No Technology Silver Bullets your investment Be Different:

Be Different: Learn from the Leaders
No Technology Silver Bullets
– How to get the most out of
your investment
Learn from the Leaders:
No Technology Silver Bullets –
How to get the most out of your
If only it was as easy as the vendors say........................................................... 3
The Problem May Be Harder or Different Than The Vendor Will Admit ............ 4
Is there an answer?............................................................................................. 5
Conclusion........................................................................................................... 6
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If only it was as easy as the vendors say
In the customer service and sales areas, technology vendors have been parading their
array of silver bullets for many years. “Workflow software”, then “CRM solutions”,
“quality management products”. “Speech recognition” and “Skill based routing” are
among those touted as the “best things since sliced bread” (a product also less in
demand today). However, time and again companies have been disappointed with
the results they have obtained. Of course little is written about this as the vendors
certainly won’t admit it and senior executive sponsors won’t confess disappointing
results. But the problems are there with examples such as:
•The major bank who re-implemented their CRM application three times across their
branch and call centre network before they got the levels of lead generation they
•The financial services company that locked in the expected benefits of call
recording and CTI routing technologies only to find that expected benefits didn’t
result and leaving the contact centre undermanned
•The company who found that workflow software delivered only minor benefits
without major process and behavioural change programs
•The Telco whose new speech recognition and intelligent routing systems reported
it’s own routing success but failed to measure the cost in additional transfers and
on the end to end experience of the customer
So why don’t these apparent silver bullets work and what is needed to unlock the
theoretical benefits of these solutions.
There are companies who have managed to get benefits from some of these
technologies “after the fact” by looking at their business in a more holistic way both for
the organisation and customer. The results from those who applied the solution are in
stark contrast to the growing list of technology driven failures that litter the corporate
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The Problem May Be Harder or Different Than The Vendor
Will Admit
Many of these failures share some common characteristics which also help identify
what is really required. We’ve isolated four key drivers
1. Lack of focus on the customer and the experience
2. Incomplete understanding or the problem or business issue
3. Incomplete scope of solution
4. Poor design
Taking each in turn and as symptoms you can look out for:
Lack of focus on the customer
Poorly defined IVR, speech and routing technologies are often a result of an over
emphasis on “what we need from the customer” or “the way we want to organise”
rather than thinking through the experience the customer wants and its implications
for organisation and process design. So companies who create complex speech or
prompt based routing menus in order to create complex and detailed “skilling models”
seem to have last touch with the customer goal which is to get to someone who can
help as soon as possible with the least navigation possible.
What is even more alarming is that the complex skill based models also fly in the
face of broader corporate strategies such as having a “whole view of customer”
or increasing share of wallet. They also create complexity that becomes harder to
manage. Scheduling and rostering across 30 roles is far more complex than a lower
number and some of the other tools and technologies such as rostering and workforce
planning become almost unworkable at this level of complexity.
Incomplete business understanding: customers don’t understand
Many of the menu, speech and routing models are trying to address issues of
complexity. They recognise that it is too hard to train staff to deal with all products
and services. They therefore attempt to isolate the customers need to a given product
or service. Unfortunately this doesn’t isolate complexity. A customer can recognise
they have a billing problem but they can vary from the simple (when’s my next bill due)
to the complex (“my bill is wrong”). So using product and process isolation often fails
to create the simplified roles that the company was striving for.
Incomplete scope and disappointing value delivery
Technology solutions are often an enabler of change rather than the answer. For
example quality software can enforce poorly defined processes and knowledge
management solution can document overly complex processes or products. But
both those technologies also require major behaviour change to be effective. A call
recording or quality measurement tool requires intelligent use by team leaders and
coaches if it is to make any difference to behaviour and performance. Similarly a well
populated knowledge tool destroys value until it is used by staff to deliver the right
answers or answers more quickly.
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Too often failed technology projects fail to recognise that they only deliver value
when they bring about significant changes in behaviour. Self service technology like
web sites needs to change end customer behaviour and call quality and knowledge
management solutions need to bring about significant changes in staff behaviour.
Recognition of this leads to a much broader scope for these projects. Often that
doesn’t happen because the payback looks worse when the full scope is recognised.
But isn’t it better to understand what is really required, to evaluate alternatives and
scope what is need rather than invest in solutions that don’t deliver?
Poor design
Even if the idea behind a technology has merit and broader business issues are
considered, the solution design may still undermine the value a company gets from it.
So an overly complex menu, a plethora of skill sets or a poorly defined quality process
may all undermine the potential of those solutions. Poor usability in any application
designed for customers will either put them off using it or make their use ineffective.
But the corporate world is littered with failures like speech applications asking open
ended questions that the technology can’t cope with or knowledge tools that are in
themselves so hard to navigate that the knowledge is almost inaccessible to someone
dealing with a customer. So the design needs to be right whatever the solution.
Is there an answer?
The answer we have found is to not to start with a technology in mind but to work in
one of two ways using a broader business framework that we call the PRISM model
of effective operations. This model has helped organisations get effective value from
their technologies in one of two ways:
1.Get the business value from technologies they have already implemented
2.Scope and select the appropriate business change, including technology for
problems they are trying to solve. The PRISM methodology gets companies to look
at their operations through five “interdependent” dimensions namely
- the Practices or processes they have in place
- the Resourcing model they use to implement these practices
- the Incentives and indicators that enforce and fine tune the execution
- the Structure of the organisation required to handle customer needs
- the Management processes needed to make the operations effective.
This model has been used to get more value from existing technologies, to question
the need for additional technologies and to identify the most appropriate technologies.
Three examples explain how it has been used:
Unlocking the process impact of technology
A company had implemented call recording and quality assurance software. While
the solution was useful to bring to life coaching sessions and helped locate problem
and disputed calls these benefits were minor in comparison to the cost. But by
looking in depth at the practices, incentives and management processes (three PRISM
dimensions) the company unlocked an even bigger prize. The company hadn’t noticed
that staff used a practice of recording detailed notes about every interaction. As we
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observed the practice we found it odd that agents rarely reviewed these notes on
repeat calls and that in the case of disputes they were ignored. However, the quality
process and measurement regime re-inforced that notes were needed on every call. In
fact the quality solution meant that notes were often no longer needed.
By re-thinking the practice and aligning measures and management, we were able to
reduce the pointless “note taking” on 80% of calls freeing up staff time and removing
a practice that staff disliked. That was just one way that PRISM unlocked more
benefits from the technology solution.
Unwinding the complexity of routing
A major financial services company had implemented a complex skilling model
supported by a complex IVR and sophisticated routing software. However, other
problems has crept into the “system” that hadn’t been recognised. For example,
customers often got their IVR selections wrong so over 20% of calls were transferred
which was hidden waste in the system and a poor experience. Furthermore, team
leaders couldn’t get a clear picture on staff performance because staff had a range of
skills and were swapped in and out of these skills by a central control group depending
on call volumes. This made it hard to coach or improve performance.
Applying the PRISM framework delivered a different structure of skills layered around
complexity rather than products or processes. This was supported with practices,
incentives and measures to make it effective and in doing so the IVR was delayered and made simpler. Unplanned transfers were reduced to almost nothing and
performance visibility changed dramatically. Again the promise of the technology was
unlocked by a more holistic solution and the company freed up over 20% of their
resources and customers spent less time in the IVR.
Using process and structure do obviate the need for complex
knowledge solutions
A wealth management company was contemplating investment in knowledge tools
and software. They had despaired at how hard it was for their front line staff to learn
the myriad of products and processes and navigate through the complex regulations.
However, looking at the problem through PRISM found that different structures and
processes could isolate the need for complex knowledge to a much smaller group of
experts. All that was really required was a well defined set of practices stored on line
and easily accessed and management and measurement to back these up. The results
were revolutionary with over 25% workload reduction across the operations and no
technology investment required.
It is possible to get benefits from technology but typically not without considering a
much broader set of solutions such as the PRISM model. That may also make you
consider if technology is really the answer and may often identify that it isn’t.
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