Date Published June 12, 2023 - Last Updated 104 Days, 23 Hours, 32 Minutes ago
This article first appeared in ICMI, a partner publication.
We all love a good sales pitch. The vendor comes in with a slick presentation and your leadership is super excited about all the cost savings associated with this innovative technology. Before you know it, you’re all ready to commit.
Pause. Don’t be swayed by the hypnotic sales pitches delivering dreamy, easy-to-implement solutions. Instead, stop and ask yourself, “Is this technology really going to improve the agent experience, and if yes, by how much?”
In other words, set those KPI targets before you start the project.
New technologies, even the off-the-shelf type, have unseen costs. They tout ROI, but often no one is counting the cost to implement, including the heavy lift of getting your SOP and knowledge articles ready or loading over 1 million prior contacts into the new tool.
Removing the waste from your existing process shouldn’t always mean implementing a new tool. However, there might be significant process improvements that can be made by implementing an “off the shelf” solution. Whether a solution works for you will depend partly on what forethought you put into the search for the solution.
Real World Example:
Once upon a time in a contact center far far away, there was a process that involved over 5,000 agents needing to understand over 50 distinct service offers. Often, some of the 50 customer experiences weren’t frequently used and had low contact rates. This meant that even though the agents had been trained in that process, it had been a long time since they actually had to answer any questions relating to that topic.
This daunting list of service offers often resulted in slower than desired service delivery. Also, the agents often provided inaccurate answers, and customers sometimes left the service feeling frustrated. There were just too many decisions for the agents to make quickly and accurately.
What was needed was a decision tree.
So, a Process Improvement Princess sat down to study the issue. “Is there any place in the Kingdom that already has solved this issue?” she pondered. And luckily, there was a Knight who she mentored within the company who did have a solution. However, it was a Third-Party Solution, which is often forbidden in the Kingdom.
In this scenario, how could she engage the Third Party without causing undue hardship, and what are the key metrics we should track to ensure the solution is really improving the experience for the agents? KPI targets included Voice of the Agent survey, AHT reduction for those who accessed the decision tree, ease of building the trees, a 5% improvement in customer satisfaction in the post-service survey, and a reduction of agent FUD (Fear Uncertainty Doubt), thus making the agent’s job more satisfying.
A trial of the software allowed for an implementation of the tool, so that the real ROI could be calculated and the real voice of the agent could be measured. It then became a more persuasive discussion with senior leadership.
This then led to many, many decision trees being created and implemented as part of the test to demonstrate that different types of decision trees can result in different process improvements for the agents. Testing in several areas of the business allowed the project team to demonstrate a variety of findings about how implementing an off-the-shelf tool could best be implemented.
This included how to make the new tool the most accessible for the agents, how to reduce a complex tree to a quick and simple one to ensure the fastest correct responses to our customers, and how to determine the time to build trees. It even allowed the teams that were part of the trial to build a Center of Excellence for the Decision Trees. Teams around the world wanted to build trees, and having guidance to support them was key to the continued success of the tool.
Where do you start?
The best place to start is with the wastes identified in your process. In the example above, there was excess processing of the agents fumbling for the seldom used process, customer wait time for the right answer, and potentially motion waste where experts were trying to find the right responses in several knowledge articles.
To sum up, here are eight steps to help smooth out the process:
1. Sometimes buying off the shelf can immediately solve process issues IF you are willing to weigh the cost of implementation versus the “sales pitch” ROI.
2. Make sure the vendor really sees themselves as a partner in solving your business’ pain points. Without a strong relationship, any tool off the shelf can be doomed to fail.
3. In your business, know what you want to measure from the new tool, ensure you can track it, and find a way, if possible, to calculate the ROI.
4. Partner internally with other teams if that helps defray the costs and/or gives positive trial results for the tool. Also, their results might show you best practices for the new tool once in production.
5. The best part of the “try before you buy” solution is having the real data, related to your service offerings, and the math to support the improved process. Nothing convinces senior leadership like actual results and improvements for customers.
6. Game out the true effort and gain of implementation - cost of the tool, cost of the Implementation/lift, adoption/learning curve with the new tool, KPI & tracking tool use, calculating actual reduction in time, effort, and calculating CX impact.
7. Hopefully, the tool/technology being implemented will be seamless to your customer, so set the KPI you are measuring your agent & tool improvements on clearly.
When selecting a vendor, make sure the vendor considers themselves a partner to your business, so that they are building the right relationship with you and your leadership.
Cynthia Long is an award-winning continuous improvement leader and strategist. Over the last 20 years, her passion for Lean Six Sigma has led her to create, innovate, and be a revolutionary leader for continuous improvement. She has been a presenter at conferences and professional organizations throughout the U.S. on topics relating to contact centers, Lean Six Sigma, and mentoring.