How I found an extra month of time in Q1, and in addition, greater business clarity in 2017!

By Business, General, Jon

Back in December I went through my typical reflection of the past 12 months, what could I have done differently/better, who’s businesses were better because of Infinite Green, and was my personal life more balanced and more fulfilling? After a few deep thoughts, I pivoted quickly into “looking ahead” because I am typically an optimist. I was just about to fall into making a few resolutions, but this time I wanted to do something different.

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When Domain Expertise Gets In The Way Of Change

By Business, General, Scott

So, your contact center has been in place for many years. It probably started many years ago from a few people taking phone calls during regular business hours and has developed into a multi-site, multi-channel, multi-shift operation. What started as an agile team adjusting to shifting and changing customer needs and quickly expanding products and solutions, is now changing at a snails’ pace and not keeping up with company or customer’s needs.

What really has changed? Just because the operation is larger doesn’t automatically mean it takes longer or is harder to change. There are great examples of large organizations with the ability to quickly change at scale. Intuit software has over 5000 agents on the phone supporting customers across the world and their product changes every year to support new tax code. Their product has moved from desktop software to software as a service. Their customer segments and products continue to grow year over year and they continue to be a high growth company with no signs of slowing down.

So, if sheer size isn’t the barrier, the next culprit must be tools or systems. You didn’t have complex tools or systems when you were a smaller operation and were able to change quickly. Why do you need something different as a larger organization?  Companies like Zappos, USAA, and Amazon don’t have complex tool sets to service customers and have some of the highest customer satisfaction ratings of any company across any vertical and also have large, complex contact center organizations.  Granted, there are tools that would help facilitate more efficient and effective changes across an organization, but lack of tools isn’t a barrier for these companies and they don’t use it as an excuse not to keep up with change.

There is one common thread I have observed in the 50+ companies I have worked in and tends to be the root cause that prevents change. That common thread is people with too much domain expertise.  They have glued together processes, duct taped systems, and used their ingenuity to keep the operation afloat in the most efficient and effective way possible. Don’t get me wrong,  I admire these people. They have to span the organization, keep up with change, provide insights to multiple audiences, reduce operating expenses, and try to explain to the CEO why they missed service levels at 11:30 PM for a couple of calls while they answered 10,000 calls within service levels throughout the rest of the day.

Over time, they get too close to the fragile operating model they have built. A once agile operating model where change was the norm must now flow through a few people because of the self-induced complexity created over time. They lose the true essence of what got them in business in the first place, providing a differentiated experience to the customer. They now fall back on process, regulations, costs, metrics, quality, industry vertical knowledge, and a myriad of other excuses to not change. They find comfort in this. Every customer issue that surfaces in the operation is a fire they alone must battle and at the end of the day they feel a sense of comfort knowing that they solved a few customer issues. They lose outside-in perspective, and now are the most resistant to change. Once motivated by company growth and culture, has switched them to fear, defensiveness, and knowledge hoarding.

When you identify this behavior, what do you do? Most leaders often try to rationalize with these operators. Trying to fix things one at a time. It’s like a game of whack-a-mole. One issue gets pounded down, another one or two pop up and as the game progresses, you never seem to make headway. You must look at your operation from the top down, not from the bottom up. I have seen companies invest millions of dollars on expensive consulting engagements only to get a bottoms up list of things to fix. Most of them sit on the shelf collecting dust because they fixed one thing, and two new issues popped up that needed to be solved. Time to remodel and move the furniture around to get a new perspective and don’t be afraid to break it.

Ask yourself, what value do you want from your contact center operation? If you can’t answer that question, think about what would happen if you shut the contact center down completely. That value statement should inform everything from hiring guides, to SOP, to performance goals.

Now, go change something!

Scott McIntyre

Chief Instigator

The 2015 Service Supported Contact Center

By Business, General, Scott

Contact centers have gone through significant change over the past several years, the most significant being the use of cloud based services. These cloud services allow companies extreme flexibility and platform reliability without the hassle of upgrades, maintenance contracts, and slow IT response time to requested changes. These services are now mature enough to handle every aspect of a contact center’s technology needs with out the need of a large IT support team and millions of dollars spent to maintain it.

Tools like inContact, Corvisa, and 8 x 8 can do everything the old legacy ACD systems like Avaya, Cisco, and Aspect can do. I would argue that they can do it easier, cheaper, and you only need to pay for the capacity that you use versus investing for peak volumes. Infinite Green has implemented a few of these new cloud based tools and based on our experience, these tools can be designed and deployed in a fraction of the time that it would take with premise based hardware and software solutions. The same could be said for CRM or service based platforms including Zendesk, Spice, and Salesforce. These platforms contain all the functionality needed to provide a great customer experience including knowledge management, community, reporting, and scripting tools. For other specialty services you may already have running in your operation, these tools also come with pre-built adapters that allow for easy integration with other service based applications.

I remember a time when I was the business owner of a large contact center operation for a fortune 100 company where I was quoted $1 Million dollars and 9-12 months to turn on an outbound dialer on ourcomplex Cisco contact center environment. Not only did it cost me all of my project dollars that year, it still didn’t work by the end of the project. I had spent all that time and resources on something that we couldn’t even get working. Fast forward to today and Infinite Green has had many projects where with a few simple design elements and requirements, we turned up a full suite of integrated channels including outbound dailers in less that 4 weeks and most of that time was spent with change management issues in the operation.

Technology is not the barrier anymore, it is quite the opposite. I would argue that it would take longer to run through a change management cycle within your operation than it would to make significant changes to your contact management or CRM service platform. They are that easy to change. If you haven’t had experience with these service platforms, I highly recommend you check them out. Carve out a small piece of your contact center operation and give them a test drive.  Find someone on your team that has some technical skills and is curious about how these tools work. Give them a sandbox environment to play in and give them a month to develop a good understanding of how they operate. My guess is you will have an actual proof of concept up and running with live customer calls in no time and would never even consider going back to your legacy platforms ever again.

Scott McIntyre

Chief Instigator – Infinite Green

A True Example Of Great Experience

By General, Jon

I recently had a chance to tour a small local college during an open house event, and noticed several ways that the coordinators and students who volunteered, deliberately created meaningful experiences for us around one goal – shifting many of the high school seniors from “on the fence,” to “I want to go here.” A tour of the campus, free dinner at one of the 3 “non-cafeteria style” campus locations, free tickets to a college basketball game, and the opportunity to discuss their future goals with advisors, professors, and deans were the hooks for the 4-6 hour event. But that wasn’t why this was so successful.

We were on the tour when a group of students passed us and a few of them under their breath said, “You should come here. It’s a great place!” and “if you want a great education and to hang out with cool people, come here.” When we were in the dorms looking at a “not so large” room, a student who was trying to navigate through 30 of us who were crowding the hallway said “oh my gosh, we never get his many visitors, but come back when the tour is over and say hi!” “We would love to see you here!” As we passed one of the administration wings, our tour guide mentioned she had struggled with her major in the past school season and had such a good experience figuring out her next step with her “careers” advisor, that she stayed in school and was doing great now.

Now I started to get what made this day so successful. The coordinators of this event found students and professors who had PASSION about what the college meant to them each individually, which included being encouraged to share why they had such a great experience while being honest about their journey. And it wasn’t just about the school name or mascot. They were real, talked in their own language, and cared. Not scripted. No tag lines. When we debriefed on the day, my daughter talked a little about the name or the facilities, and we didn’t stay for the meal or the basketball game, but she did mention the people and the culture of the students who were around us when we toured the campus. She was hooked!

  • Does your company set the expectation of what great experience looks like?
  • Does your company hire people who have passion for the brand?
  • Does your company give you the ability to connect with your customers on a meaningful level, and reward you for that?
  • Is your company genuine and honest with your customers, even if the situation isn’t a great one?
  • Does your company listen to your customers and change based on that feedback?

Chances are, that companies who talk a good game but fall short, aren’t starting with the things that mean the most and cost the least. Customer feedback and voice should guide the work, while the real marketing and loyalty (and new acquisition) comes from the real experiences and passions of the employees.

The Power Of Failure

By Business, General, Jon

I can admit freely that there have been times in my life where I have not tried something due to my fear of failing, but I have learned that the benefits to trying something new far outweigh the feeling I get in not giving my ideas the air they deserve. This was probably one of the life lessons that took a little longer to sink in, but channeling it has been one of the best things for me personally and professionally, hands down.

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Build Momentum, Not Projects

By Business, General, Scott

I have been working with a large healthcare company putting together a strategic contact center investment and three year road map, and the team has been discussing how to frame up the approach. The company historically has managed investments as a bottoms up series of “projects” and the team was inclined to use that same approach for this effort.

For some background, the project is focused on moving the contact center in the following direction:

  • Single channel to multi-channel
  • Homegrown desktop systems to an agent portal (using packaged software)
  • Improved First Call Resolution
  • Reduced transfers
  • Segmented levels of service
  • Reduced contacts per customer / handle time

With the amount of change involved in this project, I suggested we take a different approach that defined the overall goals of the project in a way that will build momentum every stakeholder in the organization can get rallied behind. By defining what the project will deliver for the company, each department, and each individual involved everyone would have a “North Star” that would help guide them in support of the series of projects over multiple years. These simple messages can be woven into executive presentations, status updates, company communications, and in a B to B type company it can even be customer facing.

These statements or messages don’t have to be complex, but should define the essence of the work and has meaning for all stake holders. Some examples that I have been thinking about for this specific client:

  • Good to great! – Preparing for the next wave of growth
  • Customer first – Allowing customers channel of choice
  • Process to profits – Designing a more efficient and effective customer interactions

A good message will help every stakeholder get more emotionally involved in the bigger movement and provide support beyond their current roles and responsibilities and on a great day, these stakeholders will become advocates for change. So next time you are framing up a project or initiative in your company, think about how this will impact the company as a whole, all stakeholders, and customers who use your projects and services. Start top down, before thinking bottoms up and think about what  the “North Star” is. You just might be surprised on how many people start to get on board without being dictated by company priority or leadership decree.

Now, go change something!

Scott McIntyre

Chief Instigator


Find Your Passion

By Business, General, Scott

I have been in a reflective mood as of late and I have been thinking about my past, what led me to start Infinite Green 6 years ago with my good friend Jon, and what were the specific inflection points in my career that enabled me to have a point of view others would find value in. I am not sure what started me on thinking about my past, but perhaps it was the trip last weekend to a start up contact center company called Corvisa based out of Milwaukee.

Corvisa was started for one simple purpose, design a contact management system that companies can use that isn’t complex to manage, provides flexibility, and allow the end user to design and create awesome customer experiences that doesn’t require an army of expensive IT resources to keep running. Sound like a dream? I would like to introduce you to Matt Lautz, the founder and creator of Corvisa. He started the company out of pure passion, and maybe a little bit of frustration. He was sick and tired of being limited by the systems of choice in the market. Ones that didn’t allow him to dream up new experiences for his customers. After all, with all the technology on the market today getting simpler and simpler to manage, why wasn’t there a contact management platform following that same evolution? Matt levered this passion to start something special. His product is on the verge of revolutionizing the contact center industry by putting the power of easy to configure software in the hands of contact center operators around the globe.

Meeting with Matt and his team, I realized that this company was going to be great and will continue to grow. Not because Corvisa has the best widget in town, but because he and his team have passion. Passion to solve a business problem that he has come to realize most companies have. The ability to dream up and EXECUTE great customer experiences without hassle, time, and the need to spin up an expensive company project. His passion is contagious and it’s obvious that passion has spread after interacting with various leaders around the company.

This brings me back full circle to my passion and to Infinite Green. Our company was created out of our passion to share our knowledge and unique perspective to the rest of the industry. My specific passion was developed over the years taking calls, managing teams of agents on the phone, and eventually managing 2000+ seat customer care organizations. I had to constantly justify spending for technology, people, and resources through the use of story telling, business models, customer metrics, and voice of customer research. It was a great proving ground constantly having to defend ones reason for being. I honed my messages, created visuals, and used the customer as a shield as I charged the hill demanding changes up stream that would fix the root cause of angry customer’s issues.

Thanks to the downturn in the economy, Jon and I had the opportunity to focus this passion towards others. Others seeking a new way to operate their service operations. A new, more valuable way to operate a contact center. One that is led with passion for improved customer experiences, without having to wait for project dollars or a top down company initiative. That is the core of what we do. Our goal is to help companies design, build, and execute great customer experiences that add company value. That’s what drives me, gets me energized to start early each and every day, and connect with as many companies as I can to get our word out.

This is my passion. Now I ask you, what’s yours?

Scott McIntyre

Chief Instigator