Know Thy Technology – The Value of Learning the Details

I had a great experience visiting 3 of our customers in the Toronto area earlier this week (well, other than getting stuck in Chicago on the way home by a snowstorm).  These meetings invariably give me energy and get me excited about what we can do for our current and future customers.  The domain-specific knowledge and insights these customers have in outbound dialing, outsourcing, collections, fund-raising, workforce management, and more is impressive – I can see why the successful ones are successful and why other companies give them business.

But I’m also reminded that we all can do better in learning the capabilities of the products we are using.  I got a new cell phone a month ago and have yet to dig into the user’s manual – someone just pointed out a nifty feature that I could have been using that entire time.  Every so often someone points out a useful feature of some software tool I use everyday like my browser (e.g. the Links bar) or Powerpoint (e.g. hyper-linked agenda items that jump to specific slides in a presentation).  These tips and tricks often make a significant difference in my productivity or capabilities or in the quality of my output.

Brad Herrington blogged about this a couple months ago "Wait, you already have that feature!" – I have to share his admission that "I don’t read any of the manuals" either.  However, when I do take the time to read up on the products and systems I use, take the time to review tips and tricks, I typically come away more productive.

One of the topics I covered with the Toronto customers I visited was "Best Practices, Tips, and Tricks" of our Interaction Dialer outbound product.  Even though these customers are using Dialer every day and are doing great things with it, this input still had a positive impact – in some cases, it could have significant benefit in time saved and/or revenue generated.  All of these customers are knocking it out of the park to some degree because they keep on learning and reading.

Our least successful customers often haven’t been trained on the product and try to use the product according to their assumptions, expectations, prior experiences, and by simply poking around.  They have good intentions to someday get some training, but "today" they are too busy surviving to step back and learn and ask questions.  Some of them are overburdened with responsibilities – they are just keeping their heads above water – their management needs to carve out time to step back, to learn, and to improve.  I’ve often seen situations where 1 or 2 people in a contact center spend a couple hours each day manually doing some task that is easily automated, but they didn’t know.  Or the contact center creates 20 campaigns to handle 20 slightly different cases only to find out 2 campaigns could do the same thing with a few configuration changes.

Our most successful customers know the most about our products and use as much of the built-in features as they can.  They read documentation, ask questions, go to user forums, talk to other customers and consultants, attend free webinars, go to training, have development systems, poke around and play around, ask more questions.  These successful customers apply this knowledge and keep asking "why does it have to be this way" and "I wonder if this product could help us improve our XYZ?".  Their management aims high, provides good tools, challenges the people to get the most out of the tool, and provides time and resource for them to meet these goals.  As a team, these successful customers know that they need to periodically refresh their knowledge of the products they use each day – is there a better way?

What about your contact center?  How much do you know about the systems, tools, and applications you are using?  Does your staff get time to review and improve and learn?

Don’t simply accept the mantra "that’s how we have always done it".  Do you know why?  Is there a better way?  Do you know how the products you are using are supposed to be used?  Have you asked?  Have you read?

As I write these questions, I realize mea culpa… I need to ask myself these questions also and on an ongoing basis.  Taking the time to learn about the tools I use, to consider the processes around me, to ask how I can make changes to get better is rarely wasted effort.

Do you know about your technology?  Are you getting the most out of it?  Or are you so busy and consumed by the now that there is no time to learn?

Matt Taylor