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What is a Centre of Excellence? Why Your Business Needs One

When looking at ways to improve your business, you may well come upon some terminology that, while seeming interesting, is rather unclear. In this article, we’ll tackle one of these areas, namely, the centre of excellence. What is a centre of excellence (COE)? Is there a centre of excellence definition? And will implementing a centre of excellence model benefit your business? Let’s unpack this piece of terminology and see how it applies to the business world. 

What is a Centre of Excellence? Is There a Centre of Excellence Definition?

While so many business-related concepts can be summed up in a few easy points, centre of excellence is not necessarily a business term. That makes it rather hard to pin down, at least, on the surface. It’s a phrase used in contexts ranging from research to international affairs, and one’s initial reaction when trying to track down the centre of excellence’s meaning, may be to throw one’s hands up in despair of making sense of it. 

Having said that, unravelling the centre of excellence model, and applying it in context, could be a game-changer. Today, we’ll move away from the many other areas in which the concept of centres of excellence may be applied, and focus on the centre of excellence meaning in the business context. 

Because the term is so widely used, the general answer to the question: “What does centre of excellence mean?” must necessarily be rather vague. But in business terms, we can loosely define them as physical or virtual centres that have both the capacity and resources to collaborate with businesses in specific, multidisciplinary areas of expertise that build a business’s reputation for excellence and enhance capacity.

What Does Centre of Excellence Mean?

It may come as a relief to you to know that you can use good old English to work out the practical meaning of a centre of excellence. The word “centre” indicates a physical or virtual place populated by people, and the “of excellence” tail indicates that these people are, indeed, excellent at whatever they do. 

In practical terms, we can say that no matter what the context, a centre of excellence offers best-in-class solutions to a particular problem. For example, academics may need supporting personnel whose skills fall outside their subject area, allowing for a multidisciplinary approach to research. 

In business, this could mean resigning yourself to the fact that no single team’s skillset can, by any means, cover all the bases. For example, your marketing team will struggle in isolation, but will benefit from input provided by the on-the-ground sales team as well as the technical team. Representatives from each of these areas would make up a possible centre of excellence.

Coordinating all this can be something of a headache, but if you’ve outsourced (for example) marketing to a company that does due diligence, it will call for assistance across disciplines as needed. And this isn’t the only area where the idea of centres of excellence can be put to work. 

Still confused? Let’s clarify this just a bit more.

What is a Centre of Excellence Model?

Traditionally, we’re taught that businesses consist of a variety of “functions.” While this is a good basis for sorting staff into departments in which specific skills are specialities, it can lead to people “working in silos” or, more plainly put, “one hand not knowing what the other is doing.”

A centre of excellence provides coordination and consistency by matching people with completely different skills and creating a team that is able to speak authoritatively and with a unified voice. When unfamiliar contingencies occur, they’ll consult, communicate possible solutions, implement, and communicate approved policies so that everyone knows what to do if a similar situation arises later on.  

The beauty of this is that, although compiling the correct solution to a problem may take some time and several people with varying skills, the ultimate solution incorporates the full range of possible perspectives and is repeatable when similar problems arise in future. 

What Types of Centres of Excellence are There?

Since the reasons for creating centres of excellence are nearly limitless, it’s hard to pin down a one-size-fits-all definition. However, we can conclude that the way in which a centre of excellence is structured, and the issues it works to resolve, will depend on its purpose, and that could be anything from customer service to product improvement or the resolution of technical hiccups. 

Broad though this might seem, we can categorise COEs. They may determine best practice, provide internal service within the company, target the development of core competencies, or focus on innovation. But beware of too much compartmentalisation! A COE targeting best practice, for example, may yet provide valuable information to one targeting innovation, or even come up with new ideas all on its own!

Requirements for a Successful Centre of Excellence

In the business context, return on investment would be an essential requirement for any centre of excellence. To achieve this, efficiency, good communication, and the implementation of genuine expertise are essential. Over and above that, a full buy-in from management, and the organisation as a whole, are a must. 

The personnel comprising the COE are also important. They must truly be “the best” at what they do, and they should have the flexibility to adapt their opinions in the light of prevailing facts presented by other team members. There’s a lot of give-and-take in an effective centre of excellence!

Outsourcing Components of a Centre of Excellence

Let’s be frank. Few businesses have absolute experts in all the fields that may, conceivably, form part of a centre of excellence. In a competitive environment, being “good” simply isn’t enough. Excellence is a requirement for success. Expertise (and excellence) can be expensive. That’s why even the biggest firms outsource certain functions or hire consultants to help them. It’s the cost-effective way to go. You can pick and choose who you use. 

Does your business use an accounting firm? Do your executives consult with your accountants and your sales team before implementing ideas? That’s a simple type of COE. Need another example? If you’re outsourcing your IT department and it’s consulting with relevant workplace operatives to construct automated solutions in order to lighten their workload, that’s another potential COE with an outsourced element. 

Why Your Business Need Centres of Excellence

Small businesses have it easy. You were probably the be-all and end-all. You did a great many different things, not necessarily well, but with good intent, and you got by. But as your business grows, the competition gets tougher, and you need to simplify matters. You need people to help you. You need them to do things even better than you did, to talk to each other, benefitting from experience and expertise to discover high-road solutions. 

You don’t need the process. You need the conclusions. And they’d better be good. With the right COE’s, they can be.

Top Spot For a COE

The top spot for a COE? Customer service! Name the function, and customers are still key, even if they don’t seem to be at a glance. 

Production? If your customers aren’t happy with the results, you may as well not bother. Financials? You want a profit, but if you can’t keep customers and generate more sales, you’re dead in the water. Marketing? If it’s delivering inconsistent messages, it’s wasting time and money. It doesn’t take much imagination to trace the success of every effort your business makes back to customer satisfaction. Without happy customers, you don’t have a business. 

At RSVP, we understand how important it is to work with the businesses that choose us as components of their centres of excellence. As a contact centre, keeping your customers happy is only part of what we do. We feed information back to the relevant experts within your business, identifying issues that may crop up again, pinpointing pain-points to be overcome, and providing information that help you to guide your methods, systems, and even your longer-term strategy.

First and foremost, we liaise with your in-house experts to ensure that your customers are left feeling valued, informed, and prioritised without ever knowing they dealt with a specialist customer communications company. 

Expertise? Our speciality is communication and relationship-building. What’s yours? Talk to us and build your centre of excellence with RSVP as a key component. We do so much more than just answer your phone and manage your inbound email. Build a customer service centre of excellence with us, and find out how we contribute to excellence across all your business’s activities. See our contact centre solutions or contact us to find out how we can help your business.

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