Africa’s contact centres need innovation boost

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With some local contact centres still resting on technology nearly a decade old, it’s time for contact centres to embrace innovation or face being left behind, says Karl Reed, Chief Marketing & Solutions Officer at Elingo.

Across the world, the fastest-growing enterprises are based on revolutionary business models that thrive in an environment without boundaries. The contact centre industry stands to learn a great deal from this.

Locally, we still see contact centres supported by technology up to ten years old, and cut off from their own businesses and the market as a whole by a series of barriers.

Within a business, there are always restrictions and boundaries – be it due to company culture, budget or security. Too often, there are also barriers in communication between business, management and the contact centre team. While standards and controls are always crucial, it is also time to re-evaluate the way these restrictions are imposed.

Contact centres must break down boundaries and restructure their business models to encourage collaboration, communication and innovation, if they are to keep pace with change in the market.

Enabling innovation encompasses both embracing the technologies that support it, and driving a culture of innovation throughout the organisation. By growing a culture of innovation, where employees are encouraged to express their opinions and suggest improvements, allows businesses to discover shortfalls and bottlenecks that can be resolved through technology.

Supporting innovation in business means staying agile. In a world of rapid change, no business can accurately forecast more than three years in advance. So, if a contact centre is still working on a five-year-old model, it is working on an outdated model.

Now, business can only plan accurately up to two years in advance, with any strategies beyond that timeframe business goals, rather than strategic plans.

Businesses must be able to adapt their strategies in line with changing market trends in very short time frames, sometimes weeks or even days. Contact centres aiming to thrive in future need to be able to adapt accordingly, and doing so requires having the right technologies in place and the necessary culture of innovation and willingness to change instilled in the organisation.

Fortunately, preparing the contact centre to embrace change does not have to take place as a ‘big bang’ approach. The culture of innovation and the technology tools to support it can be phased in over time.

The change must happen within the human element first – management and employees must want to innovate. In addition, the enterprise must look to tapping into the ability and massive knowledge base within its own employee ranks, for the insights and ideas that drive successful innovation.

Simply dropping innovative technologies into a contact centre, without a clearly identified need, the necessary communication and staff buy-in is not a recipe for success. Everyone needs to be involved in order to see a full return on investment in technology. Only once a contact centre has that buy in at all levels, it can begin looking to its internal systems and technologies, and assess which should remain and which should be replaced.

This systems refresh process ideally takes place through a phased approach, with the enterprises determining which divisions and departments are most impacted by market changes, and which have the most urgent need to innovate. Older and newer technologies can run side by side as older technologies are phased out, allowing innovation to edge into the enterprise section by section, area by area.

Because innovation, from channels and ways in which communications happen, through to the tracking and reporting of interactions and the streamlining of operations – will be what delivers the competitive edge to contact centres in future.

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