Implementing Contact Center Solutions? Protect Your Headcount.

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If you’ve been a manager, either contact center or otherwise, you know that getting – and sometimes even maintaining — headcount is a challenge, even when implementing new contact center solutions. In some organizations the budget process can feel like an full-time equivalent battle to the death, with multiple functions dueling and negotiating to justify why their team needs to receive coveted headcount most.

As sales and business demands increase, customer support functions rarely receive additional headcount to keep lockstep with the growth. Meanwhile, customer and leadership expectations continue to rise. This leaves many contact centers spread thin, trying to do more with less, and struggling to get by with current customer experience expectations.

Undoubtedly contact center managers want and need to keep up with competition and customer demands, and the easiest way to do this is with investment in contact center software solutions. However, this also brings the inevitable question of how do we justify implementation and prove return on investment? One of the common and seemingly obvious costs that leadership fixates on is headcount. However, if you are anything like me, my gut response is “OH NO! Don’t touch my headcount!”

While the implementation of contact center software will indeed reap tremendous ROI, the main purpose of implementing it is to elevate customer experience. But leadership may not make the connection, especially if looking at dollar and cents. Thinking of it in simple mathematical terms: if I am operating at a customer satisfaction (CSAT) score of 4, and the new solution will improve my CSAT score by 2, but then I am asked to immediately cut headcount which decreases my CSAT score by 2, I’m ending where I started!

This is an oversimplification of the equation, as there are other categorical facets of an ROI calculation that justify its investment, and the organization will reap more savings than just in headcount. However, too often, headcount is the first-place leaders look, and it’s not necessarily the most effective cost to put on the chopping block in the long-term. Instead contact center managers should position it as “repurposing” headcount instead of cutting.

For example, I am implementing a data aggregation and reporting tool that empowers on-the-spot decision making. While today I have two dedicated resources to pulling and massaging reports, implementing the solution doesn’t mean that their contributions are no longer needed. Rather, they will finally have time and bandwidth to focus on the data’s insights to drive process and behavioral improvements to truly impact change.

Sometimes the implementation of new technology will have truly drastic results — especially if you were operating with more manual processes before. In those cases, cutting headcount may be truly justified and necessary. Nonetheless, make sure that the cuts are reasonable, gradual, and phased. The adoption period takes time, and you probably won’t see positive impact for 6-12 months.

So as you prepare your pitch to leadership for that new contact center solution to keep up with your demands, be sure to look at the staff impacts and consider where people could be repurposed. You fought for that headcount, make sure you keep it.