Today’s technology consultancy approaches are all about delivering best practice strategies and solutions

that – in turn - enable the best customer experiences, support the highest operational efficiency, and combine people, processes and technology to deliver real value for their business.

You've probably all heard stories of organisations that have engaged with the most expensive management consultants, suffered the whole death-by-PowerPoint experience, and then waited in anticipation for the strategic direction or solutions that might actually deliver the benefits they identified. Many are still waiting. Does it really still have to be like this?

The fear of high price engagements still acts as a barrier for many Customer Service Directors. They know they need to add more value to their customer contact strategy or that their contact centre is not maximising its performance, but are uncertain how to progress because they're not sure where to go for – or if they can afford - the best advice.

Where contact centre technology solutions are involved, it is essential that your consultancy partners are much more specialised. The best customer contact strategies and solutions demand in-depth industry knowledge, a real awareness of how technology can help, as well as strong business processes and employee engagement. Today's technology consultancy approaches are all about delivering best practice strategies and solutions that – in turn - enable the best customer experiences, support the highest operational efficiency, and combine people, processes and technology to deliver real value for their business.

Benchmarking existing contact centre performance

The first stage for any successful contact centre consultancy project involves the benchmarking of your current customer service operation in order to establish a performance baseline. This allows you to identify opportunities for improvement, and provide your business with a clear timeline for making these improvements.

It is important here to look beyond traditional benchmarking methodologies and performance indicators, and make sure that you're also analysing your customers' experience from both a practical and emotional perspective. This will provide you with essential insight and, ultimately, a more balanced, customer-centric view of your overall operational performance.

Once you've carried out your initial benchmarking, you then need to focus on unlocking value by translating the opportunities identified into clear and practical action plans, enabling change to be driven into operations. It's important to work with a technology consulting partner that has proven, in-depth experience of delivering best practice solutions. Knowing what actually constitutes 'best practice' should be the starting point for any serious engagement - there is no better method of measuring and understanding the gap between the current performance of a contact centre and how it should be performing, and providing a clear view of the delta between the two can prove a strong project motivator.

Benchmarking should also be seen as an ongoing process, forming a key part of each contact centre's culture for continuous improvement. However, if contact centre management is to really achieve best-in-class standards, it's important for them to be able to interpret and act on this valuable information.

Integrating core people, process and technology components

While benchmarking can provide a powerful motivator for undertaking change, it's important that you select a specialist contact centre technology consulting partner that can help you integrate all the core people, process and technology components that impact the performance of any successful contact centre operation.

Take Workforce Optimisation (WFO), for example. WFO is all about getting the best performance out of the people in a contact centre, and then putting in place the processes and systems to support continuous improvement. So, in addition to people and process skills, any technology consultancy partner will also need to have specific technology expertise in key WFO solutions areas such as Workforce Management, Quality Monitoring, Call Recording, eLearning, Customer Feedback, Speech Analytics, and Performance Management, as well as Balanced Scorecard development.

Right across the contact centre, whether it's CRM, the design and implementation of agent desktops, creating self-service solutions to support the customer journey, advising on ACD replacement strategies, or simply helping organisations to support their multi-vendor support contracts, technology consultants should be able to advise businesses on improving the efficiency of their complex customer service technology environment. The goal should be for your consultants to work with you to unlock measurable and repeatable benefits.

To achieve this kind of result, it's important that your technology consultancy partner really understands what success actually looks like for your organisation – and then implements the solutions needed to deliver real bottom line results for your business. Typically this will involve engagement with consultancy firms that can demonstrate the right mix of creative thinking matched by experience across a range of vertical markets and all the key contact centre technologies.

Committing to continuous improvement

In today's increasingly complex customer services environment, you need to be able to integrate customer interaction and contact details with your back-end business information quickly and effectively across a variety of communication channels – and at a minimal cost. An effective systems integration approach can help you to achieve this by leveraging the value of all the different contact centre systems and applications within your organisation.

By working together, these systems can help streamline your existing contact centre processes and improve operational performance, allowing your customer service operation to become more flexible and ensure a systems architecture that will help you to adapt quickly and embrace new opportunities.

Clearly this isn't a challenge that can be solved easily with a one-size-fits-all technology solution - technology consultancy isn't just about recommending a new software solution or adopting a distinctive new IT approach. Instead you'll need to work with a technology consultancy partner that can work with you to identify your specific business challenges and recommend and deliver complex multi-vendor integrated systems and applications into your contact centre seamlessly.

Key considerations in selecting such a partner should include an extensive team of highly skilled systems engineers, systems integrators and solution architects, proven sector expertise, evidence of clearly defined procedures, backed by in-house demonstration lab facilities to ensure that every aspect of a solution is thoroughly tested before your 'go-live' date. Above all, it's essential that your technology consultancy partners don't provide you with stock answers – instead you should be looking for them to suggest those elements of people, process and technology best practice that are most applicable for your contact centre and your business as a whole.