The Changing Face of IT in the Call Center - TELUS International Europe
  • The Changing Face of IT in the Call Center

    Posted by Michael Ringman

    November 8 2013

    Note: This post was originally published on TELUS International blog.

    TELUS International Vice-President of Information Technology, Michael Ringman, recently shared his views with Outsource UK Magazine on the evolution and impact of IT in the call center.

    In the interview, Ringman discusses how global outsourcing trends impact individual call centers, and he shares his thoughts on where the impetus for technology change and innovation comes from. IT in Call Center

    Read on for the full interview…

    Outsource UK: How have your client organisations’ requirements changed over the past few years in terms the kind of work, the drivers behind decisions to outsource, and the closeness of the partnership they’re looking for?

    Michael Ringman: Over the last several years, there has been an increasing appreciation around the value that outsourcing can bring to a client’s business. As a result, clients continue to ask for more and more out of their business process outsourcing (BPO) providers. Requests used to be very specific around meeting certain call center metrics like average handle time or calls per hour – as well as extremely cost-focused trying to do things much cheaper than a captive center. But now, clients are realizing that their outsourcers can play a strategic role acting as an extension of their business and brand. Savvy clients are looking for cultural alignment – the ability for their outsourcer to represent their corporate culture to their customers. Cultural alignment is becoming the determining factor before starting a partnership.

    Client organizations are also asking their BPO providers to move faster. In some client organizations, there is the perception (whether right or wrong) that they can only move at a certain speed due to various internal limitations. They believe that an outsourcer can help them move faster by reacting faster to changing business requirements, providing access to new and different technologies, and tapping into different skill sets and ways of doing business.

    Cultural alignment is becoming the determining factor before starting a partnership.

    Outsource UK: What do you see as being your biggest challenges currently?

    MR: At TELUS International, as a global BPO provider, we have the ability to do so much for our global clients when it comes to meeting their customer service needs.  One of our biggest challenges is remaining focused on doing what we do best as a call center provider while still innovating for our clients.  It’s our job to stay focused so that we can deliver the best solutions and best practices for our clients.  From expanding into new geographies to meeting requests for work at home agents, to adopting virtual desktop capabilities, we have to select how we invest our time and resources so that we never dilute what we are really good at.

    Outsource UK: Where does the impetus come from for the greater utilisation of new technology: within your own organisation, from the client, or a real mixture of both?

    MR: When it comes to a greater utilisation of new technology, it’s a real mixture of our own IT roadmaps as well as client and market needs. As an outsourcer, we serve many clients. Some of our smaller clients ask us to innovate on their behalf looking for our guidance and leadership on various technologies from chat platforms to performance management, to quality recording systems. Other times, our larger clients, as respected global brands, are very progressive and innovative in their own right – and we get to learn from them. By serving various client types including industry verticals, we gain a unique, insider  perspective on what is driving innovation, as well as what innovative ideas are succeeding in the marketplace.

    By serving various client types including industry verticals, we gain a unique, insider  perspective on what is driving innovation, as well as what innovative ideas are succeeding in the marketplace.

    Outsource UK: How do you ensure you deliver constant innovation to your clients – and who pays for this?

    MR: Ensuring constant innovation for our clients comes from having a very close partnership based on cultural alignment. When corporate values are aligned and everyone is working towards the same goal, delivering a consistent, high-quality customer experience becomes so much easier. Aligning from a cultural perspective also ensures that we are viewed as a true partner and extension of our client’s brand. This translates into open dialogues and honest feedback on what is working and what is not. This gives us an inside view into our client’s business so we can really understand how to add value and innovate as the relationship grows. When it comes to costs, there are areas where we view innovation as critical to our business and we need to drive and pay the cost. At other times, clients have their own requests that will drive innovation for them (and potentially for us) so it comes down to an open discussion on where costs need to be assigned.

    Outsource UK: How do you ensure strong cultural alignment between yourselves and your clients – especially when you’re representing their front office activity?

    MR: Strong cultural alignment comes from having everyone at the table from senior executives to program managers to operations to IT. Customer experience is truly a team sport which has its advantages when representing a client’s front office activity. Using IT as an example, you’re not always going to require a technology solution to solve a client’s business problem, but when technology is needed, it has to be there and ready. By including IT in discussions around program management and/or operations, for example, IT is ready to respond because they understand the business and the needs driving the customer experience.

    Strong cultural alignment comes from having everyone at the table from senior executives to program managers to operations to IT. Customer experience is truly a team sport which has its advantages when representing a client’s front office activity.

    In an industry known for high agent turnover, attrition management is an integral component of contact center operations. To counter attrition, it’s important to understand the factors driving attrition in the first place including job market competition, compensation, job satisfaction, educational aspirations, skills alignment and so on. The mix of factors will likely vary by city and country. With this background understanding, outsourcers can then focus on the best ways to build a tenured team. This includes addressing organizational practices, procedures and policies around learning and development, benefits, incentives, and work-life balance.

    At TELUS International, we also put a lot of focus around building a community not just a company.  We want our team members to feel connected to each other and to their work. To support global collaboration and a family-like environment, we leverage IT to connect our employees. This includes using tools like TelePresence and Google Apps to leveraging our global Intranet to building our own internal social network called T.Life. For us, collaboration means connection, engagement, and importantly, retention.

    Outsource UK: What other trends do you see?

    MR: Cloud Services will continue to be a big deal in the contact center outsourcing and customer service industry. The benefits are widespread with outsourcers able to make their services and technology much more consumable by clients including everything from CRM systems to entire telephony platforms, while clients gain access to these new services and technologies at a much faster and cost-effective rate.

    Another game-changer is Business Intelligence or Big Data. As clients become more willing to share their end-to-end client interactions, outsourcers will gain much more insight into end-user behavior. Outsourcers will capitalize on this data to drive a better user experience including a better use of IT resources on the backend.

    The full article is available here.

    Michael Ringman is the VP of Information Technology for TELUS International



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