Six Steps to Contact Center Digital Transformation: A Framework for CX Modernization

by Hayden Lee

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The concept of digital transformation isn’t new. But for businesses that rely on customer service and experience as a competitive advantage, COVID-19 has underscored the need for digital transformation frameworks that can definitively help these complex changes succeed.

Understandably, there’s a great deal of buzz around how customer service (and call centers specifically) are experiencing unprecedented pressures to evolve to keep up with surges in demand, murky marketplace dynamics, and shifting customer expectations. This buzz, of course, is driven by a groundswell of consumer digital adoption and, by extension, disruption, during the pandemic. But these changes will last long past COVID-19. Customers have grown more comfortable using technology and will continue to demand more from digital experiences moving forward. So, to remain competitive, more companies are rushing to undertake complex digital transformations in order to keep pace with customer demand.

But for those actively involved in these attempts to rapidly modernize, the basics of buzz don’t offer much help. This is especially true for customer service and contact centers, where the drive to digital can’t come at the expense of exceptional customer service.

With the stakes this high and the current business environment this challenging, company leadership shouldn’t shy away from investing in a digital transformation framework that’s calibrated to deliver success. And, while part of this calibration rests in the strategy of the framework itself, it’s crucial to take the human factor into account when working toward lasting change.

1. Establish Your Transition Plan

Mike Tyson once bluntly stated, “Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the face.” But less famous is the correct lesson to draw here. Setting yourself up for success isn’t about avoiding the punch. Developing a digital transformation framework successfully warrants embracing the fact that the hits are coming. Only in doing so can you work to strategize around them—and keep inevitable obstacles from surprising you.

Digital or not, change (i.e., transformation) is a threat. Right or not, this can make the people on your team feel like they’re losing control and/or facing uncertainty, especially as to whether or not their current competencies and professional experience will become obsolete. And for companies already struggling to keep up with the demands of COVID-19 and changing customer expectations, the prospect of a digital transformation can just seem like a bunch more work no one has any time to do.

This is why strategic aspects of change management models should form the foundation of every digital transformation framework. In doing so, your strategy will be rooted in psychology, giving leadership an effective edge and the understanding to keep teams on track.

2. Choose the Right Leadership

The right leader (or leadership team) will see the need for a digital transformation framework as an opportunity, not just an objective. They can take ownership of the digital transformation projects from day one and oversee them through to completion. They’ll seek out what’s working as needed to ensure momentum’s maintained. They’ll understand that no framework and ensuing roadmap, however perfect, will account for everything that will happen during the digital transformation process.

This also why the right leaders will focus on progress and diligently keep the customer journey anchored at the center of the transformation initiative.

3. Set Transformative Goals

Remember that digitally transforming your contact center is a means, not an end. Despite being digital in nature, the goal is not purely technical, as the aim is to transform with technology, not toward it. For this reason, it’s imperative to ensure the goals outlined in your framework will lead you to tangible, measurable outcomes.

Be bold. Take broad, well-intentioned platitudes and drill down into them mercilessly, stopping only when you arrive at ambitious yet specific performance-related goals. This will not be a pleasant process. But goals that are perfunctory and/or ephemeral lower the ceiling on what you’ll be able to achieve through your digital transformation.

Vanquis Bank, as an example, decided one goal for their digital transformation was to increase payments on past-due accounts. But the goal was to accomplish this while also maintaining their current flexibility in payment options (i.e., not cutting into the consumer experience). By identifying this clear, bold, performance-related goal first, the solution Vanquis went on to implement increased customer contact two-fold, creating a measurable 2% lift in “promises to pay.”

4. Measure Progress via Baselines and Targets

It’s hard to figure out where to go if you don’t understand where you are. Once goals have been established, the framework should continue by establishing a baseline for your organization. This baseline should consist of three things: leadership alignment, determining who will manage the transformation process, and pinpointing areas of the business where you’ll need to make changes.

Targets, then, become the documented, tangible steps that must be achieved to progress away from the baseline. Within a digital transformation framework, targets will often include the digitization of specific business domains and activities central to the stated performance goals.

When defining your own particular targets, don’t mistake tangible for timid. It’s tempting to pull punches at this point, framing potential targets in the realm of what is, not what could be. Unfortunately, this shackles the potential benefits of the transformative process before it’s even underway.

What’s more, preventing this from happening falls squarely at the feet of the CEO who, as McKinsey & Company notes, should “take a single self-confident leap rather than a series of incremental steps that don’t lead very far [where] targets that are two to three times a company’s initial estimates of its potential are routinely achievable—not the exception.”

5. Identify Gaps and New Potential Solutions

With baseline established and targets set, it will which aspects of your business you’ll need to transform. Which requires sorting out which solutions will best do the job.

Digital transformations inevitably hinge on new technologies and emerging tools, and gone are the days where a handful of large, established companies was their source. The digital solution market is now wildly dynamic, featuring a steady churn of niche and startup companies—which may well justify the need for a specific digital vendor-sourcing strategy to bolster your transformation framework.

A strategic approach to acquiring new capabilities should be considered as well, as this often involves developing or acquiring new talent, which can take years. Depending on the timeline a transitional framework must deliver within, the decision here must be made as to whether time and energy are best invested in the existing business architecture or complementing that architecture via external partnerships.

6. Work Toward Lasting Change

With digital transformation frameworks, it’s fair to say that lasting change is synonymous with success. Studying the transformation process itself, BCG determined that the odds for success in digital transformation were just 30%. But they also identified six factors that, when applied correctly, increased the odds of success to 80%.

At this point, it’s natural to wonder if the transformative framework you’re developing is up to the task at hand. So, think of the following six factors as a checklist for lasting change:

  1. Has our framework come together as a clear, integrated strategy?
  2. Is leadership committed to executing on this framework from the top down?
  3. Are we prepared to put the right people in the right places to make this happen?
  4. Are we prepared to adopt an agile governance mindset?
  5. Will we be ready and able to monitor and measure our progress?
  6. Are we prepared to rethink and, as needed, do what it takes to modernize our tech stack?

Remember: No one trying to modernize their business through digital transformation sets out to fail. Yet, when the odds are that 70% will, the time, energy, and, yes, pain of establishing and executing the proper framework become absolutely essential.

Frameworks to Roadmaps: How the Transformational Rubber Meets the Road

The essentials of business frameworks are (and should be) largely business agnostic. This is why the role of the roadmap is more tactical, plotting out and detailing the specifics of what should happen as your framework unfolds.

This means that, despite the world of customer service undergoing radical changes, solid strategy, planning, and leadership can absolutely make digital transformations successful.

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