Investing in Your Contact Center: 3 Steps for Building a Strong Business Case for Finance
If you’re like many contact center leaders, you don’t give financial presentations often. In fact, you may only do it once a year around budget time. And, as a result, you may not be completely comfortable delivering high-stakes pitches to your finance team.
I’ve worked in leadership roles in many contact centers, and while it wasn’t initially a professional strength for me, I’ve learned—by necessity and experience—how to successfully approach finance with a strong business case.
The biggest secret I’ve learned for getting it right is to “think like a finance person.” This means honing in on the numbers and providing your finance peers with the confidence that the approach you want to take benefits the entire business—for the long-term. Here’s what I’ve learned from doing these types of presentations.
Know Your ROI
As a contact center leader, you’re always considering operational efficiencies—for both the agent and customer experience. When you discover a technology solution that can positively impact those efficiencies, you’ll likely want to bring it to the finance department for funding approval. But how do you make a compelling case for its adoption?
Finance typically needs more than anecdotal justification to approve major capital investments. The best place to start is with return on investment (ROI).
You have to make an argument in terms of measurable ROI and how the purchase will impact specific metrics in your contact center. You might say something like: “If we switch to this software, it will save us $170,000 annually and reduce our handle time in the first six months from 120 seconds to 60 seconds. After that, we’ll see an exponential decrease in that handle time as our agents become more efficient, and our customer experience improves. Here’s how that will happen, and how long it will take to see a financial return …”
Be prepared to justify the investment and then benchmark where you are today as compared to where your contact center will be with your recommended investment.
Research Your Business Case Early
Building this kind of business case takes time. It can take months or more to pull together the research and the numbers to back up your argument and demonstrate ROI. For example, in two contact centers where I worked, we switched out the customer relationship management (CRM) software, as well as the phone and financial systems that tied to it.
I planned for months before we made the pitch. I used that time to work with IT to understand our costs, and I interfaced with the finance team to understand the potential expenses beyond the initial software investment. I conducted in-depth research on various technology solutions, including touring other contact centers to understand how they were using the solutions I was considering.
It’s helpful to gather quantifiable data such as how the solution delivered customer experience improvements (reflected through customer satisfaction metrics) as well as operational gains related to metrics like average handle time (AHT) and first contact resolution.
Present More Than One Option
Once you’ve done your research and are ready to make your pitch to finance, don’t make the mistake of presenting just one option. Always pitch multiple options and be ready to talk about each one in-depth. For example, even if I’ve decided that Software A is our dream software, I will also pitch Software B (and maybe even others). Software B isn’t my dream software, but it’s still an excellent solution and improvement over our existing software.
Then, when I go to finance, I say something like:
“Here’s the cost per agent, per interaction of Software A and Software B. Here’s our cost per agent, per interaction today. Software A will cost us more for the next 36 months, but then the cost will go down. Software B gets us here. This is the net gain, and this is what Software A does that Software B doesn’t. But here’s how we could compensate.”
By providing multiple options, you’re likely to leave the meeting with approval for at least one of them. If you pitch only one choice, finance will often ask you to research additional choices anyway, which just delays the final decision and the benefits to your contact center.
Laying the groundwork for this kind of pitch is time-consuming. But it’s well worth it if it gets you the improvements your contact center—and organization— needs.
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