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The Contact Center Consultant
An Impressive and Compelling Skill Set




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Introduction
Contact Center Consultant: The market for the services of a contact center consultant is large and growing. Any organization that has significant numbers of customers where regular customer contact needs to be managed effectively potentially has the need for a contact center.

This organizational capability is expensive to establish and operate and invariably the performance of the contact center is business-critical having a direct impact on the organization's bottom line. An experienced contact center consultant can generate substantial value for a client through targeted and well structured interventions including:

  1. Performance: Driving performance improvement towards best practice or World class standards
  2. Cost and ROI: Reduce the overall operating cost of the contact center
  3. Customer Service: Improve customer satisfaction and commercial outcomes including cross selling and up selling
  4. Outsourcing: Provide advice on the business case for outsourcing where this is being considered

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Drivers of Demand
Demand for the expertise of the contact center consultants comes from both the private and public sectors.

Furthermore, organizations at all points in the economic cycle but particularly in periods of economic downturn strive to improve cost income ratios and secure competitive advantage through excellent customer service.

The contact center is at the sharp end, dealing with customers in the moment, minute by minute hour by hour. The overall operational effectiveness of this business critical capability will be a key determinant of organizational performance. The return on investment for a client business from engaging a skilled contact center consultant can be very substantial and the payback period very short indeed.

Core skills
The contact center consultant typically brings a compelling combination of skills, experience and insights to a client situation - a very sophisticated toolkit.

Contact center consultants will have knowledge spanning multiple and diverse disciplines including: customer; product; sales; marketing; operational performance; management information; information technology - both infrastructure and software; human resources; workflow; finance; key controls and regulatory requirements.

Given this impressive diversity of skills and insights it is little wonder that an experienced contact center consultant can command substantial consulting rates which are invariably justified by the substantial value generated for the client organization.
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Client requirements

Clients typically engage contact center consultants to address challenges that fall into one of the following areas:

Strategic planning
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) strategies need to be formulated, validated and implemented.

Integral to this are: understanding the market and competitors; segmentation of customers and alignment of products to customer needs; understanding of cost centers v profit centers; assessing opportunities to cross sell and upsell; determination of strategy on self-service; benchmarking current contact center capabilities against best practice and the formulation of contact center transformation options and strategies.

The contact center consultant could quite easily generate a substantial consulting business by focusing exclusively on just this one aspect of contact center management.

Human resources
Contact center consultants sometimes specialize in the human resource aspects of contact center management.

For example, review and improvement of the organizational structure within the contact center can have significant beneficial impacts.

Understanding the drivers of employee turnover and optimizing the recruitment and selection practices can easily have a significant positive effect on cost and performance.

An experienced contact center consultant can also drive substantial value through analysis of performance metrics and working to align compensation and incentives with improved performance.

Again, significant opportunities for consulting interventions that will drive substantial value for the client organization and in turn will justify significant consulting fees for an experienced contact center consultant.

Process
Process design and process efficiency are central to effective contact center operations.

Contact center consultants will be proficient in business process design, implementation and optimization techniques including: workflow and call routing; key controls; forecasting; root cause analysis of customer or product problems identified; monitoring, coaching and training of the staff that operate the process; performance improvement including lean / six sigma.
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Information Technology
The contact center consultant will have a solid understanding of the technology that is integral to the operation of a customer relationship management capability.

This knowledge will extend to include the way in which the various technologies and systems are blended to operate as a coherent whole. Typical technologies and functionality will include: Channel and Internet integration; IP telephony; unified communications; Interactive Voice Response (IVR); disaster avoidance and disaster recovery including backup and support systems.

Customer Experience
The most important considerations and outcomes from the clients' perspective ultimately relate to Customer Experience.

The contact center consultant will have specialist knowledge and experience of: techniques to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty; capturing customer feedback through techniques such as surveys; quality measurement and management; customer segmentation; sales channels; marketing & communications.

Budgetary control
The cost efficiency of a contact center is very important and the contact center consultant will be comfortable with all aspects of financial management relating to contact centers.

This will include the fixed costs of the operation for example premises and technology infrastructure.

Also the factors that influence variable costs and the drivers of volume need to be understood. For example the mix of call types and volume trigger points at which calls or customer contacts are diverted to self-service or third party / remote agents.

Skills and experience
In order to set up and operate with credibility as a contact center consultant a prerequisite will be a minimum of 5-8 years of experience working in and around contact centers. And ideal grounding would be to have started at a fairly junior level and have gained experience of all aspects of contact center operations from the bottom up.

To have progressed through supervisor to managerial roles would be ideal. Also a distinct advantage would be experience of working in contact centers in different organizations in order to gain experience of different operating models, different organizational cultures and perhaps a variety of industry sectors.

Conclusions
A contact center consultant will have a significant range of complementary skills and experience and will be a highly respected adviser.

The commercial potential in terms of consulting fees that can be generated is typically quite substantial. In addition, the demand for specialists in this consulting niche is strong and tends to be so during both economic boom years and particularly during lean times.

The cornerstone of ongoing demand for contact center consulting services is the relentless pressure on organizations to compete and differentiate based on excellent customer service whilst at the same time managing costs and operating within regulatory constraints.

Contact Center Consultant - Questions or Opinions?

Are you contemplating starting a business as a Contact Center Consultant? Do you already have experience of working as a Contact Center Consultant? Is Contact Center your consulting niche?

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