Technology to boost agent productivity

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Are your agents so overwhelmed that their productivity is going down the pan? Let Frank Trefzer talk you through the technology that can actually help drive productivity.

Agent productivity has always been a key consideration for contact centres, but according to new research, it’s now at the top of the corporate agenda. A recent study conducted by Genesys Telecommunications and its partner Silver Lining Solutions shows that 80 per cent of UK contact centre operators identify agent productivity as ‘a major issue’ for their customer service business.

What’s more, only 25 per cent of contact centres are achieving agent productivity levels of 75 per cent or above.
Any agents reading this statistic will almost certainly feel demoralised and undervalued as on the face of it, it seems to suggest that they’re just not doing a good job: that they ‘could try harder’. But that’s not the case. The same research also shows that organisations are finding it difficult to balance

Working in threesAgents need to be supported at an operational, management and organisational level:

  • At an operational level, where agents contend with three main phases – identification, talk time and wrap-up – solutions such as touch tone and speech recognition interactive voice response (IVR), screen pops, call routing and unified desktops can help agents do their jobs more effectively, as well as improve service levels quite considerably
  • At a management level, where agent productivity measurements are critical, workforce management (WFM) tools allow businesses to correlate service and resource levels with call volumes in order to optimise agent utilisation and fine-tune their contact centre activity
  • At an organisational level, it’s all about orchestration and becoming a dynamic contact centre. Combining technology, good planning and the ability to react dynamically to changes as they happen can influence the bottom line and enhance the overall value of the contact centre as a primary customer-facing resource.

their available human resources and automated systems in response to changes in customer traffic such as calls, e-mails and other interactions, and to synchronise these with underlying business initiatives such as sales goals, referrals and customer satisfaction ratings.

What tends to happen in this kind of situation is that businesses throw technology at the problem in the hope that it will provide a magical cure. But can this simplistic approach work? Technology-based contact centre solutions such as screen-pops, unified desktops, workforce management (WFM), self-service and reporting can all help reduce costs, enhance interaction quality, boost customer satisfaction and help minimise agent attrition rates. But this is only possible if the organisation has a genuine end-to-end strategy that optimises processes both at the infrastructure level and on an agent-by-agent basis by embracing a dynamic contact centre approach.

Such a methodology enables businesses faced with the constant pressure to generate revenue, manage rising traffic volumes, and meet ever-increasing customer service expectations, to integrate technology and business processes and dynamically manage agent productivity, prioritise business objectives, as well as respond to fluctuations in traffic.

To put this in context, imagine a contact centre that’s invested heavily in its front end technology, empowering agents with a unified desktop that allows them to see valuable customer information from multiple departments at the touch of a button. Great. But what if there aren’t enough agents available at peak times to answer incoming customer calls within an acceptable time limit? The contact centre isn’t supporting its agents at a management level and productivity will certainly suffer.

To really boost agent productivity, you need to adopt a tiered approach that optimises the use of technology at an operational, management and organisational level. Let’s look at each of these stages in more detail and consider the key technologies available.

Operational level: the tools that help agents do their jobs most effectively

In general, communication with a contact centre can be split in to three main phases: the identification phase before the call reaches the agent; the actual talk time phase when the agent is directly communicating with the customer; and the wrap-up phase when the agent follows up on the customer’s request once the call has been completed.

Each phase can be optimised, helping to shorten the duration of the process so more calls can be handled by the same number of agents and to improve the service level. The time saved in one phase can be used in another phase of the call to make the quality of the call experience better or to create ‘up-sell’ or ‘cross-sell’ opportunities.

1) Identify phase improvements

Consider the amount of agent time that can be saved if, by the time the call arrives, the agent already knows who the customer is, what products/services the customer has and their specific needs from the call?

Initial customer information and caller identification can be captured using calling line identity (CLI), interactive voice response (IVR) and voice recognition (VR) systems. This is essential because it provides the information for intelligent skills-based routing and optimises the time and resources used to handle the call while enhancing the caller’s experience.

Captured customer interaction information can then be pushed to the agent’s desktop via a screen pop system, saving both agent time and customer time (who would naturally like the call to be less about them giving information to the agent and more about resolving their enquiry).

An effective IVR will reduce the number of calls that need to be transferred to an agent, as more are completed automatically.

2) Enhance the service customers get from live agents

Talk time is valuable, so don’t spend it being repetitive, mundane or in silence. By this stage in the process, a large amount of information should already have been gathered by the web development alternatives, enabling agents to immediately get on with handling a caller’s request instead of having to deal with repetitive data gathering.

Quick access to a comprehensive knowledge base through an integrated unified desktop with simplified processes all help. These make for more interesting interactions, stronger relationships and for additional cross- and up-sell opportunities, therefore not just enhancing the customer experience but also improving agent satisfaction. After all, as recent research shows, agents who deal with diverse and complex caller requests generally enjoy their jobs more.

Loose scripting can also benefit businesses in highly-regulated environments, where long disclaimers and legal requirements need to be adhered to, and by ensuring best practice in terms of information gathering and provision. However, this is by no means a substitute for good agent training.

3) Make the wrap-up phase more efficient

Today, most contact centres are not integrated with back office customer service processes. Calls that require follow-up measures from different departments, such as billing or sales, can be speeded up by implementing automated workflow systems between the contact centre and the back office. Business process routing enhances this approach by creating a single pool of tasks and pushing them out to a single group of employees, based purely on who is the best person for the job.

Management level: WFM will optimise agent productivity

A key element of a dynamic contact centre is the ability to fully utilise agents to meet traffic volumes. WFM solutions can help businesses predict manpower needs and schedule agents based upon past traffic volumes and resource availability.

When combined with customer-centric and business process routing that integrates back office workflow items, such as forms, faxes and applications, agent resource levels can be optimised dynamically in real-time by adjusting schedules and allocating agents to alternative work tasks.

WFM is significantly enhanced through having a single dynamic pool of employees. This reduces the implication of shift-pattern planning, because every employee is there for a full day and so there is no need to bring in part-time agents for three-hour shifts and complicate the staffing process in any way. Every agent is being fully utilised in this approach because they are performing back office tasks at quiet times in call traffic. And at times of call volume peaks, service levels aren’t being neglected either because back office staff are answering calls during this period.

With the latest WFM systems, which are flexible and provide instant visibility of the contact centre or multiple contact centres, managers can achieve this kind of real-time control. When traffic volumes start to change, they can make adjustments before any problem arises. Data captured in the WFM system also helps organisations to understand if more training is needed or whether changes to business processes are necessary.

Organisational level: moving towards a ‘dynamic contact centre model’

A ‘dynamic contact centre model’ combines new developments in customer segmentation and business process routing with flexible staffing policies to manage multiple channels of communications with the same service levels that have been established for telephone contact. This applies not just throughout the contact centre, but throughout the back office, where a great deal of customer-critical work is carried out.

Combining back office with multi-channel optimisation can create an effective strategy that transforms the entire business in to a customer service-oriented operation. The dynamic contact centre approach brings together technology, good planning and the ability to react to changes as they happen, so that strategies that affect the bottom line – customer satisfaction and agent productivity – are always optimised.

Frank Trefzer is BPR solutions specialist at Genesys Telecommunications
Tel: +44 118 974 7000

Author: Jonty Pearce

Published On: 21st Mar 2007 - Last modified: 23rd Feb 2018
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