Boosting agent productivity – what the experts recommend


Could your agents do with a work-out in the productivity stakes? We’ve talked to a whole host of people from the contact centre industry to find out what they think is key to boosting productivity. Here are the results.

Develop bespoke technology

Recommendation from Stuart Gray, managing director at outsourcer 2Touch

We have developed a knowledge-based system that certainly helps to drive agent productivity. The concept of this type of system is that it gathers together information that is then stored in a central location and effectively becomes a frequently asked questions (FAQ) programme where advisors can reference a query and a given set of answers will be made available. We currently work with a large car manufacturing company and a lot of the questions will be quite technical. Questions can be on anything from the car performance to what weight a particular type of car can pull. The knowledge-based system gives us the opportunity to obtain the necessary information through the central library with the use of keyword searches.

The benefit to the customer is that the call is handled quickly and professionally with the agent being able to resolve the query first time. With regard to agent productivity, this system means that our associates are able to handle more calls per hour by giving the answer to a customer’s query straight away, which ultimately will ensure costs are kept to a minimum for the client.

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Talk, talk, talk

Recommendation from Debbie Humm, call centre general manager at the outsourced contact centre RocketUK.com

It is important for call centre managers to communicate organisational objectives to all staff; this will allow agents to align their focus to achieve these goals. Giving clear instructions on how these goals can be realised empowers agents to meet key performance indicators (KPIs) and attain higher scores in performance assessments, thus resulting in increased productivity and efficiency throughout the call centre.

Providing constant feedback through one-to-one consultations, e-mails and providing visual aids that demonstrate agent progression, are good ways of allowing staff to monitor their own development. Increasing interest in statistics and progression allows the opportunity to invite other team members to learn from the feedback of individual agent success.

The use of technology is also an essential aspect of increasing agent productivity, overall quality of service and call centre efficiency. For example, call routing can be adopted to ensure that enquiries are directed to the appropriately skilled agent while call flow applications can guide agents through an interaction, capturing the right information quickly and efficiently.

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Think about the call monitoring cycle

Recommendation from Shona Harper, director of the consultancy Contact Centre Professional

A conversation between a customer and contact centre is not a scientific process. At least, most of us are striving to fight this robotic approach to call handling. As a customer, we want to enjoy the ‘conversation’ and reach a positive call outcome. Strangely enough, that’s the aim of the contact centre as well. Why, then, do we persist in measuring the effectiveness of calls against something different to this criteria?The culprit: formulaic call monitoring measures. Call monitoring has become increasingly complex and as such loses sight of the important stuff: namely, was the customer happy with both the outcome and the call journey itself, and did the agent meet compliance measures?

All too often an agent will score 90+% for call handling but intuitively when you listen to the call from a customer perspective, this doesn’t seem right. The reason why? Quality monitoring that’s too formula-driven, which doesn’t look at the call as a whole and instead breaks it down in to microscopic elements such as call openings and closings and other such measures with dubious weighting.

So my top tip is simplify the call monitoring process in to what’s important for your brand. For example, was the customer happy and was compliance adhered to? Only use the ‘detail’ behind this for pinpointing development needs where the answer to either of these questions is ‘no’.

Finally, empower your agents to enjoy the conversation. It’ll bring you increased productivity and customer satisfaction to boot.

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It’s all about getting better call distribution in real-time

Recommendation from Paul Kennedy, managing director of technology company Redstone Converged Solutions

An intelligent IP telephony application that uses real-time predictive logic can help increase productivity, lower customer service costs, retain customers, and will contribute significantly to revenue growth.By adding predictive logic to a system, a caller will be routed according to business significance to the correctly skilled agent at the right time. This may mean that the next work task is held until the right agent is available. This process can dramatically improve the ‘match rate’. That is, it will ensure the right agent talks to the right callers over and above traditional skills-based routing.

Such matching requires an intelligent work distribution capability that makes real-time second by second assessments of what the resource status will be at any given point in the future. It factors this against the work it has waiting, and makes adjustments to call routing accordingly.

An IP telephony environment extends seamlessly across multiple locations, thereby increasing the pool of agent resource available, offering businesses greater working flexibility and better staff retention.

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Monitor quality

Recommendation from Martin Roberts, vice president, marketing and business development, at technology firm NICE Systems

One way in which the productivity of an agent can be improved is through a quality monitoring programme that delivers a complete efficiency and effectiveness evaluation of every agent. Traditional KPIs typically provide ‘hard’ data such as call durations and volume of calls, but give no indication of customer satisfaction. The agent with the worst efficiency could be the most effective and vice versa.Quality monitoring solutions are able to capture the agent/customer interaction and apply techniques including word spotting, emotion detection, talk pattern analysis, screen events, call flow analysis and customer feedback, making it possible to compare the ‘softer’ satisfaction issues with the ‘hard’ KPI statistics.

Armed with this insight, individual coaching packages can be developed that enable trainers to work with agents to evaluate their own interactions and those of the most experienced agents.

As project and development manager at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Chris Tellegen explains: “Using the screen capture and voice together, we are able to accurately and efficiently review an interaction in full to identify where the agent can improve, what they are doing well, and consider any issues that could benefit the contact centre as a whole.”

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Train and empower your staff

Recommendation from Caroline Worboys, chief executive officer at outsourcer Broadsystem

Boosting agent productivity comes down to training and empowerment. An agent that is provided with the appropriate tools to empower them to make decisions on behalf of the company is crucial.A highly trained agent with the power of decision will not only ensure higher customer satisfaction, but will also enable single call resolution and thus result in a more positive customer experience. It’s all about encouraging agent buy-in, not only in to the value-driven service their employer is providing, but also buy-in to the client brand that they are representing.Training is key in building agent knowledge about the client’s products, services and customers. Your agents should be a seamless extension of your client’s brand and, as part of this, establish empathy with the caller. The only way to achieve this to invest in your staff and provide the best possible training, both in-house and with the client, to enable agents to ‘step in to the shoes’ of the caller and understand their motivation for calling.For example, when dealing with issues of a more sensitive nature, such as our current work with Asthma UK, which highlights the need for awareness of the symptoms of asthma, training and empathy is paramount.

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Cut the complexity

Recommendation from Mike Saar, customer service director at technology company Corizon

A common hindrance to contact centre agent productivity is the complexity of the systems they must interact with over the course of a call. Agents need to log customer details to multiple IT systems and run tests or diagnostic processes from different scripts as appropriate. They may also need to log themselves on to these disparate systems time and time again, eating in to time better spent resolving customer issues.A major step to improving productivity would be to optimise these processes at their desktop by presenting agents with a unified, composite interface instead of forcing them to navigate multiple application screens. Indeed, research from the consultancy ContactBabel suggests the average UK call centre uses as many as six separate applications. With a simplified desktop, call time can be reduced and the first call resolution rate will go up, the net result of which is a more productive call centre.

Published On: 30th Nov 2006 - Last modified: 3rd Nov 2017
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