Cyara Blog

Living by The Red Queen’s Rules

Posted by Dan Miller

May 13, 2014

Even though he wrote in the mid-19th century, Lewis Carroll clearly foresaw the impact of the age of agile programming would have on today’s IT departments and contact center operations. In Alice in Wonderland’s famous episode called “The Red Queen’s Race,” Alice, after expressing an interest in taking a path to a distant field to see a chess match, is extremely discouraged to find that, although she has run as fast as she could, she is exactly at the spot where she started. When she expresses her dismay, the Queen simply says, “here… it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run twice as fast as that.”

That, in a nutshell, is the dilemma that every contact center manager, IT executive and customer experience specialist is confronting these days. Software vendors, app developers and platform providers have sped up their refresh cycles – from months (or years) to weeks in some cases. The rate of change in the rate of change is accelerating in terms of infrastructure refresh, but for all of the apparent agility, companies are running in place when it comes to delivering better quality service or carrying on commercial conversations that span the Web, mobile devices and the phone.

Yet, here are five factors that slow the progress toward fulfilling the goals of high-quality, multi-channel, self-service and assisted service:

1) Nobody “owns” the customer (nor should they) – It used to be a very important for one department or another to declare “ownage” of the best customers. Billing claim the most direct communications. Marketing pulls rank based on brand preservation. Yet the contact center is often the most direct, real time impact on creating a positive impact on the customer relationship. Yet the truth is that customers have long been autonomous and resistant to such terminology. They are, rightfully, taking control of the conversation, including device-of-choice, channel-of-choice and time-of-convenience.

2) Silos don’t just explode (at least not organizational silos) –Bucolic images of grain silos grace many PowerPoint presentations at customer care expos. That’s because each of the business units described above has erected its own staff, design tools, service delivery environments, computing infrastructure and, in many instanced, mobile strategy. Each of these initiatives has taken on a life of its own and it falls to “C” level executive to drive efforts to unify computing, communications and customer care strategies across multiple teams.

3) Legacy systems offer the best value (looking strictly at ROI) – There is nothing more cost-effective than a fully-depreciated and fully-operational computing or communications resource (be it an IVR, PBX, ACD, CRM or some other TLA). Existing solutions have staying power and IT decision makers move to new equipment or new software with great trepidation. Human nature says to “stick with what works.” Pragmatists go the next step to try to define new standards and APIs to get legacy equipment to work with new resources that are required to provide the new features and functions that customers demand. But it’s been an uphill battle.

4) IT “gone rogue” (every department has one) – The need for speed breeds impatience among departmental decision makers. Who has time to wait for their change requests to make it through a centralized IT department’s backlog? New dashboards and toolkits make it possible for changes to be made to Web sites, mobile apps and IVR scripts on-the-fly. In this environment, quality assurance and regression testing are seen as speed-bumps on the road to rapid deployment and enterprise agility.

5) Risk aversion reigns (when it comes to implementation strategies) – Customer care and self-service are always on the critical path both for profitability and brand-building strategies. While technocrats and VC’s tout the value of disruptive technologies for promoting innovation and agility, no customer care specialist wants them to disrupt the talk-paths with customers and prospects.

Speed doesn’t kill; it just introduces additional risk. Ironically, well-honed business practices that preserve existing KPIs and profit objectives, coupled with highly rational risk avoidance keep both IT and departmental employees moving as fast as they can just to stay in the same place.