Off Center
 
Over the years, hundreds of articles and whitepapers have been written – some by respected experts, others by people like me – on practical ways in which contact centers can reduce operating expenses without sacrificing quality and the customer experience. Unfortunately, practicality is the cousin of conventionality, conventionality breeds conformity, conformity begets homeostasis, and homeostasis, well… I'm not exactly sure what homeostasis means, but I'm told that it doesn't lend itself well to innovation.

To achieve the kind of cost savings that truly impact the bottom line – and help organizations not only survive but thrive during the current economic climate – contact centers need to start pushing limits, taking risks, being creative, breaking laws, ignoring ethics and destroying evidence. It's not enough to focus only on ho-hum tactics like improving scripts and workflows to shave seconds off of calls, or encouraging customers to use self-service options. While such approaches can help cut expenses, they rarely result in the kind of eye-popping savings that earn the respect of the leading white-collar criminals.         

To earn that kind of respect and recognition, you'll need to focus on the highly inventive and unproven practices highlighted here:

Ban turnover. Agent attrition is the biggest drain on most contact center's budgets. The cost of having to continually re-recruit, re-hire, re-train and regurgitate can be staggering. Most contact centers try to reduce turnover via rewards/recognition programs and other incentives, flexible schedules, home agent initiatives, and compelling career paths. The problem is that such initiatives require time and effort and stuff, which can be a significant challenge for managers who just don't feel like working too hard. And even if they do take the time to implement such programs and practices, there is no guarantee that agent retention will improve.

The solution is simple: Formally ban turnover in your contact center. Explain to agents that, from this day forward, attrition is strictly prohibited; that working in the contact center is no longer a privilege nor a right, but an absolute requirement.

Agents will most likely appreciate the authoritarian policy, as it will relieve them of the pressure and anxiety they often feel when trying to decide what to do after quitting. With quitting no longer an option, finding a new and better job will be one less thing that agents need to worry about, which will enable them to focus more on the obscenities that customers are screaming in their ear.

Of course, there are always going to be that small minority of agents who feel compelled to spoil everything. Don't be surprised if a few chronic complainers vehemently object to the center’s decision to strictly forbid turnover. The best way to deal with such employees is to introduce another new policy – one that forbids vehement objection in the contact center.     


Eliminate training. A formal training program can be quite taxing – both financially and physically. First of all, the necessary investment in training materials and software can be staggering. Secondly, trainees often suffer costly injuries to their temporomandibular joint when yawning during sessions covering the company's mission, vision and values.  

To dramatically reduce such expenses and musculoskeletal suffering, the most forward-thinking centers have eliminated agent training entirely – resorting instead to hiring only super-smart people and/or kidnapping competitors' top performers. Newly hired staff who still wish to receive some form of expert training can do so by asking the center's best agent to be their mentor, or by carefully observing the center’s worst agent and doing the exact opposite of everything he or she does.     


Blackmail technology vendors. Just as expensive as agent turnover and training – if not more expensive – is the technology required to effectively and efficiently run a contact center. To compete and succeed in today's fiercely competitive customer contact arena, companies must shell out hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars for call routing systems, CRM applications, advanced speech recognition technology, etc.

The good news is that the vendors who sell such high-priced solutions will do just about anything to protect and embellish their reputation in their respective market. They know if word gets out that their product doesn't work, or that their support is unreliable, or that their ethics are questionable, or that they give out generic rather than Häagen-Dazs ice cream bars in exhibit halls, it could cause their entire empire to crumble. Thus, to greatly reduce your technology costs, it's a good idea to tell premium vendors that, unless they drastically lower the price of/give you their latest revolutionary technology release, you will start a daily blog dedicated to launching rumors that the vendor paid for its last five "product of the year" awards, that's its performance management suite causes meningitis, and that it tests its analytics software out on puppies.