Multi-skilling can have great advantages in the contact centre – particularly in terms of efficiency. But it can also be tricky to get right.
We asked our readers for their advice on how to get multi-skilling right.
1. Create mini call centres within the call centre
I think an ideal thing to do is skill group the centre. So, basically, if you have 12 services which all include incoming calls, email and outbound calls, you could divide that into 3 groups. That would mean 4 services per group or skill-set and less training. Staffing would also be easier (in terms of covering absence), as too much multi-skilling makes covering all services hard, which in turn means more employees are needed to work overtime. You also always have a secondary skill-set just in case.
By skill grouping, you’re creating mini call centres within a call centre.
Thanks to Darryl
2. Use whispers to alert the agent to the call type
Utilise the “whispers” feature on the phone system. This is where a voice announces (just to the agent) the type of call coming in. This way, agents know what type of call they are getting next and can partially prepare.
Thanks to Maureen
3. Blending helps to reduce boredom
There is no one-size-fit–all solution to this. You need to blend according to the type of service offered. For example a “named contact” type of offering could need blending across all channels. On the other hand, a commodity is more efficient with single skill queues, but you can blend by moving staff around between queues to alleviate boredom.
We have generally found that staff prefer the multi-skill mix and it strengthens staff satisfaction levels.
Thanks to Iain
4. Use a combination of single and multi-skilled staff
We use, in the main, single-skilled staff to deal with the bulk of the workload for each work stream.
We use multi-skilled staff to handle workload variation or staff absence.
Thanks to Emmanuel
5. Route the caller to the last agent they spoke with
My call centre routes calls to the same agent if they have dealt with a customer in the past and if they are available.
6. Blend calls with basic emails
Depending on how busy the phones are, the telephony agents are given basic email queries to resolve when they have quiet periods. And vice versa.
So the agents who deal with emails make themselves available to take calls, when there are busy periods.
Thanks to Pamela
7. Pay more for multiple skills
We use multi-skilling to provide modular training, and also to develop competency levels for the team member.
The more skills they acquire, the higher their competency level, the more we pay them.
It proves effective for both motivating staff and improving call centre efficiencies.
Thanks to Paul
8. Good reporting is a must
Good reporting is a must. e.g. percentage of calls taken by a certain set of agents.
Getting the best bang for your buck needs to be considered – for example, which groups have the best AHT for certain call types?
Thanks to Steven
9. Use a traffic light system
We have everything linked to an SLA that shows GREEN, AMBER and RED status. So should it fall outside of service level, it goes to dedicated individuals. For example, should a sales agent receive an email – and doesn’t get to it before it reaches the “red”, it falls back into the queue to the dedicated email agents.
10. Shadow training
People are identified by their team managers. If necessary, Individual Development Plans are drawn up and then internal training occurs, predominantly by “shadowing.” This allows the individuals to learn from each other.
Thanks to Jason
11. Use multi-skilling for career progression
Multi-skilling agents should also be considered in career progression.
If multi-skilling is not part of career progression, then you may find that staff are not motivated.
12. Multi-skill second-line staff
Due to the nature of our calls (IT Helpdesk-First Line), we can’t really blend activities. What we do, though, is have case managers (additional skill on a rotation basis) who will do outbound calls and handle email correspondence. This is quite liked by our staff.
13. Multi-skilling reduces the need for an IVR
By multi-skilling agents we were also able to reduce “wrong option calls” and IVRs
Thanks to Jurgen
14. Multi-skill the new starters
We multi-skill our contact centre with different products and languages. We have found that it is much easier to multi-skill new starters, than experienced agents, who can be set in their ways.
Thanks to Nicola
15. Use translation tools for other languages
There are tools available for chat that enable agents to type / read in English with the customer doing same in another language… use as appropriate, but take care with maturity of product….
16. Let the agent define the skill-set they want to take
Why not allow an existing agent that wants to be multi-skilled to choose a set/band of skills they would like, which can be utilised within the business?
Thanks to Howard
17. Webchat and phone don’t mix well
We blend calls, emails, chat and back-end validation – but chat and phone don’t blend well.
Thanks to Malou
18. Use single skills initially and then multi-skilling later
We recruit just before our peak seasons and train the staff on the line we know is going to peak.
If the CSR works out well, we multi-skill them. We also have a site variance manual, which means we can switch agents between contracts when we need to, using this knowledge database.
Look at the skills that have similar AHT, group those skills together into a pot and train new advisors on this pot.
19. Use multi-skilling to improve first contact resolution
We use multi-skilling with all staff to avoid two different levels of service being offered to the customer.
For example, if one agent can answer two skills within one call, but another agent has to transfer to another agent, in the second case, there is double handling in one contact.
Thanks to Bradley
20. Recruit on flexible shifts and flexi hours
We recruit all agents on flexible shifts and flexible hours, so we can maximise their hours during peak times.
Thanks to Gemma