Recently I have noticed more and more customer experience (CX) experts and analysts talking about the need to design a more agile customer experience. Agility helps companies react to what customers really need. It reflects the reality of customer service design because you don’t get a consistent number of customers calling at a steady rate throughout the day - or night.
But ask anyone involved in designing CX and they will say that we knew this years ago. Workforce Management systems (WFM) have been matching agents answering calls to customers that need help since the 1980s.
So, what is the reality? Has CX always been agile and powered by WFM or is there a new urgency for even more flexibility? Or is this just attention-seeking on LinkedIn?
It is worth stating that there has always been seasonality in customer service processes. This is the variability that WFM was designed for. Demand for customer service on Sunday is different to Monday. If the company launches a new product, then there will be a spike in demand. If a retailer is planning extra sales in the final quarter of the year, then there will be a spike in customer interactions.
This has always been the case. One of the most limiting factors in the past was the physical contact centre. If you are gearing up for a busy period then you can cancel holiday time, ask everyone to put in some extra overtime hours, and even hire some temporary team members. However, if you have 100 people on your team and only enough space in the building for 120 people then the possibility for expansion is limited.
What happens if your customer activity doubles or triples during a peak period?
This is a common problem for start-ups. When a business is launched, the customer service interactions are usually handled in-house. Processes are informal, so if the start-up finds a market and growth ramps up quickly then this can be a difficult problem.
Nobody wants to turn down growth once a company starts experiencing some success, but it can also feel a little like skiing with an avalanche creeping up behind you. You want to ride the wave of sales success, but that also means managing a huge number of customer questions and general interactions. The quality of customer interactions will decline as the team fails to cope with demand.
This really leads to two conclusions. To really create CX processes that are agile enough to cope with hypergrowth or seasonality you need to find a partner. The level of flexibility required for modern CX processes is beyond what most in-house teams can cope with.
Look at the hypergrowth situation as an example. Do you just instruct your customer service manager to keep hiring more agents to answer the phones? How does that work when you start scaling from 20 customer interactions per day to 20,000? You are not just going to need more people, you need robust processes, metrics, and data security in place. The quickest way to do this will be to find a CX specialist that is familiar with the stress of managing customer service for a rapidly growing company.
Secondly, you need to think beyond local teams and local contact centres. Expanding your horizon to include customer service team members from overseas used to be a strategy focused only on cost - everyone remembers the promises of cheap overseas labour. Now the emphasis is on searching globally to find expertise, because the people you need are highly unlikely to all be located within a short journey of your head office.
Go global and work with a specialist. This is how to truly embrace the agility that is needed in modern CX design.
Planning a CX solution has become more complex in recent years and the need to build agility into a customer service strategy is real, but it now requires much more than a single investment in a WFM system. Agile CX is the only way to support an enterprise that faces regular seasonal peaks or hypergrowth.
An executive leader, specialising in innovation and strategy in customer engagement management and growth, Andrew has been in the outsourcing and technology domain for over thirty years and brings considerable knowledge of transformation and operational excellence into his relationships with clients and teams delivering exciting operations and...