This content is part of the Essential Guide: Guide to customer experience management best practices, technologies

Tie contact center and IT for strong customer experience management

The contact center and IT are often worlds apart, and the customer experience suffers as a result. But industry observers say a few simple principles can change all that.

In many organizations, the IT department and contact center have a big gap in communication and collaboration that can lead to frustration and project delays.

The root of the problem is that the two departments have different goals and are often out of sync. It's a huge issue for many organizations, but it doesn't have to be, experts agree.

Recognizing that both departments work in silos -- each with its own agenda and goals -- is the first step to making customer experience management (CEM) thrive.

What we have here is failure to communicate

"For everyone involved it’s simply a failure to communicate," said Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting LLC, a West Orange, N.J. firm specializing in customer-focused business strategy, operations and technology services.

An IT person who lives and breathes technology, Fluss is also a contact center and enterprise executive who believes the misalignment between IT and the contact center is a problem. "Change is needed to improve communication between contact center managers and their IT counterparts," she said.

For example, Fluss said, if the contact center requests an immediate change in routing, the IT department might look at the issue and decide that current routing is not disrupting systems and that the change can be deferred to a later date.

In the end it’s not so much a matter of caring about the other team’s issues, but of not understanding its goals or speaking the same language or about the same time frame.

Start with internal service-level agreements

Anna Convery, executive vice president of sales and marketing at OpenSpan, a vendor of process important analytics based in Alpharetta, Ga., said that when better cross-department communication is enforced --often with a heavy executive-level  presence to outline the business goals -- the gap narrows and the customer experience improves.

To build the bridge between the contact center and IT, both team managers need to partner with company executives and create internal service-level agreements, according to Convery. 

In doing so, IT must make an effort to understand contact center goals, be prepared for emergency requests generated by a change in business and build the necessary time frames into the agreements. By the same token, the contact center manager must share goals and involve IT instead of going around it -- while gaining an understanding of what IT does.

For example, a manager might not understand IT duties such as version rollouts and security tasks that are required for that requested routing change and might lengthen the project time frame. 

According to Convery, OpenSpan sees its clients typically making big investments in both the people and the technology that directly serve customers.

Right for the company; right for the customer

Convery recommends a holistic perspective in which departments focus first on doing what’s right for the organization -- and that means doing what’s right for the customer. Change should start with better cross-department communication.

In recent years, Convery has seen some positive change. Companies have stronger executive involvement in CEM and in driving the message throughout the organization. The role of IT in customer service is changing with the emergence of an IT liaison to the business. Such a liaison can be useful in opening the communication channel between the contact center and IT teams and establishing mutual understanding.

"Technology assets and the people in the company have to be aligned to impact the customer experience," Convery said. "There’s no point in having a wonderful, efficient organization that is optimized with technology, people and information if you negatively affect your customer experience."

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