As we are looking to prepare our 2021 Best Practice Guide, I’ve spent some time recently flicking through older versions of the guide to see what content we featured ‘back in the day’. One article in particular caught my nostalgic eye.
In our 2016 edition we featured an article entitled “Planning for the digital world: stepping stones to success”. With the ever-accelerating pace of change in customer contact, we felt that there was little doubt that everyone in planning would soon be required to develop solutions to the digital and omnichannel challenges. This definitely got me thinking – 5 years further down the line, how are we doing in this field?
Following some extensive canvassing of our members, here are some of the ‘Top Member Challenges’ that we identified at the time.
- Operating Model – Who owns each channel? Marketing or Ops? Who services them? How do we manage customer experience across channels, or balance cost and quality? Now: This seems to still be a challenge in the modern world. Businesses are still working hard to understand the key drivers behind demand in certain channels and how that influences the best way to set themselves up for success. Do they need discrete departments for asynchronous messaging, web chat, Back Office and social media or should they avoid siloes and go for a multiskilled workforce? How do they ensure that their CRM system is able to allow updates from each of these channels, giving them an opportunity to have effective multiskilling options?
- Skills and Capability – We will need different skills – How do we account for this cost and manage teams consistently? What is the efficiency and the costs of cross skilling? Do I need to recruit differently and how do I attract different people?Now: This area of recruitment and attraction has possibly been made more difficult (or at least more interesting) by the rise of hybrid workforces and homeworking. That question about attracting the right people has grown arms and legs and is now more focussed on who the right people ARE in the post-COVID world and what skills are required. A common debate exists around the sizing of resource for web chat (the significance of concurrency (or otherwise)) and asynchronous messaging (how to calculate demand effectively) – I feel that these debates are still in their infancy and will probably dominate planning conversations for the next few years.
- Demand Planning – For each new channel, is demand incremental or deflection? How do I forecast with no historic data? What is the impact on existing channels? Can an agent handle concurrent contacts? Now: In answer to the first question, I believe that most businesses who opened up webchat discovered that there wasn’t much actual channel ‘shift’ involved; certainly not on a 1:1 basis. Instead, web chatting seemed to result in more demand being received into the centre overall. According to some of our member organisations, the signs are, however, that there really is a genuine shift of demand into asynchronous messaging. In terms of forecasting with no historic data, has this ever been more relevant than 2020 and 2021? The whole world shifted – not just in terms of digital channels but also for traditional telephony channels. The Forum have some great content on this subject (spoiler alert – try the Delphi Method!).
- Resourcing Policy – When do we respond? How do we prioritise by channel and how do we engage – reactively or proactively? Now: Recently, I have been involved in a number of conversations on resourcing (as I’m sure you’d expect!) and one thing is often repeated – the benefits of supply-led planning. Think about only offering digital (or even telephony) channels when resource is available – so rather than trying to staff to meet a seemingly-unknowable level of demand, simply ‘throttle’ channels when resource ISN’T available. In terms of priorities, latest discussions I’ve been involved in suggest that this is sometimes closely aligned to cost management – what is the most cost-effective way of meeting customer demand AT THIS MOMENT? This will change and flex throughout the day and businesses will need to make sure that their digital strategy is robust enough and agile enough to take full advantage.
The article also went on to talk about the importance of having targets and KPI’s that are aligned to strategies that support customer expectations, and how vital it is that viable, tagged, meaningful data is captured as part of any ‘pilot’ for a new channel. This remains important to this day – especially if your business is intending for a particular channel to be managed as part of an ‘omnichannel’ eco-system. In addition, it is our ability to track and collect data across the whole customer journey that remains key to any digital success. We need to understand when and why the customer wants to change channels.
What is apparent after looking back five years is that many of the challenges around digital transformation and, in particular, the world of ‘omnichannel’ offerings still remain. Whilst individual companies may be making great strides, as an industry, we are still not providing a fully integrated experience for our customers; this is largely because we do not yet have an integrated journey planning and operating model that takes into account data, KPI’s marketing, IT and a workforce strategy.
Author: David Preece
Date Published: 17/03/2021