10 Best Practices for Successfully Merging Contact Centers

Contact center team - representing the outcome of successfully merging contact centersMerging contact centers is a complex, time-consuming effort that takes an effective project plan, collaboration, and skill to execute an integration efficiently. A successful merger hinges on a strategic and comprehensive approach that encompasses meticulous planning and benchmarking, thorough training programs, transparent and consistent communication with employees and customers, and the acknowledgment of achievements through celebrating milestones. Both organizations’ leaders must prioritize customer experience to ensure customers face acceptable wait times, speak to knowledgeable frontline employees, and easily access self-service portals.

Focusing on people, processes, technology, governance, and a realistic implementation timeline will help ensure success. Here are ten considerations for integrating contact centers:

  1. Assess, benchmark, and audit both contact centers

Define KPIs to measure and benchmark success, including service level, net promoter score (NPS), customer satisfaction (CSAT), and employee satisfaction (ESAT), among others. Establish objectives for each integration phase, including pre-integration, during the merger, and post-integration. Use this time to assess process gaps for both organizations and plan their resolution.

While this work is often saved for after the deal closes, uncovering gaps early positions the merged organization to gain efficiency quickly. Engage frontline employees in the process and leverage available customer insights to prioritize improvements. Utilize journey mapping to assess how customers are serviced and to identify key pain points, devising a plan to remedy them in parallel with other integration activities.

  1. Evaluate current and future technology needs

Assessing technology is vital to understanding the capabilities and limitations of existing technologies in both organizations, including IVR and routing capabilities, use of knowledge management, CRM, and workflow tools. Legacy systems attached to each company need to be considered for how to integrate best. Ideally, the technologies align or can integrate seamlessly, especially if they are cloud-based and offer top-tier capabilities. However, if there are disparities, the integrated company must assess what technology gaps exist and what investments are needed to close them. Collaborating with strong IT partners who understand the customer and employee needs is integral to this evaluation process.

  1. Build a detailed migration plan to minimize service disruption

A detailed plan for how and when to migrate one contact center operation into another should maximize customer experience. On day one of the integration, two contact centers will be operational. A phased approach that gradually reduces one center’s size while expanding the other will ensure minimal disruption to the business. This plan forecasts the number of employees expected to work and considers all anticipated interaction types for both contact centers. Accounting for a potential increase in call volume could include increased staffing during the transition. Create a dedicated helpline for the newer center to receive support easily and quickly. Then, planning the deployment of the IVR and routing intelligence helps ensure smooth integration.  Finally, track and report on performance frequently and have a remediation team on standby if performance degrades notably.

  1. Build an in-depth knowledge transfer plan

Employees face a learning curve when contact centers merge, especially if the products and services differ significantly between the merging companies. Geographical differences can further complicate the knowledge transfer process. Dedicate a team to own knowledge transfer to ensure new frontline employees are trained to resolve inquiries as effectively as tenured employees and offer service that meets and exceeds customer expectations.

  1. Build a robust training strategy

Three frontline employees work together on a training plan after merging contact centersOnce the knowledge transfer plan is final, the next step is to build a training strategy. The strategy must leverage diverse methods such as virtual sessions, in-person workshops, and online modules to reinforce the acquired knowledge. Identify product, systems, and process experts to assist in curriculum development, determine required timeframes to teach each module and ensure ample time for role-play exercises to assess knowledge transfer. Create a buddy system (mentor-mentee) before training completion. In addition to supporting queues and teams, the buddy system adds an additional measure for ongoing employee learning and development.

  1. Use a highly skilled PMO lead

Recruiting an expert project management office (PMO) lead is crucial for successfully integrating contact centers. The lead must understand contact centers, take a detail-oriented, collaborative approach and challenge the status quo to make the best decisions for the integrated company. Additionally, the PMO lead must adeptly navigate complex workstreams, manage tasks effectively, and excel in empathetic communication. Timeliness is of the essence as contractual obligations are likely in place. Therefore, a robust project plan is essential to ensure all project deliverables remain on track.

  1. Develop a regular internal communication cadence

Establishing a regular communication cadence requires dedicated focus and attention to ensure a continuous flow of information before, during, and after the integration. Anticipating and addressing questions, reporting on ongoing project-related activities, and alleviating heightened employee anxiety is critical. The cadence should involve daily, weekly and monthly touchpoints and leverage several vehicles such as 1:1, in-person, virtual, town halls, team meetings, email, and chat. All integrated related information must be stored in an easily accessible, centralized location like a portal.

  1. Implement change management practices

Change is inevitable in a merger. Best practices for managing change with your team include communicating clearly and consistently with your team, offering consistent leadership support, having a single source of truth employees can look to during the change process, and setting and meeting project milestones.

Acknowledging progress is another change management best practice. When project milestones are met, celebrate them to help sustain engagement. Regularly acknowledging efforts and achievements fosters employee well-being.

  1. Develop an exit strategy for departing employees

Contact center integrations inevitably involve job loss and change, resulting in significant stress for those staying and leaving. Employees respond best to an honest account of what is happening and why. Communicate transparently with impacted employees, including employees who work with departing team members. Establish clear succession plans for resigning employees, including the projects they are working on, with clear timelines and deliverables, and who will take over the project and remaining steps.

Develop a comprehensive support strategy for departing employees, such as transitional aid, collaborating with potential employers on new job opportunities, and facilitating development training. Make counsellors available for employees requiring support and provide training and guidance to leaders so they can best help.

  1. Develop a clear customer communication plan

Let your customers know the company is moving through an integration and how it may impact them. Consistently share updates and keep customers informed before a problem develops. Communicate transparently, especially if you are facing challenges in meeting performance objectives. Use channels like the website, IVR, email and live phone interactions to communicate. Be mindful of what is confidential to protect employee and customer privacy.

Merging the contact centers of two service organizations requires careful planning to encompass all vital tasks seamlessly. By prioritizing these ten tips, organizations can confidently navigate the complexities of a contact center migration, fostering a smooth transition that preserves operational efficiency and enhances overall customer and employee satisfaction.

Burnie Group has deep expertise in contact centers. Contact us to help ensure your merger is executed flawlessly.

About the author

Eli Federman

Eli Federman

Practice Leader, Omnichannel & Contact Centers

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