Applying Agile Methods to the Contact Center

I’ve been wearing shorts to work all Summer, and sometimes I meet people at lunch or after work who ask me if I had the day off.  No, I say… I work for a software company.  That seems to answer their question most of the time.  Shorts, cookouts, flip-flops, and foosball tables are some of the things you might expect to see in a software company like ours (and you would). 

But there is alot more going on than fun and games, and I believe there are some interesting take-aways from the way a software company like ours functions that can be applied in the contact center – the focus of our software development.  One specific take-away is around the concept of "agile software development", an umbrella of methodologies where requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration of teams – a string of big words that could be summarized down to "getting to value and quality quickly".  The Agile Manifesto was compiled in 2001 and focused on software development – it has been expanded upon and successfully applied since.  Many of the principles behind the manifesto are worth considering for those managing contact centers:

  • Welcome changing requirements… harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  • Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  • Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  • The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  • Simplicity–the art of maximizing the amount of work not done–is essential.

Being agile doesn’t translate into being unplanned and undisciplined, but being adaptive – adapting quickly to changing realities.  Given the challenges of a tighter economy, increasing competition and customer expectations, and accelerating change in technology and legislation, successful contact centers must be able to adapt quickly to changing realities – both threats and opportunities – to survive and thrive.

  • How can we leverage at-home agents and distributed agent pools? 
  • How can we get the calls w/ the highest revenue potential to the best skilled agents?
  • Corporate said we have to start routing and handling emails and chats on top of calls by end of year – can we do that?
  • How can we decrease the costs of managing and administering our systems and still meet our goals?
  • This client will shift their business to us if we can build and bring live their IVR flows, outbound campaigns, scripts, and QA processes in 2 weeks – can we do it?
  • What do we do with this newly acquired company and their 3 contact centers?
  • How can we make better use of agents that are sitting around in the afternoon?
  • We can save a bunch of money with one of our carriers if we switch to SIP trunks – can we do that?
  • How are we going to deal w/ the new government regulation going into effect next Spring?
  • I found out how a competitor of ours is increasing their contact rate!  Can we do … and how long would it take to implement? 

Could your team apply agile methods to manage your contact center?  Do you already have an agile contact center?  If so, how do you make that happen day-to-day?

Matt Taylor (getting more agile every day 3 months after knee surgery)