We are certainly witnessing a big economic shakeout – unemployment is surging and investments are shrinking. Revenue and profit curves are taking a dip and no country or industry is an exception. The need of the hour is to just sustain business. Not much can be done with topline, so the focus is now shifting to bottom line and many companies across industries are looking to improve efficiencies, increase productivity and outright eliminate jobs. And, customer service and contact center functions among others are definitely starting to look at cutting costs. Infact, a recent IDG CIO Covid-19 research said that the #1 priority for leaders in the COVID-19 crisis, is process efficiency to drive costs down.
In these times, it is no longer a surprise for you to be called into several budget meetings to cut costs. And, mostly everyone is trying to look at it as a short term cost cutting exercise - one that is quick, sometimes responsible, but not necessarily long term. As Contact Center and IT leaders, it is important for you to balance the budget and act fast but equally important is not to lose sight of the long term ROI. And, a one-size-fits-all approach to cost cutting is not going to work because ever industry is going through its own business cycle.
As you think through this cost cutting exercise, here is a suggested systematic approach based on where your industry is right now in terms of the overall impact on personnel, operations, supply chain and revenue. When it comes to contact centers, we see three categories of companies, based on contact volume they are seeing.
- Growing Contact Volume - Contact volume is surging in some sectors like Public and Non Profits. And, their revenue impact is reasonably less compared to other sectors. There is a spike in both inbound and outbound contacts as they deal with rapid response around COVID-19, handle citizen questions around COVID-19 and unemployment or contact tracing. Here are some key levers to think about if your contact center is in this mode.
- Consider proactive notifications to customers to reduce incoming surge in volume especially for known issues around COVID-19 testing information or unemployment questions. These can clearly be avoided with just a proactive push notification through SMS, automated call through a dialer
- Agent and customer facing bots – Keeping your agents efficient is very critical and it matters the most when you have high incoming volumes. Investment in automation and Artificial intelligence go a long way to eliminate repetitive tasks for agents. So is customer facing bots that can service customers while your agents are busy.
- Unified efficient desktop – If you ever missed on integrating applications like CRMs, ERP or order management system, it is definitely worth the effort to integrate them all into one unified agent desktop. . A small impact on efficiencies can go a long way to reduce the overall cost given the sheer volume of interactions. Ever wondered how a simple screen pop on customer information from a CRM integration can save a sizeable portion of your handle time ? And, of course cost?
For more cost cutting options to consider in a growth mode, refer this checklist.
- Flat contact volume – These industries have a moderate level impact and generally see flat contact volumes. Technology and Finance companies are likely to fall under this category. Some of the best cost cutting measures specially for flat transactions and relatively stable environments are
- Digital channels – Double down on digital. It is critical to move to digital now to save on costs while providing timely information to your customers. Having 2 or 3 concurrent interactions in digital channels vs just one single conversation in phone can help improve agent productivity dramatically.
- Customer communities – Leverage the power of crowd sourcing and empower your customers to help solve issues for other customers. This is a popular model for tech industry that could possibly be leveraged by other industries.
- Intelligent Routing – Having more intelligent routing rules in your ACD can help load balance with fewer agents. Every customer is important but we have to necessarily get your premier customers the premium treatment you promised. Getting premier customers routed to live agents vs the others to self service is another option to consider.
For more cost cutting options to consider in flat mode, refer this checklist.
- Shrinking contact volume – These industries have a high impact from COVID-19 and see a shrinking budget as well as contact volumes. Cost cutting measures have to be a bit more drastic here.
- Outsourcing – Move agents offshore to see if cost can be reduced substantially. A hybrid model is a good starting point to work through this model
- Leverage self service extensively- It need not be sophisticated but a simple IVRS can work wonders here. Adjusting those menus can be your quick hit.
- Optimize ruthlessly with search terms and continuously fine tune on simple approaches like updating FAQ
For more options to consider in shrinking mode, refer this checklist.
Overall ROI and payback – If you have ever been thinking about replacing that outdated and archaic on premises systems, now is the time. First and foremost, during these unprecedented times, there is a dire need to set up a call center work from home model within days if not hours. And, with a true cloud native call center software many companies have moved to a full fledged work-from-home model in a matter of hours. Listen to how Trupanion, one of our customers, moved 900 agents in under 72 hours. If you are not agile, you can’t sustain.
Secondly, when moving from on-premises to a cloud-native system you pocket savings by eliminating costs around maintenance, upgrades, 2X investment in redundancy and additional investment for scale. You can also reduce your cost dramatically when it comes to implementation and integration. When doing long term investments, it is important to look at Net Present Value (NPV) of investments over multiple years. NICE inContact commissioned Forrester to assess the economic impact of NICE inContact CXone as customers transition from on-premises systems. The results have shown an impressive NPV of 20M in 3 years for customers who moved from on-premises systems to NICE inContact CXone.
Lastly, when it comes to quick cost cuts, it is critical to look at payback period on when you can break even and recoup your costs. Investing in NICE inContact has given a rapid payback period of as little as 3 months as (Forrester Total Economic Impact study).
These are unprecedented times and we need to think through a financial strategy that does not compromise long term ROI. Start with some of these short term cost cutting ideas and transition to a more sustainable approach.Join us in our webinar with Aberdeen as we talk through various approaches to cutting costs during these trying times.