Go digital or die: Nagi Kasinadhuni, GM, Communications Business Unit, Dimension Data

How Contact Centers have evolved with the times? Are they transitioning to the next orbit and breaking away from established conventional processes? These are some of the points Dimension Data’s Global Contact Center Benchmarking report 2015 unravels.   In an exclusive conversation with DATAQUEST recently Nagi Kasinadhuni, General Manager, Communications Business Unit, Dimension Data Asia Pacific walks through how Contact Centers have undergone an irreversible evolution over the last decade and the significance of this report. Excerpts.

Before going into the report can you give an up close perspective on what Dimension Data does? 

Dimension Data is a global IT services company. It is in all continents across the world. We are in more than 50 countries and now privately held and wholly owned by Entity Group, but in terms of our general size of the company we are around $7 bn in revenues globally and with around 20,000 employees. We focus predominantly on networking, datacenter solutions, security solutions then we have what you call end user computing solutions and then we have communications under which contact centers is a part of the communications portfolio.

Can you share more insights from the Global Contact Center Benchmarking report 2015 and why you do this report?

So coming to the contact center benchmarking report which is into its 18th year – we have been doing this survey since 1997 using our brand ‘Merchants’ which is a wholly owned company of Dimension Data.

The purpose of launching this at that time and even today is that we want to understand for ourselves what are the industry trends? Where are our clients and our prospects in this industry? So, the first fundamental thing I want to share with you which is the insight around the contact center is that – first, the contact center landscape is changing. Till now contact centers generally have been built with the intention of reducing the cost to serve, but now organisations are realising that contact centers are probably the only opportunity they have to delight a customer who comes to them especially in places like retail, travel, financial services where you have a whole lot of customers and it is very difficult to target each one of them.

Now, the other thing that has happened is initially people were only doing calls so they say that the contact centers have evolved from being a call center to a contact center, now from contacts they are looking at things as interactions and now the whole thing is moving even further beyond interactions experience. So, how can I manage or influence the experience of a customer is what tops the agenda today.

Can you share more insights?

Now, let me give you some highlights of the current report and you will get a good idea of where we are going from there. So basically the four important insights that we have got from the report are: One, the  contact centers have to adopt supporting digital channels; social media, anything which is non-voice has to embraced or like Darwin’s Theory they will have to go extinct. If they don’t adapt they will go extinct. In fact for the first time that I have seen Dimension Data use strong words  like – ‘that you go digital or you die’. I will share the data to substantiate that. The second thing we are seeing is that clients are demanding a seamless experience, which means if I go to a contact center website and then I call the call center and then I am in a web chat with the same organization I expect the company to know these previous interactions I have had on the same problem. So, if clients are demanding a seamless experience then it automatically means that there are two things necessary from an organization point of view.

One is, there should be a mechanism to integrate these different channels. What I tell on the voice call with the agent should be known to the agent who is on a web chat with me and when I Tweet something about the service somebody looking at the Tweet should know these two interactions well. So that is the first thing; integration across all these channels so I can give that experience.

The second important thing, which is related to this, is I need to have an ability to channelize across these channels as well. So, analytics and big data will become important in contact centers going forward, because the number of channels are increasing. Earlier it was only voice. Now you have got voice plus image plus facts plus the website of the company plus web chat plus Twitter plus Facebook plus LinkedIn plus whatever else is there.

The third thing that we are seeing is the number of digital interactions are increasingly significantly so we are reaching the tipping point where voice calls in the next two years will be lesser than the non-voice interactions. The last thing of course is that because of all these demands the ability of IT within the contact center to ramp up and be ready is becoming very critical. So, in summary the four key ones are go digital or die. Analytics is the key. Growth in contact centers is coming from non-voice.

I just want to ask you one question here. Services companies adopt the capability maturity models- is there a similar benchmark for Contact Centers- so that I can measure up the competencies? 

Very good question, if you look at the maturity model it’s all around the processes that you say you need to do and how closely you align with those processes. That is all the maturity model is. The different levels are to say how many if you were to draw a tree of dependencies, to what level of dependencies are you tracking these processes so it’s very internally focused. So, you can have the best processes and you may not have the best customer experience for that best process. Because profits is about delivering something consistently irrespective of who handles the phone. Having said that, I need to say that it is very difficult to link the maturity models with this. The only thing the maturity model will give comfort is that they have consistent processes and they have mechanisms to track these processes and compare them to make sure they are not deviating from what is the stated intent.

So how is this single channel to multi channel transition happening and also talk about trends in First Call Resolution (FCR)? 

The thing is from single channel like voice people have moved to multi-channel. But the point is arriving at greater customer experience.  That is what the goal is and the survey also says that is what is important.   In terms of FCR, in fact very few organizations are today able to measure that or track.   So, one is to track the customer experience to internally measure your performance. So, first call resolution is an internal metric to check if you have satisfied the client on that call, but if it is an email, if it is a smart app,  People are not yet measuring that. So, there is a lot of work to be done in this space and what the benchmarking report is suggesting is that the time has come to take a serious note of these and start to move along those lines because otherwise your customers will vote with their feet. That is what they will do.

There was one other question that you asked; the technology resilience of these organizations. will they be able to do this? In fact most organizations are not technologically ready. Interestingly when we draw up the conclusions by connecting the dots; one, we have said that customer experience is key. Two; we said the customers are demanding the omni-channel experience. Three; we said that data analysis is necessary to ensure the omni-channel experiences of the right order for the customer. To get the data analysis we need to integrate all the channels at the back end.

On other key trends? 

Many contact centers today are consolidating. I know our own clients who had 33 contact centers around the world reducing them to five, because once you reduce and then you standardize across all of them to be on the same platforms then some of the things you are talking about become a lot more easier. The second thing that is happening whether it is a Telco, an airline or a retail bank – it doesn’t matter. The whole enterprise is now being seen as an extended contact center. In fact in many of our clients we are seeing that. What people are doing is they are looking to extend the contact center so to speak beyond the boundaries of the contact center into the enterprise.

So these sort of things are happening, but they are not happening fast enough but there is a lot more focus now, because the churn in any industry whether it is a bank, whether it is an airline, whether it is telco is quite high so retaining clients is becoming significant and upselling is a lot more easier than finding a new client. Statistics saying that it costs seven times more to get a new client than keeping your existing clients. 

If you look at Dimension Data how are you translating some of these trends into opportunities? 

This whole survey is available on a portal with all clients who participated in it. So, what that portal does is you can benchmark yourself against your peers. For example in financial industry I can benchmark myself to say how are my results compared to the rest of the financial industry globally. Or I can say how am I in my coordinate or my country depending on the sample files. That’s possible. So what we are doing is we are actually helping clients to put that road map of where they are and where they have to be using their pathology which is quite mature in time-action-data. We have this methodology over 20 years now which we will use very effectively. We use it interestingly for a lot of financial services companies, travel companies and telcos who are mostly the people who use contact centers significantly and they make a difference to their business.

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