Whether they are designated as New Year’s Resolutions or corporate objectives and strategies, the end of the year is a time when many of us naturally take stock of where we are at, and where we are going.
For contact center managers, the desire to make every new year better than the one before requires the right performance optimization plan. And if you are in the process of creating a blueprint for success in 2015, here are four areas you’ll wish to explore, and some of the questions that must be asked if your business is ready to boldly confront the ongoing challenge of delivering excellent customer service.
1. Workforce Management: Forecasting, Scheduling, Adherence
Workforce management (WFM) has been defined as “assigning the right employees with the right skills to the right job at the right time.” In a contact center, if a manager schedules the right agents with the appropriate call-handling skills on the shifts where those skills will be most needed, he or she is certainly on the best track to an efficient operation.
Workforce management and workforce optimizations (WFO) software can play a critical role in these functions. Is your contact center equipped with these capabilities? Do you have the right system in place to meet your needs?
The difference between handling the important functions of forecasting, scheduling and adherence with the right technology, vs. with a system that uses spreadsheets, for instance, is significant when it comes to proper utilization of resources, and the level of customer service delivered.
An accurate forecast model relies on accurate historical data. WFO delivers seasonal stats, monthly stats, daily stats, even numbers analyzing one portion of one hour, so variations can be determined and adjustments made accordingly. Special days and special events will also figure into these calculations.
With WFO, managers can automatically manage start times, end times and break times, so that agent needs are acknowledged, while call center performance capabilities are always met. An automated system provides more flexibility than a spreadsheet, while also contributing data that can help managers put the right agents in the right positions to maximize customer service.
In a contact center where workforce management software is capable of real-time adherence, a manager always knows if his team members are adhering to the schedule. The reporting generated by WFM can analyze adherence by team or by time period, making it easier to pinpoint issues that result in lower service levels.
The best WFM solution will include accurate call volume forecasting from historical data and ACD integration, flexible schedule creation that incorporates foreseen and unforeseen variables, agent exceptions, intra-day changes to both forecasting and scheduling, and performance management reports.
2. Quality Assurance: Call Recording and Scoring
Quality assurance refers to a proven process of establishing quality goals and verifying and checking the quality of a service, as well as the activities implemented so that quality requirements will be fulfilled.
Assurance of quality requires a series of preventive actions, all focused on process and based on a set of standards defined by the company. There are challenges to getting it right, particularly if a contact center lacks a reliable means to measure and track quality, either via management action or software that provides automated data on policies and systemic activities.
Do you have the right technology and personnel in place to determine quality standards, and then to achieve them? Perhaps 2015 will be the year to take this important step. Here is one way to get started:
3. Performance Management: Real-Time Alerts, Dashboards, KPIs
- Define Quality Goals and Objectives – What constitutes a quality customer engagement? Quality assurance can only be attained if “quality” is specifically defined. Start by establishing thresholds, such as the number of calls per agent and time allotted for each call. Determine the call center’s current status in these and other areas, and document all goals and objectives.
- Focus on Communication – Open communication between agents and managers and agents and coaching/training personnel expedites the quality assurance process.
- Automate QA Processes – QA is easier when you can turn over many of its processes to the tools, templates, triggers and programs available for that function. An automated solution is not only more efficient, it also frees up personnel to spend time on other issues.
- Unification and Integration – Call center goals should be consistent, with personnel and technology working together to arrive at the desired place. Make sure that all teams are putting the QA plan into action based on the same goals, and measure progress based on the same reports.
- Real-Time Monitoring – Quality assurance is extremely difficult, if not impossible, without reliable, real-time quality monitoring that incorporates alerts, dashboards and key performance indicators (KPI).
- Use Scoring to Rank Agents – Call scoring requires a cooperative effort among managers, agents and even customers (through feedback and survey results) to determine what elements are important in each customer engagement. Scoring can also be invaluable in ranking agents for training purposes, as well as for assigning schedules and creating rosters.
- Think Long Term – While QA helps to fix short-term issues, it should also be established and utilized to track and report on long-term trends and improvement.
Performance management is something of a catch-all term that incorporates all of the management aspects at a call center, from planning to developing agent skills, to evaluating performance based on metrics and making adjustments accordingly.
As with every other part of the management process, it becomes easier if you first develop a plan of action. If you don’t have one, start by measuring your current status, then set realistic goals for where improvement is possible. Diagnose the causes of any issues, and then implement changes accordingly. Check the results, refine your system and then set new goals.
All of this takes accurate, reliable, up-to-date data.
It is critical for call center management to keep track of key metrics throughout the course of the day. This is also a practice made considerably easier through workforce management software. Dashboards deliver visual displays that provide insight into forecasts, schedules and adherence, so managers always have an instant snapshot of what is happening at every moment throughout the day.
It’s also important to know which metrics are the most crucial to track. That list is likely to include:
• Average Handle Time
• Calls per Hour
• First Call Resolution
• Abandoned Calls
• Average Wait Time
• Completion Rate
• Forecasted Call Load vs. Actual
• Scheduled Staff vs. Actual
• Waiting Calls
• Average Call Value
The more information you receive from your WFM software – KPIs, scorecards, alerts, dashboards, reports – the better equipped you will be to take effective action to better meet the customer service goals of the contact center.
4. Analytics: Speech and desktop
Speech analytics boosts the effectiveness of a call recording solution. It’s still a fairly new technology that has not been widely adopted within the industry. Is this the year your contact center moves ahead of the curve?
What do you get with speech analytics? It starts with automated alerts triggered by voice data that deliver critical business and marketing intelligence to improve agent performance and the customer experience. This is the type of information that would take weeks to ascertain with spreadsheets; with speech analytics, you’ll have it in minutes.
Desktop Analytics gathers application data at the desktop level across users, processes and technology, to help improve productivity and service delivery, while reducing compliance issues and lowering business costs. The more managers understand how agents interact with their desktop environment to perform daily tasks, the easier it will be to improve productivity, prioritize issues that need to be addressed, and fine-tune best practices that can then be replicated across the call center.