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2020 – The Never-Ending Year

By Henry Foster

January is usually the time I sit back and review the previous 12 months. Maybe it’s just me but it’s hard to believe that 2020 was only 366 days long.

My conclusion – nothing has happened, yet everything has changed.

Here at VoiceFoundry, 2020 included several significant milestones, one of which included our recent acquisition by TTEC Digital.

Our customer conversations did not slow down but our approach certainly changed. Overnight, priorities were upended, timelines brought forward to ‘yesterday’ and innovation was accelerated by several years.

But how did the process change?

Based on our conversations with hundreds of customers globally, I would summarize and review the previous 12 months with the following;

  • Innovation does not come easy – Adaptability is key!
  • Prepare for the unexpected
  • Commitment Issues – tell me about it
  • Take a more Holistic Approach – starting with the ideal customer experience end state
  • Prioritize & then Iterate – cut through the hype, strip back and focus on doing the basics right. Then Iterate and ‘build’ over the top

Innovation is not easy – Be Willing to Adapt

For many of us, 2020 was a reality check. Now more than ever, the companies who are adjusting to the ‘new norm’ are the ones who are willing to try new things. Innovation is not easy and is usually a culmination of years of testing.

How did technology support this approach in 2020?

  • Low barrier to entry with no long-term commitments
  • Consumption based pricing model
  • Programmable Infrastructure so you can pilot your ideas and prototypes and test without worrying about the cost

Expect the unexpected

“To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect”

Oscar Wilde

When Lockdown #1 was first announced back in March (yes that seems like an exceptionally long time ago), I remember talking  with a friend who believed we would be working from home until August. I thought he was absurd and life would be back too normal by early summer. Little did we know that I would be writing this post after 10 months of working from home – although it sometimes feels like I am living at work.

Supporting a hybrid working environment is obvious and hardly groundbreaking but what yearly review would this be if I didn’t mention it.

Work from Home or don’t work at all

  • Ability to work from your home or office on a flexible basis (depending on what Tier you are in)
  • Be Easily Accessible – with only a laptop, headset, and internet connection required
  • Self-Service configuration
  • Quick implementation

See here the other ways in which AWS can help support working from home

Commitment – Commercial Flexibility

It’s easier said than done to prepare for the unexpected, especially when most contact center companies offer yearly plans based on the number of users, consumption, maintenance and so on. Do not forget the long-term contract commitments. At the time, pre COVID, this could have been a good deal but things can quickly take a turn for the worst when you need to downsize or even terminate the contract.

Last year saw many challenges including fluctuations in customer demand, furloughed staff, and high customer expectations, and so it is more important than ever for software vendors to move away from this archaic model and provide a more flexible, risk free proposition.

So, what did we need?

  • No long-term commitments – providing the ability to turn off/on whenever you like
  • Pay as You Go consumption model – with complete transparency and nothing to hide (See more pricing here including the AWS Free Tier to help get you started)
  • No licensing allowing your organization to scale up and down depending on your demand (you will thank us on Black Friday)
  • Add/remove channels at your discretion – so you can follow you customers

Seeing the Forest from the Trees: A Holistic Approach

There are many different definitions of what it means to be holistic in your approach but for today, it means to think about the big picture. It is easy to get too involved in the details of a problem and so we must step back and look at the situation as a whole. 2020 was a wakeup call.

This could not be more true or relevant in CPaaS, as with a builder’s platform, it is important to understand and keep in mind, why you are building it and what you are trying to achieve. With this in mind, is an RFP really the best process or could this be viewed as a reductionist approach? This is a debate for another blog.

AWS developed an approach for product development known as “Working Backwards”

Working Backwards – A process for defining success

  1. All Projects start with the ideal customer end state
  2. As the Trusted Advisor, VoiceFoundry then work backwards from here
  3. Identify the current problems
  4. Determine how the current solution is failing
  5. Define why the new product will solve this problem?

With so many distractions, defining this end state enabled many of our customers in 2020 to drive towards a common goal, and this leads nicely into the last and final talking point.

Prioritization

For many of us, 2020 was an opportunity for personal self-reflection. The pandemic has provided many of us with the time and environment, where one could analyze their life and self-reflect on what they have done and are planning to do with their life. Safe to say I now have a much longer bucket list.

It is impressive to see how quickly individuals and companies have adapted to the ‘new norm’. With the first lockdown panic behind us, now is the time for organizations to reassess, redefine their priorities and support their customers with consistency. Now is the time to focus on the basics.

2020 In Review – What is really important to us?

Last year was an opportunity to reassess priorities and redefine what we really care about. When talking about prioritization, a question we have asked on repeat in 2020 is, what do you need on day 1?

Here is an overview of how leading organizations are approaching their contact center technology:

Step 1 – Define the ideal customer experience end state

Step 2 – Ask yourself “If we strip everything back and start again, what features do we need to provide on day 1?”

Step 3 – Focus on doing the basics right

Step 4 – Iterate and build over the top to further enhance the customer experience and work towards the ideal end state

Step 5 – Maintain a mindset of ‘Try Fast and Fail Fast’

Step 6 – Remember, the contact center is a constantly evolving machine and must adapt in order to stay current

With this new mindset, and new capabilities, I am excited to see how organizations will leverage the latest technologies to experiment and innovate more quickly in 2021.

If you would like to learn more about how VoiceFoundry can help assist you then please feel free to contact us

Thanks for reading

Henry Foster