You might be surprised to know that I still have conversations with prospective clients whose contact centres are still managed on-premises. There are many reasons claimed by organisations who are delaying the inevitable, and most of those reasons are fear based:
- Fear of budget impact
- Fear of job loss
- Fear of backlash from staff and/or clients
- Fear of… the unknown
But there is an answer – to ALL of that.
And that answer is Change Management.
Full disclosure: I’m not a Change Management Practitioner, but with over two decades of IT experience, I have seen more than my fair share of super successful and phenomenally failed IT change projects, and everything in between. And change management is always present in those projects that smash it out of the park.
My intention with this article is that you will come away with a greater understanding of how change management can be:
- the most important driving force behind the success of your upcoming Contact Centre migration to the Cloud.
- your key to managing not only just the change, but also the intangibles that can be so difficult to quantify or manage.
- a framework to guide your complete process from research to deployment and beyond.
My 5 tips for your CX change success, distilled from everything you’ll read in this article.
The importance of Change Management in the Contact Centre/CX space
Any organisational change sees FAR better results when approached with the assistance of a change manager or change team. But nothing is truer than when dealing with a change that affects absolutely everything an organisation touches, or everyone they engage with – their contact centre and client service team.
Two scenarios to consider
Standard data and document migration
An IT Manager has a project at hand to migrate their organisation’s data and document storage from a legacy on-premises infrastructure to cloud infrastructure. On the surface, it’s clear to see that is a massive project – of course. And yes, it affects the entire organisation, potentially affecting their workflows, and aspects like logging in, and where they find their files. But, unless their legacy technology is from the 80s, the user experience is not going to be that much different than it was before. You may get some stressed out folks, like the user who refuses to use “The Cloud” and insists on storing everything on a physical hard drive they carry on their person… or maybe, you’ve got a user telling anyone with ears about those worst-case scenarios they heard about, about something going awry with the migration and everything is lost, so instead, you’re dealing with panic-stricken masses… 😉
A project like this needs to be managed correctly to ensure the safety and security of the data and documents that the organisation needs to function. But changes like this are “behind the curtain” if you will, and as such, the majority of end users won’t even notice the change. This type of change automatically reduces or maybe even completely removes the potential of insufficient adoption to achieve project success. In a scenario like this, change management is imperative for the IT team/users that manage and maintain the infrastructure, as their roles will change significantly, sometimes completely. But for the rest of the organisation, it will probably just be business as usual.
Contact centre migration
An IT Manager tells the Client Services Manager that with the data and documentation migration, the contact centre software also needs to be upgraded.
Now here’s where things can get complicated, because not only are the IT staff going to be affected, but so will the rest of the organisation’s staff. And then, so will the organisation’s clientele, and not just in how their data is stored, but how their interactions with your organisation are managed.
If a change like this isn’t managed correctly, not only could it negatively affect your staff, but a poorly managed change can also affect your organisation’s reputation. And with social media, it doesn’t take much for news of a user’s bad experience to spread like wildfire.
Takeaway – A poorly managed organisational change can damage more than your organisation’s productivity.
We now need to manage more than just the project
Historically for IT projects, a project manager was all that was needed. However, a project manager d Is very focused on the actual technical implementation, timeframes and milestones A change manager drives the adaptation of the people who are impacted by that project, their acceptance of it, and in turn, drives the user adoption of the technology. Change Management puts the end user and operational impact at the heart of its focus.
Back in the day, only a handful of people would be affected by a change in IT systems. Today? In most organisations, everyone in the organisation is affected. So now that our IT changes affect more people, our IT processes need to evolve – so that we are managing more than just the projects.
Change management — manages more than just the change
Change managers don’t necessarily manage the technical change itself, because essentially, the project managers do. But as I explained above, they manage the people, process and operational changes that will be impacted.
Two items that have a profound effect on the success of any IT project are expectations and emotions. Both are very much on the “people side” of any change and neither can be measured by any quantitative metrics. Which means that both take time, effort, and empathy to gauge and manage.
Whether they are Great Expectations or not is irrelevant – they need to be managed. 😉 #DadJoke
I find that there are three key areas around end users’ expectations that are often either miscommunicated, misunderstood, or completely missed altogether. And it’s not a surprise that all of them centre around “different.”
Area #1 – Features
- you’re not moving from like to like – so the features that are available will not be the same.
- this may mean that some features your users like will no longer be available.
Area #2 – Interface
- different platform = different actions = different ways that you use it
- training is a MUST
- reporting, administration, maintenance – all of these functions will be different in some way, shape, or form
Area #3 – Workflows/Experiences
- workflows will change as more systems will move from being siloed to being integrated into the contact centre platform
- OUTCOMES will be the same or better, but the path to get there will likely be different
- maintaining and administering the system won’t require the same level of resourcing
- roles will need to be adjusted or changed – and that will mean upskilling/re-training of individuals to fit the new/adjusted roles
Takeaway – Expectations need to be managed through diligent and detailed comms, to all who will be affected by the change, including your clientele.
When it comes to managing the emotions of the people affected, I like the saying Communicate, Coach, and Manage:
- communicate the change
- coach the people
- manage the emotions
If you do the ‘communicate’ and ‘coach’ steps to manage expectations, there will be inevitably less to do when it comes to managing the emotions.
However, no matter how well you communicated and coached, a complete system or platform upgrade will impact people in some form and this impact is not always easy to predict.
Prepare by being aware
You can’t control people, but you can be on the lookout for what could trigger emotional reactions for some. Department heads should be aware of users in their teams that may fit these traits:
- some users may have been using the legacy system for “forever” so new systems can be overwhelming and scary
- some users may avoid learning new things and prefer to stay in their comfort zone
- some users simply may need to know everything you can give them in order to feel less anxious
- some users may feel that their role may be made redundant
- some users may have personal issues or life events happening that can exacerbate their reactions to big changes
These are all very real and very understandable concerns, so when they come up, ensure that your team understands they need to treat the users with respect and empathy. Even if you feel like you’re repeating yourself, your assurances will go a long way to alleviating their fear and stress.
Prepare by being proactive
You may send the same comms out what feels like a dozen times in a dozen different ways. Addressing the above concerns in your communications – well in advance of the deployment – will help you to nip those in the bud.
From the start, ensure that employees and clientele alike understand that you are genuinely open to hearing from them. One thing that is important to this step working to its fullest is that you communicate when you pivot or shift based on the feedback that was given to you. To many, this is a sign of genuine open communication, and will positively affect the impact of this project, but also other projects you lead in the future.
In your communications, focus on what will change, and how – clarity and transparency is a must. Communicate the impacts to both teams and individuals and how their various workflows will be affected, and of course, communicate the impacts to your clientele and how their processes will be impacted. Remember to do all this communicating well in advance of the deployment or migration to ensure that your teams, users, and clientele have ample time to prepare mentally for the change.
Creation of an FAQ document will be an absolute lifesaver for you and your change team by addressing the questions that so many users will ask… and even the ones that they’re afraid to ask. Even in your FAQ you can let your users and clientele know that their feedback is welcomed, and in fact, helpful in the organisation’s journey through the change.
Once the deployment or migration is complete, the communications doesn’t stop. Regular and consistent communications after the completion of the project are imperative for things like updates on the features and benefits, or even little refresher tips. Refresher tips can help keep the training fresh and remind your users of the benefits of the move to the new system.
How to deal with conflicts that arise
I feel that this is a key management trait that can be overlooked. It is inevitable that there will be some emotional reactions, and some of them may lead to conflict. Remember that there may also be other driving factors out of your control contributing to the reactions and/or conflicts, no matter how well you manage expectations. But when these situations arise, and they are managed with empathy and care, everyone wins.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution here, because, well, humans!
My tips to remember for Contact Centre and CX change success
My role (and a great deal of my career experience) revolves (centres 😉) around Contact Centres, so this article is about managing contact centre and CX change. However, all of what I’ve said here is applicable to any IT change.
And this is why change management is so universally lauded as a solution for organisations. It is genuinely the RIGHT way to deploy a change – irrespective of the type of solution that the change is delivering.
As promised, here are the takeaways I hope you’ve pulled from this article: 5 tips to remember for your Contact Centre change success.
Operate with EMPATHY at All Times
If you only remember one of my tips, this is by far and above the most important. And I’m not referring to just when conflicts arise, as I mentioned earlier, but at all points in the project. Deploying a massive organisational change, especially one that can profoundly affect interactions on both the internal and client-facing sides, can be a scary proposition to some. Putting yourself in their shoes and being clear and transparent in your communications can alleviate a lot of the stress that users feel when they are faced with new processes and technology. Knowledge is power, and by educating and updating them as the project progresses, you are empowering them at the same time.
Executive BUY-IN is imperative
If you don’t have an executive sponsor for the change, someone who will not only lead by doing, but also be a senior voice for the change, and be highly participatory in the change process, you will struggle. Find someone high up in your organisation (the higher the better – aim for the top!) who is as passionate about delivering outstanding customer and employee experience as you are, and recruit them to be your sponsor. As an executive or director, they will not only be equipped to handle objections from other executives, but they will likely be very accustomed to them. In addition, they can navigate the often-political minefield that IT change can create in some organisations.
Establish your METRICS
You will need to measure both your progress in the project and the ongoing performance after completion of the deployment or migration. Don’t forget to take a snapshot of metrics before the commencement of the project, as that comparative data is gold to prove the ROI and overall success of the project.
Find your CHANGE ADVOCATES
Also known as Power Users, Super Users, Change Champions, Early Adopters, etc, your change advocates will be your “boots on the ground” assisting you in driving the change forward. Think of your change advocates as extensions of you and your team, enabling you to be in multiple places at once, guiding your users through the change.
Having a team of change advocates will feel like they are giving you and your team back time in the day.
Be genuinely open to FEEDBACK
Lip service never benefits anyone. Communicating to your end users that you are open to feedback on the project will drive your success far faster and further than you might think. Even if the feedback is what you’d consider negative, try to reframe it. Timely feedback from your users will help you find issues that you need to fix, see problems that your view may not allow you to see, and present angles that allow you to drive even better results. At the end of the day, if there is something wrong, and no one tells you, how do you fix it? And if your users are confident that you hear their issues and will do your best to help them, they’ll generally reciprocate in return. It’s a win-win.
CX is evolving and IT should too
My intention for this article was to give you a greater understanding of how change management can be that “silver bullet” to assist in driving the success you want to see in your contact centre and customer experience upgrades and migrations.
How we engage with and interact with our customers has changed exponentially in the last decade – it has come full circle back to focusing on the relationship we can build with our clients and employees through the positive experiences we deliver. By the same token, as customer experience, or CX, is evolving, so should our IT processes. As IT practitioners, how we approach deploying technology projects needs to evolve from a parochial, siloed, and frankly, outdated approach to a holistic, informed, and integrated approach. And change management is exactly what we need to lead users along the change journey, rather than dragging them behind, kicking and screaming.
Learn more about CX or Change management services? Get in touch for a discussion.