Seven ways to justify investment in your contact centre
For those of us that work in customer service, the need to invest in the skills, technology and processes to deliver a superior customer experience can appear obvious. Happier customers means greater retention, more sales and therefore more profits. So why won’t the board sign off on that new system/increased training budget?
It all comes down to the business case. What seems a no-brainer to someone working in a contact centre doesn’t necessarily come across the same way to senior management, who have to balance finite expenditure against the wide range of potential projects that they could invest in.
So how do you convince senior management to back your contact centre project? Based on my experience it is vital to address seven specific areas when building your business case:
- Know your audience Who are the decision makers and what makes them tick? Depending on the type of organisation you are in - private or public sector, quoted on the stock exchange or not, their motivations will be different. Make sure that you tailor your language and your overall business case to address their hot buttons, whether it is cost reduction, increased sales or a stronger share price. Learn to use terms they understand such as EBITDA (Earnings Before Interest Tax Depreciation & Amortisation), NPV (Net Present Value), CapEx and OpEx.
- Build your case from zero Start from scratch when building your business case and then make sure you validate your conclusions with independent evidence. What do industry analysts say on the subject and what benefits have other businesses gained from making similar investments? If you are installing new software and hardware talk to your preferred supplier (and their customers) to see what can be achieved.
- Be flexible and under commit Businesses move fast, so assumptions you are making will change. Bear that in mind and build a flexible model that can evolve with it. And make sure you under commit on the numbers so that any business changes don’t completely undermine your case.
- Talk to your finance department Model your costs using the rules and templates that finance use. Check how they evaluate costs and ensure you follow a checklist that covers everything (staff costs, internal/IT costs and vendor costs). Watch out for potential risks, such as planned changes in your IT infrastructure, integration costs and any website amendments caused by your new system. Will there need to be downtime, and if so, how much and when?
- Know your case Benefits within business cases tend to fall into three camps – cost reduction, revenue increases or qualitative benefits. For the first two look at your existing operations – what will change, and by how much? Look at specific areas where benefits will come and put a financial figure on them, based on current and future numbers. Qualitative benefits are much harder to prove, so use this to back up your cost reduction/revenue increase argument. It is best to talk about examples of how the system will improve the customer experience, painting a picture of the qualitative benefits rather than basing your whole case on it.
- Be a phaser Do demonstrate the long term vision behind implementing a new system, but reduce risk by adopting a phased approach. Ensure that your first phase delivers a high return to build confidence and make it easier to justify future investment.
- Include all stakeholders How does your plan benefit other parts of the organisation? Are there conflicts with their plans? Talk to different areas of your business, test your business case on them and refine it through their input.
Building a business case can appear daunting, but it is vital to unlock contact centre investment and demonstrate the importance of customer service to the bottom line. Use the right metrics and follow the advice above to give yourself the best possible chance of winning the investment you need.
This post is adapted from Paul’s presentation at the CallCentre Conference (2-3 October 2013) – click here to see the full slide deck.