Agile Contact Centers for Better Customer Service

Don’t be held hostage by your outdated contact center technology. Break free with an agile development approach.

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Agile Contact Centers for Better Customer Service

Did you realize that your customer service call center is built on-ten-year-old technology? Maybe it’s even older. Aging and hardware-centric infrastructure can’t keep pace with your customers and the technologies they rely on for communications. The result? Frustrated customers and agents, and wasted time and resources.

But this is nothing new. What you need is a new approach, one that’s more agile and flexible. An approach that will allow you to deliver the caliber of customer experience necessary to win in increasingly competitive markets.

Many businesses have found that an agile contact center has given them the competitive advantage they were looking for. This two-part article introduces the agile contact center concept and discusses how this new approach can help solve many of the common problems facing traditional contact center technology. It also shows how, using an agile approach, you can transform your contact center into a powerful service differentiator.

The Classic Contact Center Technology Trap

Many businesses operating contact centers are subsisting on systems deployed half a decade ago. Those systems were expensive and time-consuming to install and customize, so businesses are, understandably, reluctant to update them.

But think about it: if you launched your system in 2009, you most likely started the buying process two years earlier with an RFP, vendor evaluations, and contract negotiations.

Given the product development cycles for contact center hardware and software, the product proposed by your chosen vendor in 2007 was probably first released in 2004 and initially designed five years before that. So here you stand today, caught in the trap of an aging and costly infrastructure that impedes progress.

Linear and Waterfall Approaches are Outdated

When you deal with old technology, you are often required to accept old paradigms for project management, system integration, and deployment. In fact, most call center technology projects still use the outdated multi-stage waterfall approach to software development.

Waterfall development works like this: You start with a lengthy requirements phase, followed by a design phase. From there, you move to deployment, where you attempt to get proprietary and complex systems to work together. In this phase, you’re often forced to make a series of compromises that limit your effectiveness. After that, you test (and make further compromises), finally moving into production and maintenance modes.

This linear, time-consuming approach to call center deployment and technology choices is often the root of many consumer and agent complaints. Consumers feel the lack of integration between systems. Agents become frustrated because they can't access the information they need to help solve problems. The constant searching for data, repeating of information as customers are transferred between departments, and inability to address consumers’ preferences wastes everyone’s time and company resources.

A New Model: The Agile Contact Center Approach

A new model is emerging that is based on agile software development. It promotes adaptive planning and learning, continuous iteration and improvement, and rapid, flexible responses to change through shortened development cycles. The agile approach unlocks the ability to experiment and learn as you go.

In the classic contact center model, inflexible and proprietary platforms leave you unable to address disruptive changes in consumer behavior. But with the agile contact center approach, you use simple APIs to rapidly integrate with new platforms and channels of communication, and to change the way communications are used by your agents and consumers.

These simple and straightforward APIs are virtualizing the entire telecommunications and VoIP stack. With tools that any web developer can use, they put the power to engineer the customer experience back in your hands.

The agile contact center approach allows businesses to build communications applications using a better methodology and set of technology tools. It allows you to be in control of building and iterating on the experience that you want to deliver to your customers and does so in a way that’s integrated, with little to no telecommunications knowledge required.

Instead of taking an ‘off-the-shelf’ contact center from a telecom vendor and accepting a monolithic feature set, you can use an agile approach to build exactly the solution you need, when you need it.

As the points of integration, flows of usability, and channels of interaction change over time, you can adjust—in real time—and create the customer experiences you need to stay competitive.

An agile approach offers far more than updated technology. The agile contact center re-envisions how contact center software is designed and built. With agile software, businesses of all sizes can create custom solutions to deliver the exact experience they want, instead of having to accept inflexible systems with feature sets they don’t need.

Up next: Making an Agile Approach Work for You