Does IT Underpin the Success of the Contact Center?


There’s no question that the relationship between contact center professionals and their IT colleagues is one of the most important, operationally. There is no customer care effort without the support and guidance of IT in selecting and maintaining a sound technology infrastructure. In fact, as time goes on, contact center management becomes less a discipline about running technology, and more about the dual roles of motivating workers and understanding customers.

When it comes to provisioning customer contact departments, we see a lot more interdisciplinary work being done by a diverse group of stakeholders – people in IT, customer care, even marketing and sales departments.  And as some of those other folks become involved in decision-making, IT is becoming more of an arbiter and trusted advisor than ever before. For example, when it comes to the question of adding support for multichannel interactions, it is often the role of IT to manage the way the business shares data between systems and applications.

The widespread movement towards more complex analytics about customers and interactions has also hastened this IT ascendancy. For example, when you have marketing departments using customer data that comes from a combination of systems, many of them separate and siloed, it falls to IT to establish ground rules for how a business collects, stores and distributes the information. And of course, once a business goes down this path and the analysis itself becomes strategic, then it’s up to IT to harden the systems and processes to make sure that they stay reliable.

So with this new emphasis on IT, does that leave the traditional contact center manager out in the cold? Not at all. The contact center is still the focal point of the customer experience for the entire organization. It is the source of most of the intelligence that a business has about customers’ behavior and motivation. When the manager of this department focuses on delivering actionable information to relevant colleagues in sales, marketing and product development, the business as a whole gets healthier. It also gets more flexible.

We’re seeing many organizations turn to hosting for some of their contact center applications (core routing, self-service, even agent optimization). What used to be anathema to IT has blossomed into a time- and resource-saving alternative that many of today’s IT professionals can embrace and work well with. In a lot of companies, IT has proven to be an important CC partner when it comes to defining reliability and security standards  in the move to the cloud.

The biggest difference I see between today’s operations and those ten or twenty years ago is in the collaboration between departments. There are many fewer examples of contact center pros who say “we wanted to install an IVR (or chat client, or analytics system, etc.) but IT wouldn’t let us (or made us wait two years).” Instead, I hear tales of companies so fearful of the extreme pace of change in the customer environment that collaboration has become an imperative, often pushed from above. In a contact center world where the three hottest (and scariest) words are social, mobile and cloud, there’s no way a care-focused pro can parse the technology options all by himself. IT support takes on a whole different meaning.

We talked about these topics on the recent roundtable discussion, Future-proof Your Contact Center to Retain and Grow Your Customers. If you weren’t able to join or would like to review the replay at your leisure, you can watch it on demand now.

Keith Dawson, Principal Analyst Enterprise, is part of Ovum’s customer interaction team, where he covers contact center technologies, including infrastructure, software, and services. His particular interest in recent years has been the customer experience: how to measure it, and how companies can use the contact center to manage that experience to their advantage.

Keith covers emerging service delivery technologies, including speech analytics and proactive outbound and advanced workforce optimization tools, all with an eye to understanding how organizations can best allocate resources and optimize customer satisfaction. He speaks frequently on these topics at industry conferences and webinars.