• January 1, 2017
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Anatomy of a Contact Center Expansion

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The contact center underwent a massive expansion in just a little more than a year. What prompted this expansion?

The expansion was prompted by the growth of Wind Creek Hospitality. During the past 10 years, Wind Creek has been one of the fastest-growing Native American gaming operations in the United States. Since 2009, Wind Creek has opened three beautiful properties, each having its own unique offerings, including gaming, hotel, dining, and amenities.

Why was it necessary to ramp up so quickly?

Social media, along with the growth of our resorts, was the main reason for the quick growth. Prior to the opening of our resorts, we had a low-touch service approach. We were OK with 80 percent of our calls being handled within 20 seconds. However, based on social media, survey, and focus group feedback, we noticed that guest expectations had grown once we opened our first resort. To deliver the same high-touch experience offered at the resort, we had to revamp our internal service expectations. Currently, 96 percent of our calls are answered within 20 seconds.

What investments did you have to make in facilities, technology, infrastructure, etc., to support the expansion?

Capital was invested to obtain a second contact center and modernize the first one. We needed to remodel the second contact center location, bring in data lines to the second contact center, and increase the data trunk line into the first contact center. Then we needed new cubicles, computers, screens, headsets, digital information displays, office furniture, training, equipment, etc.

We decided to open a second contact center rather than expanding the existing one. We chose to open the second facility in Montgomery for its proximity to our other casinos, established infrastructure, and distance from the Gulf Coast. Being further from the coast helps improve our operational uptime capacity during hurricanes or other inclement weather. Having the second center located in a larger metropolitan area also increased our ability to hire from a more diverse and skilled applicant pool.

What kind of funding was needed for a project of this scope, and how did you secure it?

Two million dollars in capital was allocated to fund the opening of the second contact center and the modernization of the first center. We also increased our operating budget by $1.5 million. The capital and operating budget increase was secured by our executive team with board approval after a detailed assessment, business case, and road map were developed.

How did you maintain operations and provide the same level of service during the expansion?

Internally, we have a strong focus on planning. For this project, we spent countless hours assessing our operational needs and developing a long-term strategy. We started with the end in mind, looking ahead five or 10 years to determine what the needs of our properties and guests will be. We built our plan based on those long-term aspirations.

Every plan we developed had multiple phases based on our need to scale quickly and be fluid. If there was a need for change, we wanted our software and our infrastructure to be nimble enough to allow us to change quickly with minimal costs. One quote that inspired us during this transition was from President Eisenhower: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”

What kind of approval did you need to go ahead with a project of this size and scale, and how did you get executives to support the decision?

The approval process started within the organization and extended to our board. Our executive team was very active in the planning and scaling strategy for our contact centers. To obtain final approval required several internal assessments, a business case for the change, and a prioritized road map to get it accomplished. To confirm and ensure our findings were correct, we reached out to the International Customer Management Institute [ICMI], a contact center industry leader, for consulting. ICMI was an important partner to verify our needs and refine our implementation strategy.

How involved is senior management in contact center operations, and how important was this to the overall success of the project?

Our executive team is very active and knowledgeable in the day-to-day operations of our contact centers. Our CEO and chief operations officer were key to having this project approved and deployed so quickly.

I have weekly meetings with our COO to discuss our operations. He’s very versed in how we’re performing and has been instrumental in our success.

Often you will see him, me, and other senior leadership working within a department. We have a program called “Walk in My Shoes” where key executives perform front-line jobs. It’s all about staying in contact with what’s going on at the front line. We want to build trust with our team members. We want them to know who we are; we want to know who they are. We want to know what they go through on a daily basis. It helps us make decisions and demonstrates to those on the front lines that senior management cares about them and genuinely wants them to enjoy their jobs.

As we’ve had more positive engagements between leadership and team members, morale, accountability, and performance have improved.

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