesys Upgrade: Upgrading your Genesys Customer Experience Platform to 8.5 or changing the hardware platform requires a full regression test. Why not upgrade routing at the same time?[su_spacer size=”10″]
  • VOIP/SIP transition or PBX Replacement: This kind of initiative requires changes to routing anyway, so consider including Genesys Orchestration and Composer Routing too.[su_spacer size=”10″]
  • Deploying new channels (email, chat, text, and others): Deploy them on Orchestration instead of IRD and only Universal Routing Server.[su_spacer size=”10″]
  • Enabling customer journeys and personalization: Deploy this solution on a platform that will best enable this customer experience initiative by including Genesys Orchestration.[su_spacer size=”10″]

Routing is a key component to delivering omnichannel customer experience. If you are planning any of these projects, consider adding the routing component and transition to Genesys Orchestration to enable modern Genesys capabilities for delivering the consistent and personalized customer experience.

Transition from IRD to Composer with SWIFT™ Routing

The process of migrating doesn’t have to be costly and long. With SWIFT™ Routing, you can complete the transition in fewer than 90 days with a cost reduction of 25% to 75%, depending on the complexity of your requirements.

SWIFT™ Routing is a pre-built and tested solution based on requirements from thousands of projects Aria Solutions has implemented. This means that risks associated with the design, development, testing, and implementation phases are much reduced. See the comparison of risk and effort between SWIFT™ Routing and the typical custom routing approach:

The comparison of risk and effort between SWIFT Routing and the typical custom routing approach

SWIFT™ Routing enables quick deployment and allows you to jump right into configuring your routing strategy. All features can be easily configured by any group within the organization. Compared to other solutions on the market, SWIFT™ Routing doesn’t box you in.

SWIFT™ Routing, designed with Genesys-supported capabilities within Composer, uses applications such as Genesys Administrator Extension for configuration. If you decide to add only voice now, you can easily add email and chat later on. If SWIFT™ Routing doesn’t support everything you need, the routing solution can be customized as easily as a routing solution built from scratch.

Currently, SWIFT™ Routing is available in the United States and Canada only. Visit the Genesys AppFoundry to learn more!

Don’t Squeeze the Life Out of Your New Contact Center Project

Congratulations, your new contact center solution finally received budgetary approval! You have been waiting years for the opportunity to provide a better experience for your customers, a more empowering solution for your employees, and a rich new set of data for your managers. Now you are thinking, “This is my chance and it does not come often. So, I am going to dig my heels in and squeeze everything I can get out of this project.” We don’t blame you! However, starting a project with this mentality does not always generate the best outcome.

Why? You are learning the capabilities of the new solution while at the same time agonizing and scrutinizing over all of those pent-up needs and requirements. This often leads to project paralysis, longer project durations, and a reduced return on investment (ROI).

By the time the project is rolled out, you’ve got implementation fatigue from being involved in the project while continuing to deliver your day job responsibilities. At this point, you accept whatever went into production as you need to move on to other business priorities. The result is something less than you desired. There are usually compromises during the initial deployment and new requirements identified once customers and employees start using the system.

In our experience, it is better to determine complete requirements once the solution is being used. Therefore, we would like to recommend a different implementation approach that reduces project stress, engages customers, empowers employees sooner, increases ROI, and has better end results.

  • Phase 1: Deploy – implement a basic or templated solution as part of the initial deployment. In most cases, the capability being deployed still provides an improvement compared with what is in your environment today. So, a basic solution gets you going with new technology and still provides an improvement over what you currently have.
  • Phase 2: Learn – gather feedback from customer and employees. Compare what they say about how you are engaging with customers, with how you defined your solution.
  • Phase 3: Adapt – enhance, tailor, and customize the solution based on a more thorough set of requirements.

With this approach – time, energy, and costs saved through the “Deploy Phase” are reinvested in the “Adapt Phase”.

From what we’ve seen, this approach results in a higher quality solution with less stress and similar costs. Increased ROI and customer and employee engagement are realized by a quicker initial deployment and through the opportunity to enhance the solution after a period of use.