How agents can drive your digital transformation strategy (Those modern workers will know how to fix broken images. Yikes!)

Making it an Inside Job: Why your Agents Need to be Involved in your Contact Center Digital Transformation Strategy

It’s estimated that the world’s customer contact centers field about 270 billion calls annually. And, it takes close to $600 billion each year to make that happen. Contact centers are dynamic, fast-paced departments with agents working tirelessly to please customers. There’s so much happening day-to-day. Contact center leaders devote a ton of time to keep operations afloat. But customers still aren’t happy.

So, how do you manage the high traffic, your overburdened team, and still deliver a steady customer journey? Create a digital transformation strategy to modernize your tools and the way you work.

Digital transformation changes how we work to capitalize on available digital technology. In the digital age, contact centers can’t be mere cost centers. And companies have to invest in processes and technology that meld to the future.

Aside from making your internal processes better, you’re in charge of maintaining the perceptions and expectations of your customers. Customers today are mobile and they’re impatient. Why? Because they can be. Modern customers want what they want, and they want it now. They’re used to plenty of options for products.

It’s easy to switch to another brand or alternative solution if they get frustrated with an aspect of their customer experience. Even a single, negative conversation with an agent can make a customer jump ship.

So, when you consider how on earth to drive customer loyalty and retention, think beyond how to differentiate your product. Instead, think about how to constantly improve the service you deliver to give your CX a boost.

Revamp your CX to stay on par with current standards and to prep for the future. Here’s what you need to know as you work with other company leaders to create a digital transformation strategy.

What problem is your digital transformation solving for? And whose problem is it?

To create a map or a strategy for your digital transformation, you need a destination. What problem are you solving for that requires a full-scale transformation in the first place? And, whose problem it is?

Perhaps you’ve recognized that your contact center pulls in a ton of data and information every day…but what do you do with it? You know the potential is there, but you’re not gaining a whole lot of insights from interactions with customers. It all seems a bit too overwhelming. Your data is siloed off in a few systems, and your reporting isn’t customized to your business needs.

Or, maybe your customers are so annoyed about how inconvenient it is to reach your customer service agents. By the time they reach you, they hardly remember the problem they contacted you about. They sit on the phone too long and then can’t keep the same agent working on their problem because they lose touch jumping from live chat to email.

Maybe your contact center software is buggy and won’t save customer information. Or, your separate phone system drops calls. It could even be that it’s tedious jumping from one window to the next. In exit interviews, you discover that many of your former employees couldn’t stand how antiquated and disorganized your processes are.

Yikes…

Your contact center needs a change.

Set your goals

Avoid making a case for change based on competitive pressure. Rather, create a narrative on how the desired change will help improve people’s lives. Set targets for every problem you’re trying to solve. Saving money, building revenue, improving agent performance, and promoting the satisfaction of your agents and customers. What are new ways of working? What new capabilities do your agents need?

One article in Harvard Business Review told the story of a company, Li & Fung. First, they established the problem they hoped digital transformation to solve. They sought to reduce production lead times, increase speed-to-market, and improve the use of data in its global supply chain. After they established concrete goals, then the company decided which digital tools to adopt.

This goal setting requires that you truly know your people — your customers, your contact center agents, your IT team members, etc. These end-users and managers of the technology are all affected by your digital changes. Gather their frustrations so you can identify the exact problems you’re hoping to solve, together.

Make it an inside job

Harvard Business Review reported that of the $1.3 trillion invested in digital transformation in 2018, $900 billion was wasted. Much of that waste stemmed from changes in technology without a change in mindset. Don’t invest time, energy, and money into technology if you don’t have buy-in for adoption.

McKinsey & Co. argues that an effective digital transformation strategy needs a launch team with team members with a variety of skill sets. Key recruits to the launch team, they believe, include designers, data scientists, scrum masters, and modern IT pros.

I’m going to add to that idea.

When you consider a digital strategy for a specific department, like your contact center, include an agent on the launch team. Why? Well, they have to interact with any new technology and work differently because of the changes. They know customers better than anyone. And they know what’s missing or lacking in the agent experience, too.

Transformation isn’t about tipping everything upside down, reinventing products, and disrupting process. Instead, it’s about balancing old and new, integrating fresh ideas with old, valued hands. Sure, you could consider hiring consultants to take on the challenge. But, the outcome is more successful if you rely instead on the insiders — your agents with intimate knowledge about what works and what doesn’t in their daily operations.

Harvard Business Review provides an example of this. One county in California wanted to reduce the time it took to process permits for their residents. They looked to outside consultants, first. But, the consultants’ recommendations differed from employees’. The employees used knowledge from personal interactions with residents to reshape the consultants’ recommendations. The team adapted the recommended tools, processes, and diagrams to fit a journey that made sense for their residents. As a result, the county reduced the permit processing time by 33%.

Your team knows best

Author Tim Leberecht believes that digital transformation strategy needs to involve a company’s unique culture to be successful. As he said in an article for Inc., “Instead of uncritically adopting typical Silicon Valley traits and digitalizing your processes, the goal of your digital transformation should be this: to leverage technology to become a business that is sustainable because it benefits humans in a sustainable fashion. Only then will your transformation be deep enough to outlast the first emotional setback, the next fad, and the end of the digital age as we knew it.”

For this reason, look to other team members in addition to your agents when you research and implement your digital strategy. Include members of your IT team, those who need to know the tools inside and out, and your contact center agents, those who will use the tools daily. Bring IT in to research and vet the technology available to you. IT pros have more technical expertise and can pinpoint the strengths and weaknesses of each product option. And, they have knowledge about what systems will connect with other products in your contact center, and company-wide.

Invite your contact center agents to see demos of new technology. Let them build out important criteria to fix the agent and customer experience. Let them explore different products, write their own pros and cons, and compile notes to find the perfect fit for your team. Include agents and IT in the QA testing process to identify any potential problems your technology could have. And include them in conversations about new processes and procedures that support your transformation efforts, too. After all, digital transformation isn’t just about technology.

Working together heightens your success

When you use the insiders on your team, your strategy will fit the needs of your employees and your customers. Sometimes, it’s not fundamental flaws with technology that cause a transformation failure, it’s because you overlooked intimate insider knowledge.

Your employees want to be a part of the process. Including them in your transformation strategy is an opportunity to show them they are valued, heard, and represented in company changes.

Curious to know what your contact center agents think about your digital transformation strategies? Read up on what your agents will tell you (and what they won’t) when it comes to updating your CX for the digital age.