See...I Told You So
Paul Stockford, Research Director, National Association of Call Centers and Chief Analyst, Saddletree Research, Paul.Stockford@nationalcallcenters.org
For the past couple of issues I've been writing short articles asking for survey volunteers for the next year in exchange for a free individual NACC membership for 2010. While the response has been pretty good, there's still room for improvement. In other words, I'd like to see a few more volunteers step up to the plate before we close this campaign down for the year.
I can tell some of you skeptics out there still don't believe me when I tell you that we strive to keep our surveys short, to-the-point, easy and quick to complete. Just so I can say, "I told you so," we're running another brief survey and asking all of our readers to participate and prove to yourselves that I wasn't exaggerating. This survey seeks to answer some of the questions that have come to us as we published the results of our annual survey in previous issues of this newsletter.
As always, the results of the survey will be shared with all of you via essays in this newsletter over the next few weeks. In the meantime, you can help us get more meaningful survey results as well as "test drive" an NACC survey by clicking this link:
This survey is typical of the type of survey we'll be asking our volunteers, members and readers to participate in a few times over the course of the next year. At the NACC we put a great deal of value on surveys as the results reflect the true pulse of the contact center industry. These surveys also provide you with a virtual connection to your peers on a regular basis, so survey participation in statistically significant numbers is of paramount importance to us.
So go ahead and see if I'm not right. Click on the link http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=_2b_2bOizbtBZCAbLeUGjrsuig_3d_3d
take the survey and get involved with the NACC by contacting executive director David Butler at firstname.lastname@example.org and telling him you'd like to join as a volunteer. We'll look forward to having you as a member over the next year.
From the Trenches
VoiceCon 2009: It's All About the Users
Lori Bocklund, President -- Strategic Contact, email@example.com
I've just returned from VoiceCon 2009, one of the key events of the year for IT, telecom and networking professionals. While the conference isn't all about contact centers, much of the technology under discussion impacts centers and their customers. Unified Communications -- spanning an array of technologies including Voice over IP and SIP, presence and instant messaging, multimedia and collaboration tools -- and Social Media/Web 2.0 seemed to attract a lot of attention. In fact, VoiceCon was co-located with Enterprise 2.0, giving ample opportunity for voice gurus to mingle with their Web 2.0 counterparts. While this conference was, on the surface, about technology, the resounding theme from conference chairs, vendors, analysts, consultants and practitioners was "it's all about the users." [The corollary: It's not all about the technology and technologists.]
While many sessions lamented the economy's impact on technology purchases and deployments, a sense of optimism about what technology can do for users permeated the sessions.
-Attendees were enthusiastic about what technology offers with a HUGE focus on business value -- not just productivity and better service, but cost savings as well. Incremental change is IN; "big bang" style technology change is OUT. You'll leverage what you have, not "forklift" your way to improvement.
-Many sessions turned the spotlight on what companies have accomplished. There were several examples of centers using presence (perhaps the most fundamental enabler in UC) and IM to tap experts. The conference also showcased integration of desktop clients with social media tools to further collaboration and communication across the center or the enterprise.
-Folks talked about what companies will be able to do as they deploy the next generation architectures, rich applications, and integrated solutions that vendors offer. Vendors will integrate through open architectures, "cloud" based applications (aka hosted or SaaS), SIP, and federation (linking together systems, such as presence and IM, across organizational boundaries, with appropriate security).
From my realist seat, I tie some specific implications to this user-focused theme:
-Far too often, technology-based initiatives focus more on the tool than the community of users for whom the tool is built. Unfortunately, contact centers are littered with underutilized, overbought, underperforming investments as a result. This has to change! We need a renewed focus on the culture, processes, and organizational roles and responsibilities that surround technology.
-Technology must be designed such that users don't have to think too hard (or get extensive training) to use it successfully. Flexible yet simple. That's a tall order, but one that vendors seem prepared to fill. And with a growing cadre of applications, tools, and interfaces that require integration to enable communication across the enterprise, contact center, and customer/prospect base, vendors will have to break down their competitive walls and work together.
-Users have to get more invested in technology. The average contact center user may not care much about architectures, standards and protocols, but must take responsibility for engaging with vendors, IT and others across the enterprise to learn what's possible and why it matters. Users need to be strong contributors to technology planning, decisions and deployments.
-In-house technologists need to treat users as customers and measure performance based on the business units' success. This means taking time to understand the business and operating environment in which their "customers" work. They need to visit the center, observe calls, and ask for feedback on the tools and services they provide. Routine meetings to discuss business needs and technology possibilities are a critical best practice.
-Vendors need to really deliver on "consultative selling," with the end users' best interests at heart. This concept has been in vogue over the years, and its track record has been
well, spotty. It's time to get it right. While IT/telecom/networking may be the buyer, vendors need to focus on -- and bring along -- the users.
What does this all mean for you? With the large potential changes coming, the time to start learning is NOW. Nearly every vendor presentation and every booth on the floor addressed Unified Communications and social media. In my experience, many contact center professionals don't know or care about UC (or UCC -- adding collaboration), but the concept is taking hold. While some of the applications and benefits are targeted at the enterprise, the contact center aspires to be -- and needs to be -- more connected with the enterprise. In addition, the social media "train" has clearly left the station. According to Nemertes Research, users are driving the train, often without IT's knowledge. So whether you tweet, share your knowledge, connect to others through groups, collaborate using Web 2.0 tools, or just start plugging in to observe and learn, it's time to get on board.
With a little effort, we can all will work together to ensure these new technologies are applied in ways that show it's truly "all about the users."
Call Center Stimulus Jobs-NOT!
David Butler, Executive Director, National Association of Call Centers, David.Butler@nationalcallcenters.org
The rule was that the US stimulus plan was to create or save thousands upon thousands of jobs. By savings these jobs, spending by consumers would continue and the recession would ease and end, and everything would be back to normal faster. Because the stimulus plan was in the trillions of dollars (note this is what trillion looks like $1,000,000,000,000) and the fact that there was a new President in the White House, each new job created or saved would be tracked and published in an open forum on the web. Well a few reporters from the Associated Press started to look into all of the jobs claimed on the site and they found a few errors. Unfortunately for us, some of these error were found within the call center industry. Call center examples from the investigation include Teletech Government Solutions on a $28.3 million contract with the Federal Communications Commission which created a call center and reported creating 4,231 jobs even though 3,000 of those workers were paid for five weeks or less. The Koring Group also received two FCC contracts for call centers. It reported hiring 26 people for each of the two contracts, or a total of 52 jobs, but cited the same workers for both contracts. These jobs only lasted about two months. I am sure that there are other call center jobs tied directly or indirectly to the US stimulus plan but those positive items are not highlighted, just these exceptions and more than that probably clerical errors in filling out mounds of federal paperwork or inputting the data into the website. Because the call center industry in the United States is so large in both number of centers and employees, it would expect to show up in any sort of stimulus bill just from the sheer magnitude of our industry.
David Butler, Executive Director, National Association of Call Centers, David.Butler@nationalcallcenters.org
I was pondering the other day about the recession. A recession, by definition, is two back-to-back quarters of negative Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth. Since were are in a recession, and the unemployment rate nationally is now above 10.0%, then how far has our actual GDP fallen? Where are we compared to years ago? Did we lose 1 year worth of GDP? 5 Years? 10 Years? Being both curious and resourceful, I found the GDP numbers for the United States from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis. I downloaded the GDP data, which was first measured starting in 1947, ran the numbers each quarter for the past 62 years and then graphed it. Below you will see the data. The far left starts in 1947 and the top right ends in the 3rd Quarter 2009. The red arrow in the upper right hand corner indicates where were are today, that small drop/indention is the recession. Seen as a whole, it does not seem like much, but that drop represents a loss of GDP to 2007 levels, 2 years of loss, and a 10% unemployment rate. This has nothing to do with call centers or the call center industry generally, but I thought you might find it as interesting as I do and thought I would share it with you.
Call Center Comics!
If you like this comic and
would like to see more write Ozzie at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit his website at http://callcentercomics.com/cartoon_categories.htm or just click on the comic to take you to his page. The
NACC appreciates Ozzie letting us use some of his comics
in our newsletter.
Your company logo here. To find out more, contact David Butler at David.Butler@nationalcallcenters.org.
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