Solutions have been around for more than two decades which constitute a central repository of customer information supporting customer interactions from submitting complaints, to taking orders and answering requests for information. There naturally, comes a time when those call center assets need to be upgraded in favor of newer more capable CRM platforms. For those critical upgrades, it is essential to carefully develop a switchover strategy that focuses on three main axes: Implementation, Skills, and Data.
Call centers constitute a major customer communication channel for many organizations. In 2015, 68% of all communications for contact centers was done through the telephone. In modernizing such an environment it is crucial that these organizations empower their call center agents with the right tools (skills, systems and processes) to provide positive client experiences and drive customer satisfaction.
Before designing CRM process flows, it is important to shadow the call center agents in order to understand how they work on their legacy system. This helps considerably in crafting a solution that fits specific call center agents’ needs and eases their day to day work. Whilst meeting management expectations is important, it is these frontline staff that make the difference in customer interactions and their expectations should not be taken for granted – no matter how simplistic they may seem.
Different call centers have different preferences when it comes to handling calls, cases and customers. Thus, call center specific preferences and culture are an important factor to be taken into account. An assumption which may be taken as a given from a consultant’s perspective may be judged obsolete by key stakeholders. Therefore, frequently aligning with stakeholders on requirements and specifications is critical. This is even more pointed for upgrades than for green field CRM implementations.
CRM transactions are repeated hundreds if not thousands of times per day. Thus, after design a projects team must focus on testing. There are three types of intensive testing to ensure a stable environment after go-live:
- Test lab simulations
- Integration tests
- Stress testing
Test lab simulations involve setting up a dummy call center and serve as an infrastructure base for stress and integration tests. A stable solution is the cornerstone of successful end-user adoption as is properly structured end-user training.
In more than any CRM implementation type, call center agents require carefully designed training sessions to build the necessary to allow them to use the available tools to provide positive customer experiences. Agents must use the system extensively starting at go-live, it is thus necessary to build those skills early.
Training sessions should be designed for small groups of users at a time, scheduling significant hands-on time with applications, and based on the scenarios encountered in their daily work. This would allow customer agents to be ready to use the system independently, reducing the required hand holding time. In addition, a capable work force mitigates risks that a system upgrade might have on customer satisfaction during the switchover – likely the most delicate phase of the implementation.
Since many call centers commit to 24/7 support to customers, downtime is often not an option. In order to maintain that service level, typical measures taken at switchover include:
- Switchover during a weekend afternoon where the activity is lowest to minimize impact of an unexpected downtime
- Gradual switchover from the legacy system to the new CRM solution. Start the switchover with one workstation. After approval from the key stakeholders, gradually switch to the new CRM system on the remaining workstations with the possibility to quickly revert back to the legacy system if needed.
- If a third party vendor is involved in the implementation, which is often the case for the call handling solution, their presence is a must during the switchover.
- Finally, continuous 48 hour ground shadowing to ensure the system is running smoothly during which the agent’s questions can be answered.
No matter how successful the switchover, if the data is not properly migrated the agents would not be able to leverage the full benefits of the CRM. Upgrading a call center solution is frequently an opportunity to engage the business in cleansing years of customer data records, standardizing phone number formats, and cleaning up unusable or unrecognizable customer records.
For a successful CRM system upgrade in a call center, a proper strategy has to be developed around three key focus areas:
- the implementation that results in a stable system which meets expectations and is easy to use,
- the skills that empower agents and enable them to make use of the tools developed
- the underlying CRM data that will support transaction execution and generate meaningful business insights
Statistics show that there is as much as a 60% failure rate for CRM implementations mainly related to user adoption issues. Those who follow a carefully designed execution strategy as outlined will reduce their chances of failure drastically.
– Joseph Khair El Kareh