Insights, opinions and a point of view from a call center, contact center and customer experience consulting veteran related to call centers, contact centers, customer service and customer satisfaction based on 35+ years of industry knowledge and experience.
We constantly hear about “best practices,” and these are held up as the shining examples of what the best organizations do. The desire for us to want our organization or contact center to be “the best” can be a heady goal and many blindly start down the road to get their organization to be a “best practices” organization. But is this the best approach for your contact center, your staff, or your organization?
Best practice is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a procedure that has been shown by research and experience to produce optimal results and that is established or proposed as a standard suitable for widespread adoption.” This certainly sounds like a worthwhile goal, but as with many other things, the devil can be in the details.
Best practices may be validated by “research or experience,” but are the organizations researched like your organization? Is the “experience” relevant to your contact center and your organization? Too often the companies establishing and being referenced as “best practice” are leading performers in their sector or well regarded for the service they deliver. They tend to be organizations that have mature and robust service operations. s that similar to your contact center?
Contact centers operate in an ecosystem where people, processes, and technologies interact to deliver service to customers and prospects. There are high levels of interconnection and inter-dependencies woven throughout the contact center. This is why centers are often described as having “thousands of moving parts.” This lattice of interconnected and interdependent activities, processes, and workflows complicate initiatives to make changes in this environment. Striving to implement a best practice in one area will often bump into a number of pre-requisite activities that need to be completed before said “best practice” can be actioned. This is a difficult and complicated task, and even if it is successful, it will often fail to secure the expected benefits as other areas in the operation lack the maturity or robustness to properly support the attainment of the new “best practice.”
In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins said, “good is the enemy of great,” and this is an accepted truth. If you are only striving for good, you may waste, time, effort and dollars pursuing an objective that may yield little more than what you had achieved as a good operation. This is the Pareto principle (commonly known as the 80/20 rule) in action. In contact centers, the same rationale can hold true. Most contact centers and most organizations stop at good, or in many cases “good enough.”
There needs to be a “bang for the buck” financial evaluation when considering implementing best practices. How will becoming “best practice” change the center or organization’s performance in the eyes of the customers or of leadership?
The costs to implement and the benefits achieved through best practices are not equal for all organizations as they will depend upon the starting point in terms of maturity as well as the vertical you are serving. Technology investments to support best practices may be “table stakes” in one industry and the rare exception in another. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. The cost should not be the only consideration, but it needs to be a part of the decision-making process.
While a “best practice” may have been shown to produce optimal results, the cost to achieve these optimal results may not make sense or be appropriate for all centers. It is important not to view “best practices” as exclusive of other improvement opportunities. There may be a few best practices that you can implement, but there will be a considerably larger list of “better” practices that are available to you.
The best practices that are accessible and that will improve the operation of a center will be related to the center maturity and current operating practices, structure, and available technologies. The same is true for better practices. We encourage every center not to consider this as a binary choice between becoming best practice or not, but rather as a journey from the current state to best or most appropriate practices. This journey is reflected in an iterative process of constantly employing better practices.