Contact Centers Can't Keep Up with KPIs

As more companies look to save money and provide better service by globally distributing their contact center operations, one possible step requires consolidating infrastructure and standardizing support processes, according to a recent study by Aberdeen Research.

The study, "Contact Center Consolidation," suggests that consolidation is necessary to make any worldwide operation run smoothly, and finds that many best-in-class (BIC) companies have made great strides; many laggard companies, on the other hand, aren't even measuring key performance indicators (KPIs)—a necessity in any contact center operation.

For the purposes of the study, Aberdeen defines laggards as those scoring in the lowest 30 percent. Alan Hubbard, senior vice president of Aberdeen's Customer Service and Support Practice, says these companies are reporting that they don't even understand what they're measuring—or worse, aren't measuring KPIs at all. "One of the clear things, at least on the laggard side, is that they're really struggling with measurement overall," Hubbard notes. "So what we get back from companies falling into [the] laggard category is they're not measuring [KPIs]. That's a real challenge, because the contact center is driven by its KPIs."

The problem with a dearth of numbers is that, if there are no ROI statistics or KPI numbers to provide as evidence, justifying any consolidation project to executives becomes extremely difficult, Hubbard says. "In order to convince not only yourself but management that it's a worthwhile project, you need to do that ROI," he says. "If I'm a contact center manager, and I'm trying to convince my management team that I want to spend $500,000, a million, or even $10 million, you need an ROI. I think that's critical."

According to information derived from the study, there are four separate phases contact centers must go through when addressing consolidation:

  • Phase 1: All contact center resources are moved to a single site;
  • Phase 2: Multiple sites are managed by intelligent routing;
  • Phase 3: Multiple sites are managed on a single vendor platform; and
  • Phase 4: Virtual contact center runs on a single logical platform.
The study finds that roughly half (49 percent) of all companies surveyed are in Phase 2; of those surveyed, 39 percent said they were in Phase 4, the virtualization stage. However, Hubbard stresses that companies can be in more than one phase at the same time. "Interestingly enough, companies are in multiple stages depending upon their size and depending upon the complexity of their environment," he says.

While companies can be in two phases at once, Hubbard says they all need to end up in the same place: virtualization. "Developing a culture that supports standardization, training, vendor management, and virtualization is critical to the success of the contact center," Hubbard explains. He also stresses that multitenancy is absolutely critical for virtual contact centers. BIC companies have recognized this and are taking the lead, with 61 percent of them having a multitenant platform in place. By contrast, among "Industry Average" firms, just 32 percent can boast  multitenancy. "The clear message came back that multitenancy is critical to the success of the virtual world," he adds.

BIC companies, the study's top 20 percent of scorers, are moving toward consolidating and standardizing contact center processes and are already seeing results that even surprised Hubbard. Notably, 74 percent of BICs  are seeing an improvement in the rate of first-contact resolution. "One of the things we didn't expect as companies moved to the final phase—virtualization of the contact center—was to see such significant improvement in KPIs," he says. The study suggests that companies will find two additional benefits through the consolidation of their contact center infrastructures: reduction in expenses and improvement in uptime.

To avoid being left in the wake of those BIC companies, the study suggests that laggards take the following actions immediately:

  • standardize customer support across all channels;
  • begin to consolidate contact center resources (the study finds only 35 percent of laggards have started a consolidation project); and
  • develop an ROI model for consolidation projects.
Consolidating resources and standardizing processes across a company's entire operation can help cut costs and improve customer service, something Hubbard considers the difference between companies that excel and those that don't. "It's really not just product and price any more,"he says. "Customer service is rapidly becoming a differentiator."

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