Statistics tell us 70 percent of change management efforts fail. But change is inevitable in today’s business world, especially in technology-driven industries like contact centers. Here are three keys to tilt the odds in your favor.
For any industry driven by technology, change is not an option. It’s a must. And that certainly applies to contact centers. Simply put, if you want to stay relevant in today’s world, your only option is change. Because technology changes continue to accelerate at a mind-boggling rate and it is imperative for contact centers to keep pace.
Think back just three decades, to the late 1980s. Only 15 percent of U.S. households had a computer. And the first commercial cell phone in the U.S. had just gone on the market in 1984. The enduring cellphone image from that era is actor Michael Douglas, starring as Gordon Gekko in the smash 1987 movie Wall Street, talking on a handheld mobile phone the size of a large brick.
Today, almost everyone owns a slim, compact cell phone that fits easily into your pocket or purse. According to the Pew Research Center, 95 percent of Americans now own a cell phone of some kind, and 77 percent own a smartphone — more than double the 35 percent who owned a smartphone in 2011. Meanwhile, 73 percent of Americans own a desktop or laptop computer, and 53 percent own a tablet computer.
As big data and computing power continue to increase by leaps and bounds, and futuristic technologies from robots and 3D printing to artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) converge, many companies that rely on technology find themselves in an almost constant state of change.
As Declan Butler wrote in the prestigious science journal Nature: “We can search across billions of pages, images and videos on the web; mobile phones have become ubiquitous; billions of connected smart sensors monitor in real time everything from the state of the planet to our heartbeats, sleep and steps; and drones and satellites the size of shoeboxes roaming the skies. If the pace of change is exponentially speeding up, all those advances could begin to look trivial within a few years.”
Managing Change Effectively
If change is inevitable, then change management is essential. It is the process by which a company prepares, equips and supports individuals, teams and organizations for organizational change.
Yet, 70 percent of change management programs fail, according to research from McKinsey and Company. The two leading causes: employee resistance and lack of management support.
It really shouldn’t come as a surprise that so many efforts fail. Change management, done right, is primarily about leadership, teamwork and open communication.
Let’s take those one at a time.
In implementing any change, whether it involves technology or not, the organization’s leadership has to ensure that it’s aligned to the company’s business goals, objectives and strategies. If you’re going to require people throughout the company to learn a new system or process that may entail retraining and learning new skills, you need to be clear on how implementing those changes will better meet those goals, objectives and strategies and result in a boost to the company’s bottom line.
In the contact center, that means improving the customer experience. Or, as it is often referred to in the industry today, customer success — a more proactive approach that seeks to help customers achieve their desired outcomes by using the company’s products or services. The idea is to forge a lasting relationship with customers that results in them purchasing more products or services over a longer period of time.
If leadership isn’t clear on how the change they want to implement aligns with the big-picture goals of the organization, then they certainly will not be able to communicate those benefits to the rest of the company.
Finally, be realistic about your change timeline. Break things down into achievable, smaller steps that enable employees at all levels to experience success that will build confidence and momentum as the process proceeds.
Change can be scary. Especially for employees who are suddenly being told they must change the way they’ve done things for years. So it’s hardly surprising that employee resistance is one of the main torpedoes that sink change management efforts. If employees see the change as a threat to their job security, your task of managing change becomes far more difficult.
So bring together representatives from all levels of the organization to form a team that is empowered to lead the change effort. Making organizational-wide changes to improve customer satisfaction will take an organizational-wide effort.
In a contact center, agents are likely to feel most threatened by changes in how they do their job, and as the first line of contact with customers, any change effort needs their buy-in. So it’s important to have agents on the team who understand the big picture benefits for the organization and its profitability, the ways it will improve customer satisfaction and how it will help agents do their job better (and perhaps even easier) while helping them acquire new skills that will enhance their career path and make them more attractive to employers. Be sure to answer the question that will be on everyone’s mind, whether they voice it or not: What’s in it for me?
The most important tool in any change effort is communication. Changing the culture in an organization — a challenge many change management efforts need to undertake to succeed — is an ongoing conversation. Communication on what it is that the organization is seeking to achieve through change management should be clear, concise, transparent and frequent.
And it should be a two-way street. Emails and memos that provide regular updates and explain what’s happening are fine. But holding informal, open meetings where everyone gets to ask whatever questions they have are critical. With one important caveat: Employees need to come away feeling like they’ve been heard for the meetings to truly be successful.
CDC Technology and Customer Satisfaction
In this fast-changing business environment, CDC Software delivers happier customers and increased brand loyalty — the hallmarks of customer satisfaction — by linking your telephony system to your CRM and other mission-critical business applications to create computer-telephony integration. Contact us to learn more.