Addressing Everyday Pressures in the Contact Center
By Matt McConnell, CEO Intradiem
The amount of pressure placed on contact centers to operate faster, smarter and cheaper has increased significantly within the past few years. Well-informed consumers are empowered, and they demand speed and accuracy when seeking assistance for resolving an issue. With the explosion of social, mobile and other online resources, long wait times and less than satisfactory service are no longer an option.
But the pressures don’t stop there. Contact centers professionals also need to consider agent satisfaction. Because agents play a major role in the success (or failure) of a center’s customer service program, finding available time and new ways to improve agents’ performance and job satisfaction are a must.
It’s essential to keep in mind that time is a scare resource within the contact center. Effective time management can make or break a center’s ability to meet the needs of all its stakeholders to positively impact performance. Contact center professionals may think this is a near impossible feat because the time necessary to fulfill these demands is such a challenge. But one thing is clear: until someone invents a time machine, we have to view this resource strategically to get better results.
Identifying and Overcoming Obstacles
In a recent study, the top three pressures of contact center workforce managers were reported as unpredictable customer traffic, increased customer demand for service, and high turnover of top-tier agents. Keeping in mind the impact all three of these challenges have on contact center performance and productivity, the inherent connection between customer satisfaction and agent utilization is evident.
In the face of these challenges, many centers are beginning to reconsider the static approach to the agent workday, with time for handling calls, time for shrinkage, and varying amounts of available or wait time throughout the day. Many centers already perform some intraday scheduling manually, but are unable to respond dynamically to unpredictable call volume. High-performing centers understand the link between productive, knowledgeable agents and satisfied customers, and they’re taking a different approach to better utilize the time available. One high impact approach is delivering off-phone activities such as communications, training and coaching to agents during idle time.
In fact, the same research findings show significantly better results across several key performance indicators, including customer satisfaction and first call resolution, among contact centers adopting this approach to workforce management.
Time for Performance Improvements
Research shows that the aggregated time agents spend idle averages out to 49 minutes a day. This is the consolidated time (roughly 2-3 minutes per occurrence) agents wait between calls. The question is: how can contact centers tap into this idle time and put it to good use?
Call center professionals are increasingly turning to intraday management solutions to transform idle time into productive sessions for agents to complete activities that help with performance and productivity. Intraday management technology collects some of the 2-3 minute increments of time that agents are usually idle while waiting for calls and creates larger, more usable blocks of time. Prioritized activities like training sessions are dynamically pushed to a group of agents to complete while other agents handle calls.
These activities can include anything that can be completed at the agent desktop, such as online training sessions, coaching, knowledge base reviews or administrative and back-office work. When blocks of idle time become available, agents are prompted to begin work on the highest priority activity in their queue. When call volume spikes, they are directed to return to answering calls.
Immediate, Behind the Scene Updates
Managers and supervisors often spend more time on manual processes than providing the guidance that help agents thrive (or survive) within the contact center environment. Manual work such as tracking completion of training, updating queue assignments or addressing staffing needs can eat up time, but these processes can be automated to allow time to for coaching or other important work.
After agents complete their assignments during aggregated idle time, intraday management technology updates agent profiles and queues, automating the reskilling process. This provides agents with an immediate sense of accomplishment and allows them to begin using their new skills right away. Giving agents the ability to continually grow their skillset, coupled with access to supervisors who aren’t bogged down with manual work, helps positively impact turnover issues.
Many workforce managers intimately know the art and science of staffing for their contact center. Since customer traffic can be so volatile, situations arise when extra staff members are needed to come in and help cover a sudden influx of call volume. On the flip side, there are days when call volume is unexpectedly low, and workforce managers know that they could save in labor costs by sending a percentage of their staff home an hour early.
Intraday staffing can automate these processes by sending text messages offering voluntary overtime or time off to agents. Preset business rules can help identify and select the right agents to receive such offers, which can be based on performance, tenure or any desired criteria. Removing this manual process frees up time for management to be more strategic, and improves employee satisfaction when their requests are granted quickly and consistently.
Optimizing how time is used within the contact center environment – whether idle time is used for completing off-phone agent performance activities, or to free up time supervisors and managers spend on manual processes – can address the pressures and demands many contact center professionals face every day. Intraday management solutions can help address these challenges to help improve agent and customer satisfaction.
Intradiem, formerly Knowlagent, is the leader in intraday management solutions for contact centers. Intradiem equips our customers with business reflexes that immediately and consistently respond to unpredictable events and conditions. Reflexes such as intraday task management, intraday staffing, queue management, and real-time alerts improve business performance by over 20 percent. More than 450,000 contact center, field service, retail, bank branch, and back office employees around the world use Intradiem’s solution every day. For more information, call 888-566-9457 or visit www.intradiem.com.