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SignpostA few weeks ago I offered to give a colleague a lift to work as we come from roughly the same place and their car was having some work done. On the way to the office I made a turn and was asked by my passenger why I was going this direction? They obviously didn’t go this way themselves. The answer I gave was the same one that I hear all too often when visiting contact centres and talking about how to improve customer experience, “but I’ve always done it this way”. Naturally, when I first moved to this town I looked online for the recommended routes, I even gave a few of them a try and found the one that I preferred. Fast-forward a few years later and I still drive this route day in day out. I hadn’t questioned even once whether this was still the best way to go. In fact I’d never really even checked if it was actually the best way in the first place. The reason I feel that I should have known better is that this is something I come up against quite often and it’s a habit I try to encourage people to break.

Finding a way that works and then setting that in stone or as a never changing baseline is a practice all too familiar for many contact centre managers and it usually takes a massive shift of some sort for someone to change. Take for example the opening hours in your contact centre, when was the last time anyone did any deep analysis into whether these are the best opening hours for your customers? Are your agents measured on their Average Handle Time? Why? Has any customers ever said that they want calls to be quick and never over-run the, very precise, 520 seconds target? And it’s not just in KPIs, it's everywhere. Break lengths, IVR length (and voice style) and even whether you actually need a physical location for the call centre at all.

There are perfectly good reasons behind all of this of course. These are tried and tested solutions, ways of working that we know will deliver the same results they've always delivered, and if that's all you are looking for then these will almost certainly continue to work for you. However, if you want to be more than just following the path well travelled in your contact centre, if you want to provide that exceptional customer service, you must be willing to take a risk, try new things and more than likely fail a few times.

Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM, famously said, “Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It's quite simple really. Double your rate of failure”. His idea isn't saying that by failing you succeed, it's saying that by innovating you'll likely fail, but it's only by innovating that you will find a better way to do things and eventually succeed. Try something new and if it doesn't work, try something else. Keep looking for better ways to do things and eventually you will find that better way. There is a similar theme in so many success stories including Steve Jobs, Steven Spielberg, Henry Ford (of Ford cars) and even Bill Gates had to try and fail before going on to success. Following the tried and tested method will give you the same results as you've always had. It's safe and secure but only by stepping outside of that existing framework will you ever be able to find something amazing.

Naturally there are right and wrong ways to go about doing this, I’m not going to just drive the opposite way to the office tomorrow on the off chance it's a better way to go. It requires some research and analysis coupled with some well executed trials. By leveraging new contact centre technologies which offer unseen flexibility, there are a huge number of opportunities to test out almost any idea you can come up with. Want to segregate a small team to get them to follow a different process? Do it! Want to drive 5% of your customers down a new IVR and measure the results? Go ahead. Why not allow 10% of your staff to be home-based and see how that goes. It might not work and if it doesn't that's OK, you can revert back. But imagine if it does work, imagine if you manage to find a way to increase customer experience or employee satisfaction. Wouldn’t that be worth a few controlled failures?

Although discovering where to start on something like this might seem daunting, it really isn't. You simply start by asking some questions. Why do I do it this way? Why is that the process? Could we potentially improve that area? You will often find other people will want to keep within their comfort zone, because changing things is a risk, but being a leader means showing others the way. Tonight I will look at a map and check any other possible routes into the office, I will show that I'm not against trying something new and if it is quicker then that's a win for me, if it's not quicker I've shown willingness to try something new. Then I might try another way...

To be the one who succeeds and stands out, you need to be the one to take the risk, you need to show the resilience of someone who comes right back after a failure and you need to set yourself apart by not following the way it was always done, but by finding the new way. The new way which others will eventually start referring to as “the way we've always done it”.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

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About Phil Davitt

Phil has a passion for all things that help businesses provide a great experience to their customers. Phil has worked with some of the world’s leading brands and been involved with some of the most innovative contact centres around the world. He is RVP of Services at NewVoiceMedia and has a background in Customer Service consultancy, project delivery, resource planning and Contact Centre analytics. Phil is also passionate about spending time with his family, sipping a great glass of whiskey and trying his hand at home automation/Internet Of Things. You can follow him on Twitter @Phil_NVM

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