By Richard Hamilton
The difference between a good program start-up and a poor program start-up is well-executed implementation. There are many variables to an implementation plan, and every call center program is different. What type of communication will take place – inbound calls, outbound calls, emails, IM, or mail? Know the goal of each communication: Is it sales, customer service, lead generation, collections, surveys, or appointment scheduling? Are there any regulations that need to be adhered to? What kind of reporting will be required, and how will it need to be transmitted? What type of technology is necessary and available for the program? How many seats will be required for the campaign?
Even though any two programs can be completely different, each one should follow the same general plan for successful implementation.
Steps to Successful Implementation: The first step is to clearly define and understand the vision for the new program. This means taking the time to speak with the client – whether internal or external – and any other stakeholders. Make sure you are in agreement about how the program will function, when it needs to launch, and the goals associated with it.
With an understanding of the client’s vision, create the plan to achieve that vision. The key to this phase is the internal team used for the project. Stephen Covey aptly noted that the greatest success comes from teams, not individuals. “Dependent people need others to get what they want,” Covey said. “Independent people can get what they want through their own efforts. Interdependent people combine their own efforts with the efforts of others to achieve their greatest success.”
The first step is identifying who needs to be on the program launch team. In addition, consider the following: What types of technology will be used? What reporting demands will there be? Who can best manage the program after the initial implementation? Does anyone within the company have past experience with a similar program? What agent resources will the staff need? Getting the right people involved early and often will lead to a more successful program.
Second, meet with the newly created program launch team and help them understand the client or stakeholder’s vision so that each member can better contribute based on their area of expertise.
Then, as you begin to put the program together, listen carefully to each member’s ideas, thoughts, and concerns. Along with using proven processes, encourage team members to think creatively and suggest new ideas. Each member’s input will help to establish the milestones and the tasks needed to reach those milestones.
Finally, based on the team’s input, create the plan complete with milestones, tasks, and dates to accomplish them. This will help the team understand how their individual tasks tie in with the rest of the team and the project. Set up a timeline to achieve all tasks based on these needs. (However, be aware that the time determined by the client is usually shorter.) Carefully creating the plan is vital to an on-time completion.
The new program plan can be organized in many ways, such as with project management software or a Gantt chart using a spreadsheet. The important thing is that it’s a plan all team members understand and refer to as needed.
Implementation: Once the plan is in place, set up reoccurring team meetings. Communication is the key to a successful program implementation. These meetings will help the team to communicate progress as well as bring up any issues the team needs to be aware of, and solve problems together.
It is important to be flexible and solution-oriented, since a new program will always encounter unforeseen issues and obstacles needing resolution. If timelines slip, be prepared to make adjustments so that the end date is still attainable.
Make sure to spend sufficient time testing the new program. After the team has tested all processes, have other employees – including the agents who will work on the new program – test each process to make sure everything works as planned. It is better to adjust the program during the testing phase when only a few people are involved then after it is launched and an issue affects the success of the whole program.
Before launching the program, take the time to properly train your staff. If management was involved in the creation process, they can be more heavily involved in the training of the agents. Although having agents help with testing is a good way to familiarize them with the program, formal training is still needed. Focus your efforts on those processes that are new to the agents, while briefly reviewing processes they have used before.
Follow Up: After the program launches, there should be a specified timeframe (agreed upon during the planning stage) to continue to monitor the new program to make sure it is running properly. It is important to respond to any issues or concerns the agents or client have as quickly as possible.
During this time, an evaluation should take place, looking at the new program from all areas. Make note of those ideas and concepts that worked well so they can be used on future programs. Don’t forget about the obstacles and issues that came up, and learn from them so they can be avoided or planned for in the future.
Throughout the entire process, make sure to document the processes and procedures associated with the new program. You will want to have everything written down so everyone involved in the new program understands how the program is designed to run most effectively.
Starting a new program can be exciting and stressful at the same time. Strive to strike a balance between following a proven game plan and engaging in innovative thinking. Clearly understanding what your client’s goal is and working hard towards achieving that goal using the steps listed here will lead to a successful new program launch.
Richard Hamilton is director of implementation and team improvement at Quality Contact Solutions.
[From Connection Magazine – September 2013]