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Innovation Is Not Optional in BPO Contact Centers

Innovation Is Not Optional in BPO Contact CentersThe following blog post was written by Fred Stacey and is re-published with his permission:

Most of my followers/readers know that I try to post my own images and tie them back to the article. Acropolis still stands today as a testament to innovative builders in Greece that created marvels such as this. I believe we should all aspire to build things that withstand the test of time, which I believe most do. There is no better example that resonates for me then the many ruins of Athens. However, if you do not continue to cultivate and curate your business, even the greatest businesses will crumble. I know I normally write about the tech side, but this isn’t about the technology as much as it is about innovation as a whole.

I recently posted an offer on LinkedIn to have open discussions with industry leaders about what the contact center of the future could look like. I am a consultant, so people pay me for my time, but I really wanted to get some idea of where the industry felt we were heading and what it looked like from their eyes, so I offered my time for free. I feel like the value for both parties was significant and it was only the time for a few calls that was being given. Simple, right?

I received a few thought provoking comments about how some centers were really changing their focus towards their employees and driving performance through increased engagement and satisfaction. I also received some great commentary on AI and the impact people had seen in their current environment as well as their opinions on the future of that technology in their business. I think this is a great start, but what surprised me more is that out of all the comments and views not one person followed up on discussing their ideas of the contact center of the future.

Maybe I didn’t do a good enough job of making sure people understood what I was trying to accomplish and that I was willing to give my time to them and their company for free? Maybe they didn’t see the value in having a discussion with me…so maybe it is me. Either way, one thing is obvious to me is that we are always eager to discuss innovation, but we rarely follow through even when we know we need to.

We, as an industry, have a tremendous impact on commerce because we are often the front-facing arm of the customer experience. Even though we finally have the attention of boards, C-level executives, and all the business journals, we still seem to be stuck in the day-to-day muck of being inside our businesses.

I know how hard it is to run a contact center because I have done it. I know the pains of having multiple layers of management, agents, trainers, clients, etc. always demanding your time and focus. I don’t by any stretch discount the demands of our industry leaders! I respect the hell out of those who must deal with the barrage of demands for running a successful contact center on a day-to-day basis. I know you have one of the most complex and demanding careers. However, I don’t think we are moving at the appropriate speed of modern businesses. We cannot continue to ignore the fact that the world around us is moving at a blistering pace and those who are not innovating are quickly getting left behind.

The contact center is in a unique spot of being able to finally get the attention we have long deserved. I don’t care if you are a BPO, in-house contact center, tech support group, or a collections agency. If you communicate with the customer directly through any channel, you can demand the ear of your leaders because you own a portion of the customer experience. CEOs know that CX is on display in every forum and, based on all the reports you read on what the C-Suite is focused on, the customer experience is where it’s at.

I want to finish this off with an idea I recently shared with an owner of a contact center company. He runs an international BPO and he was struggling with keeping up with his clients’ demands. Although he has always done exceptional work for his clients, he is at risk of losing some of his largest clients because, in his words, he hasn’t innovated. He also shared with me that his greatest fear is neglecting to focus on innovation in his business. I shared with him the following idea to help get him started, and now it’s yours to do with as you wish.

Here is what I recommend:

Start innovating today. Find one or two of your leaders with a real passion for change. Sit them down and put together an Innovation Team concept for your business. Have someone from every division and every level as part of your team. (Yes, especially an agent…Churchill and Patton leveraged their troops, so why wouldn’t you?) Have them meet and set targeted goals for creating realistic, implementable innovations. People, processes, technology; no subject is off limits. Ask them to meet once a week for a set period to discuss, build, and create innovative programs with targeted KPIs to measure. Let them know that failures will happen, and their goal will always be to fail fast and learn and adapt with their approach. Make this a part of your culture and give the Innovation Team ownership of the results. Mentor them and build your future leaders. Try to not stymie them by saying what they should do and just listen to and evaluate what they create. If you know you have problems that need solutions, don’t give them the answers. You will be amazed at what they create, I promise!

If we do not leverage our position, innovate in our businesses, and continue to push the boundaries of what we are capable of, then we will crumble. Go forth and fail fast and work on your business!

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