According to Carlos Muñoz, contact centers are sometimes too efficient for their own good leading to poor customer service and high agent attrition rates. It’s time to introduce a ‘less haste, more speed’ culture supported by the latest technology. Here, he explains how to build highly effective teams using WFM.
Running a contact center takes me back to my school days and Aesop’s Fable of the ‘Tortoise and the Hare’. We all know the one, it’s ingrained into our psyche but in a world obsessed with speed, do we really put its teachings into practice? The faster hare is so confident of winning the race that it falls asleep and is beaten by the slower tortoise – the first to reach the finishing line using a steady, measured pace. In a similar way, contact centers are often so determined to handle infinite numbers of calls as quickly as possible, they put unnecessary pressures on agents and lose sight of the customer. In the process, staff leave along with customers and it takes much longer to get both back again.
Then, there’s the constant battle between operations (who want ‘fast and cheap’) and the contact center (whose job is to make ‘customers feel loved’). This perennial tug of war is damaging to agent morale, the customer experience and health of the overall business.
The proverb ‘more haste, less speed’ springs to mind and contact centers should look to introduce a ‘less haste, more speed’ culture into their operations. Real effectiveness is about providing agents with the right environment to give customers what they really want (fast, accurate answers to their problems first time around) while maximizing resources as cost-effectively as possible.
Metrics that matter
It all comes down to the basics so let’s start with how contact centers measure their success. Most make the mistake of developing a set of metrics that focus entirely on satisfying their internal customers rather than those on the outside who are keeping them in jobs and the organization in business! The top three culprits are:
- Number of contacts handled over a certain period of time – of course, this is great for managers who want to look productive by saying ‘we handle 100 calls every hour using only 10 agents’ but what does this really mean for customer service?
- Occupancy – it’s good to know how many of your resources are being used at any one time but it’s even better to keep some agents in ‘reserve’ to handle random contact arrival patterns and maintain service levels.
- Average Handling Times – if service is measured by how quickly agents can get customers off the phone or finish a web chat conversation, chances are they are not really listening to the customer who won’t get the outcome they expect and deserve.
Thinking from the outside in will yield a set of metrics that enable agents to focus 100% on the customer – the true meaning of effectiveness.
Ways to build effectiveness using WFM
With customer-centric success criteria in place, turn to innovative workforce management (WFM) technology to build a highly effective contact center environment:
- Schedule administrative tasks and training during quiet times – using WFM to schedule offline activities such as administration, training and weekly huddles when it is quiet, maximizes time and resources and enables agents to give their full attention to the customer during busy periods
- Add ‘travel time’ into schedules – in a bid to save time, managers often take short-cuts and make schedules unrealistic. For example, they don’t factor in the travel time needed to get from the contact center floor to the training rooms. Adding a cushion of 5 minutes either side of a 30-minute training session will make it easy for everyone to arrive on time without running while adhering to their schedules
- Flexible planning ‘on the go’ – the flexibility of modern technology means you can schedule – in advance – the right number of staff to match call demand. Features such as Real-Time Adherence flag up when schedules are in danger of being breached while Intra-day Schedulers allow managers to reschedule the contact center workforce during the day taking into account unplanned changes in customer demand and unplanned agent absences
- Create your best-performing team – use WFM to create a virtual library of agent talent, knowledge and qualifications to deploy the right-skilled agents to the right place at the right time. Tap into this data to identify missing competencies and build tailored training programs along with meaningful career paths that keep agents stimulated, motivated and away from the competition
- Empower agents – through self-service to control their own schedules, select breaks and lunches, swap shifts and request time off with immediate feedback from their manager. Then, make the most of advanced WFM reporting and dashboards to provide a real-time snapshot of employee and team performance against specific contact center KPIs or customer SLAs in a fair and transparent way
- Future-proof operations – by maximizing the latest forecasting technology to right-size your contact center. Running a series of ‘what if’ scenarios helps to predict staffing needs for regular seasonal fluctuations such as public holidays or new marketing campaigns. This provides the analytical evidence required to work effectively with outsourcing agencies to supplement in-house resources during busy periods while avoiding unnecessary staff costs during calmer periods.
Why be a hare when you can be the winning tortoise? Put in place the metrics that really matter then back them up with WFM to build a highly effective contact center where talented agents are proud to work and go the extra mile to delight customers at every turn.
Carlos Muñoz Director, Sales Engineering, Teleopti Americas