When you’ve got a tidy desk, it’s easier to work. The same goes for your computer desktop. As Cindy Curtin explains, simplifying an agent’s customer service screen can make a power of difference.
Desktop complexity is a relatively new problem. As little as ten years ago, the typical customer service desktop was not so complex; maybe one or two green-screen applications and a phone sitting next to the computer was all an agent needed.
“Many agents are confused by a single application with cumbersome screens.”
Today, we see desktops with 5, 10 or 20 applications. And getting around the applications to the data agents need is akin to brain surgery. What’s more, agent ‘productivity’ tools like e-mail, chat and scripting only add to the chaos. In fact, some contact centres have tried to solve the problem by giving each agent two or three monitors!
So, what does it mean to clean up or simplify the desktop?
It means setting up your systems and applications to support the agent: implementing a unified service desktop giving agents access to anything they need to successfully complete a call within one simplified view. A unified service desktop enables the agent to access process-specific tools and is a single point of entry to all mission-critical applications required to effectively complete a customer interaction.
A unified desktop solution should sit ‘on top’ of your current applications; it shouldn’t necessary ‘rip and replace’ your existing ones. Systems that support call flows can make contact centre agents happier, increase efficiencies and customer loyalty and reduce costs. Basically, they improve your performance against all the metrics you are already measuring.
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In no particular order, then, here are the top five reasons you should clean up your customer service desktop.
1) Cost: time is money
There’s a reason you’re already measuring average handle time (AHT). Naturally, if you can shorten the length of customer service calls, you can service more calls, thereby increasing efficiency and decreasing costs. If you save time, you save money.
You already knew that. However, you’d be surprised how many people don’t realise just how costly desktop complexity is in contact centres.
Agents spend an incredible amount of time navigating through disparate applications or screens. As they say, time is money. Simplifying the desktop and aligning applications with the flows of customer service calls drastically reduces AHT.
Furthermore, the simpler the desktop, the easier it is for agents to learn, thereby reducing the amount of ramp-up time needed to get agents fully productive, which of course translates to further cost savings.
2) Loyalty: agents can focus on the customers OR the systems
There are those who argue that the focus on AHT is misplaced and more earnest focus should be placed on loyalty and satisfaction. But AHT is clearly a cost and efficiency measure that is a) not totally without merit and b) not going away.
Let’s think about AHT differently. An agent can have a five-minute call with a customer comprised of five minutes of navigating through systems and wrapping up. Or an agent can have a five-minute call that contains three minutes of dealing with the systems and two minutes of nurturing the customer relationship, building rapport and loyalty, or cross-selling products and services. I’d argue that’s time well spent.
Even if you don’t reduce your total AHT, you can increase your customer loyalty by changing the interaction quality, which is made possible when agents are able to focus on the customer rather than on clunky systems.
3) Agent satisfaction: happier agents means happier customers
Agent life isn’t easy. The pay isn’t (typically) great, the security measures can be overbearing and, as has been reiterated throughout this article, the systems are cumbersome. Agents are often set up to fail rather than succeed.
Of course it’s not easy for the contact centre management either. It’s been widely reported that contact centres spend between 60 and 70 per cent of their budgets on agent salaries. Training and ramp-up time to get an agent fully productive can take many weeks.
Add to that the difficulty in keeping good agents, once such an investment has been made in recruiting and training them, and it’s many months before the contact centre sees a return on investment. Yet according to Ventana Research, a major reason that agents resign from their jobs within six months is the difficult systems and technology they must work with to do their jobs.
It’s pretty clear that simplifying the desktop will have a huge impact on agent satisfaction, and by extension, customer satisfaction.
4) Compliance: complex systems and processes = exposure
Security has been a concern in the corporate world for some time and contact centres are increasingly faced with compliance and security challenges as agents must access sensitive customer data.
If your agents are navigating through a number of applications, how can you ensure they’re following your security policies? How will you mitigate the security risk presented with outsourced or home agents when they aren’t physically in the same building as you and you cannot monitor their behaviour?
Cluttered desktops and complicated systems present a real challenge to ensuring that compliance policies are being followed. The desktop and systems should support you in your compliance and security efforts, not thwart them.
A unified service desktop allows you to present your agents with only the data they need to see. Furthermore, optimising the processes within the applications that are part of your unified service desktop will ensure that certain screens are displayed and processes followed.
5) Flexibility: embrace the latest contact centre trends
Eliminating desktop complexity gives you the freedom to explore new trends in contact centre operations. Outsourcing, offshoring, virtualisation, home agents, universal agents – these are hot concepts with appealing benefits.
However, if you want to implement any of these concepts in your contact centre, you must first simplify the desktop or risk diluting all the benefits. There’s no point embarking upon any of these initiatives only to shackle your agents with chaotic desktops and laborious processes, which will quickly eat up any efficiencies you’ve made.
For example, let’s assume you’re planning to implement a universal agent programme so agents can handle any call type at any time from any place, eliminating the need to silo them in to particular groups. This creates obvious efficiencies. But unless you streamline the application processes and combine your systems in to one easy-to-navigate desktop, the improvements you gain will be eliminated by the inefficiencies that will result from application overload.
What does this all mean for contact centre managers?
The bottom line? You can make lots of changes and implement lots of software in the name of improving performance against your contact centre metrics. Maybe a new soft-phone will cut down your AHT by a second or two and maybe new, more comfortable chairs and headsets will increase your agent satisfaction score by a few points. However, simplifying your desktop can, in one step, improve your performance in many important metrics for efficiency, effectiveness and corporate governance.
Cindy Curtin is director of global product marketing and communications at Jacada
Tel: +1 770 352 1300